After the Wildcats narrowly escaped Glencoe last week, Devin Harris and the defense propelled Class 3A No. 7 Saks past Weaver 43-7 on Friday, as this one was decided well before the final horn.
“We played better this week, but there are still some things we need to clean up,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said. “We’ve faced some adversity the past few weeks and kind of did OK. We just have to keep getting better and take it one game at a time.”
Harris shined everywhere he was on the field, returning two interceptions for touchdowns, catching a touchdown pass and recovering a block punt, which led to Saks’ first touchdown.
“Saks is a very good team,” Weaver coach Daryl Hamby said. “I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and this is probably the one of the best Saks teams I’ve seen if not the best.”
After the Wildcats and Weaver went into the second quarter scoreless, the blocked punt gave Saks the ball on the Bearcats’ 26-yard line. Three plays later, Tre Smith hit Harris in the end zone to give Saks a 6-0 lead.
“We had some busts early on,” Miller said. “The offense got a slow start early on because of some things they did to us, we just had to adjust.”
Weaver was able to answer shortly after that when the Bearcats’ Timothy Hawkins intercepted a pass and returned it to the Saks 10.
Three plays later, Hawkins finished the scoring drive with a 1-yard run.
“We knew coming into this that we would have to play mistake-free football,” Hamby said. “I thought we did that in the first half and that’s why it was close.”
That would be the last score of the night for Weaver and the ensuing drive for Saks started the swing of momentum.
Devontae Young and Harris split carries until the Wildcats traveled 67 yards on six plays in fewer than two minutes to retake the lead. Smith hit Cameron Lynch on Saks’ next drive for a touchdown to extend its lead to 22-7 with halftime.
“Tre Smith is one of the best athletes in north Alabama and can do anything he wants,” Hamby said. “They don’t have any weak spots. They’re quick and strong and that’s a mean combination.”
Saks’ defense took over in the second half, accounting for two of the team’s three scores.
After Smith intercepted a pass on Weaver’s first drive, he scored on a 3-yard run.
On the next play, Harris intercepted his first pass for a score. While Harris did the same two drives later, Tyler Burnett also intercepted two passes as well for Saks.
Young led Saks on the ground with 166 yards and a score. Smith threw for 43 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 77 yards and two scores.
Weaver was led offensively by Hawkins, who threw for 143 yards.
The win guarantees Saks a spot in the Class 3A playoffs. The Wildcats (7-0, 5-0 Region 5) will face Piedmont (7-0) next week with the region championship on the line for the second season in a row. Piedmont won 41-7 last year.
“It’s obviously a big game, there’s no denying that,” Miller said. “We have to play well just to have a chance to win.”
Despite the loss, Weaver (3-4, 3-2 Region 5) is still in the playoff picture, needing to defeat Ashville next week to remain in the running for one of the final two spots. White Plains and Glencoe also working to get one of those postseason bidd.
“You’ve got to learn and understand how to bounce back. That’s what football is about,” Hamby said. “Nothing is over in this region. You never know what’s going to happen. We need to work on us and not worry about anything but getting us better.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star