“Offensively, they’re a little more dangerous, I think, than they’ve been in the past because of the dual threat quarterback (Dylan Stone). He’s a good runner. He’s added a big dimension to their game. He throws the ball well and he’s a good runner. In that one-back stuff with the oldest Ozmint kid (Thomas), who’s a good running back, they’ve got a threat with the quarterback keeping it and running it to the back side,” said Piedmont coach Steve Smith. “I think they’re improved on the offensive side and they’re just like they always are on the defensive side, very sound and they get after it good.”
The Yellow Jackets (1-1) will likely enter the Piedmont game with some extra motivation. They had beaten Weaver four consecutive years before the Bearcats won 38-13 at Weaver Friday. Piedmont is riding a five-game winning streak over Glencoe and snapping that run would go a long way toward making Glencoe partisans forget the loss to Weaver. Glencoe’s last win over the Bulldogs came in 2005, when William Hill was coaching the Yellow Jackets.
Piedmont got off to a strong start against visiting Ashville last Friday as linebacker Dalton Barber’s hit on Ashville running back E.J. Moss on the second play of the game separated Moss and the ball. Exavyer Jackson recovered for Piedmont at the Ashville 22-yard line. Piedmont’s first play was a touchdown pass into the end zone from quarterback Ty Sparks wide receiver Denard Spears.
“I was really pleased with our effort, coming off an emotional rival game,” Smith said. “We’ve had a tendency in the past to kind of not go out there and bring the same kind of intensity the next week. I was really pleased with our effort the other night. We played well in all three phases.”
Before the first quarter closed, Sparks had a second scoring pass, this one to C.J. Savage. Thirty seconds into the second quarter, special teams got on the board as Spears returned a punt 55 yards to bump Piedmont’s lead to 20-0 and the rout was on. Dreek Thompson broke a 73-yard scoring run with 6:35 left in the first half and Darnell Jackson finished a 75-yard drive, in which he gained all 75 yards on five carries, with a 2-yard burst into the end zone behind right guard Jamie Crutcher, right tackle Jeffery Pryor and Exavyer Jackson in at blocking back in the “heavy” package.
Piedmont added to its 34-0 halftime lead quickly in the third quarter. Jaret Prater capped a 61-yard, four-play drive with a 14-yard run after Piedmont took the second half kickoff. On Piedmont’s next possession, the Bulldogs covered 76 yards in six plays. Neonta Alexander started the march with a 6-yard run and ended it with a 12-yard carry into the end zone with 1:55 left in the third quarter. A 19-yard gain by quarterback Tyler Lusk and a 37-yard pickup by Tre Reese were the big plays along the way.
In the fourth quarter, Trevaughn Carpenter took a toss sweep around right end for 60 yards and Piedmont’s final touchdown with 7:10 remaining.
Exavyer Jackson kicked the first extra point but missed the second. Easton Kirk then converted six straight.
Nine players combined to gain 387 yards on just 23 rushing plays. The Bulldogs finished with 369 net yards on the ground when a high snap resulted in an 18-yard loss. Thompson picked up 110 yards on three tries. Darnell Jackson ran six times for 91 yards. Carpenter finished with 69 yards on two carries and Lusk had 43 yards on four attempts.
“On offense, our young offensive linemen have kind of jelled together these first two weeks plus the jamboree, and they seem to be getting better,” Smith said. “They’re working extremely hard. I’m really proud of the effort.”
On defense, 25 players were involved in at least one tackle for Piedmont. From his end position, Reese had the only quarterback sack but the Bulldogs had 14 other stops behind the line of scrimmage. Exavyer Jackson led with five tackles for lost yardage. Reese, Alexander, Prater, Barber, Cody Daughtry, Chase Keener, Ryan Kirk, Darnell Jackson and Taylor Cooper each had one tackle behind the line.
Cooper’s came five minutes into the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-inches call at the Piedmont 40-yard line and helped preserve the shutout. Ashville’s starters had put together two first downs against Piedmont reserves and appeared to have some momentum until Cooper’s stop.
Exavyer Jackson led in total tackles with 15. Linebackers Dalton Barber and Taylor Hayes also had double digit tackles with 11 and 10 respectively. Alexander was involved in nine stops and Reese seven. Darnell Jackson, Couy Taylor, Bayley Blanchard and Keener each had six tackles. Daughtry, Prater and Tyler Lucas had five stops apiece and Ryan Kirk got four. Lusk, Cooper, Mitchell Bennefield, Austin Brazier, Jacob Clark, Colton Donaldson, Deven Hincy, Josh Minton and Krae Keener had two tackles each.
“We’ve really done a good job to this point of our defense getting to the ball. I’ve been really pleased with the progress we’ve made to this point defensively,” said Smith. “We’ve been very sound. We’re smaller than we have been but we’ve got good team speed.”
In addition to Spears’ punt return touchdown, special teams got a boost from Darnell Jackson’s deep kickoffs. Jackson sent one kick into the end zone and two others were fielded at the goal line. Five of the remaining six kicks were inside the 5-yard line and one reached the 12.
“That’s been a nice weapon for us, Darnell’s kickoffs being down there, and we usually cover kicks pretty good,” Smith said.