Matters couldn’t have looked much worse for the Bulldogs midway through the second quarter. They trailed 14-0 on the road against a ranked team and in an environment notable favorable to the home favorite Yellow Jackets.
To make matters worse, senior quarterback Chris Strott, back after two weeks spent mostly on the sideline trying to let a nagging injury heal, rolled an ankle late in the first quarter.
“I think everybody in the stands saw the kind of character our team is made up of,” Smith said.
Atop the list of those who rose to the occasion was junior quarterback Cade Bradley. Bradley had played almost all of Piedmont’s past two blowout wins but those victories came at the expense of White Plains and J.B. Pennington. This was Glencoe, the team that force Piedmont to overtime before the Bulldogs won in Piedmont last year.
Early in the week it, once Strott’s availability was assured, Smith said he told his players in Bradley’s presence that the junior would help Piedmont win an important football game somewhere down the road.
“I just didn’t know it would be this soon,” Smith said.
Piedmont trailed 17-14 after three quarters and faced a second-and-20 when the fourth quarter opened. Bradley hit Landon Pruitt coming across the middle for 10 yards. On third down, Smith went for the dagger. On a wheel route, a coverage breakdown left linebacker T.J. Daugherty in single coverage on Piedmont speedster Sarandon Dunbar.
Dunbar flew down the Piedmont sideline and past Daugherty. Bradley’s release just beat a blitzing Glencoe player and he delivered the ball to Dunbar in stride. The play covered 69 yards and Piedmont led 21-17 after Dillon Terry booted the third of his four extra points.
Smith said guard Chazz Gamble released his initial blocking assignment just soon enough to delay the charging Yellow Jacket and give Bradley enough time to get the throw away.
“I was focused on the receiver,” Bradley said. “I just thought I had to hit him. I couldn’t underthrow him or overthrow him.”
With 11:04 remaining, Piedmont had its first lead of the contest. Glencoe next two possessions ended in a punt and an interception by junior cornerback LaPhonzo Burroughs.
The return by Burroughs put the Bulldogs in business at the Glencoe 34-yard line. Two running plays netted a yard. With Piedmont facing third-and-9, Glencoe coach Lee Ozmint called his final timeout with 2:11 to go. Smith sensed something was up and, once he had seen Glencoe’s adjustment, called a timeout, too.
When the ball was snapped, Dunbar and Jamie Major moved left out of the backfield and most of Glencoe’s defense moved with them. Bradley headed the opposite direction, got around the right corner and beat the cornerback.
“He tried to tackle me but I broke away from him,” Bradley said.
The result was a 33-yard touchdown with 2:02 to play. After passing its way downfield, Glencoe reached a first-and goal situation at the Piedmont 8 before turning the ball over on downs at the 3.
Major dominated the last six minutes of the second quarter. He crisscrossed the field on a touchdown run the officially covered 56 yards. The junior started left then cut back to the right, toward the Glencoe sideline, and scored pulling away from his pursuers.
“I just was going to try to follow my blocking,” said Major, unsure if he would be able to escape a tackle by a lineman just beyond the line of scrimmage. “When I broke away from that tackle and saw Sloan (Garner) blocking downfield, I though I might be able to get it in the end zone.”
With 6:18 left in the first half, Piedmont now trailed just 14-7. This time, Glencoe punted on third down after quarterback Harrison Bright was barely able to knock down two wide snaps that resulted in losses totaling 12 yards.
The ensuing Piedmont drive covered 60 yards in just five plays. It began with a 20-yard gain on a stop-and-go pass from Bradley to Garner. On third-and-7, the duo combined for an 8-yard gain. From the 29, Major got the corner at left end and scored with ease.
Glencoe scored in the first quarter on a 1-yard sneak by Bright, whose 43-yard run on the Yellow Jackets’ first offensive play caught Piedmont by surprise.
A 30-yard scoring run by Austin Brown with 6:56 remaining in the second quarter and the second of kicker Aaron Benefield’s two extra points made it 14-0 Yellow Jackets.
Glencoe coach Lee Ozmint said Piedmont’s big plays were his team’s undoing, particularly Dunbar’s touchdown reception.
“We stuff’em, stuff’em, stuff’em then we give up two 40-yarders and an 80-yarder,” Ozmint said. “Our kids still fought and that’s a testament to them. They still played hard and I felt like tonight I didn’t put them in a position to win.”
Bradley finished 5-for-8 passing for 115 yards with one interception. Cass McCord had two catches for 12 yards and Andrew Adderhold one for nine yards. Major ran 13 times for 120 yards.
Now 5-0 overall and 5-0 in Region 6 games, Piedmont hosts Weaver in region play Friday. The Bulldogs outscored the Bearcats 40-33 last year. Glencoe (4-1, 3-1), which won six consecutive games after last year’s overtime loss at Piedmont, travels to Saks Friday.