By the luck of the draw, the biggest game on the Class 1A, Region 6 schedule comes Friday, the last date for region play, and it will be played at Spring Garden. Spring Garden, 6-1 overall and 4-0 in Region 6, entertains intra-county rival Cedar Bluff, 5-2 on the season and also 4-0 in the region, for the Region 6 championship.

Spring Garden is riding a six-game winning streak after defeating Holy Spirit Catholic 23-18 in Tuscaloosa last week. Cedar Bluff did not play last week and has a five-game run of wins.

The contest against Holy Spirit was a thriller that wasn’t decided until the Panthers denied Holy Spirit a score in the final seconds of play. Spring Garden quarterback Luke Ivey scored on a 1-yard run with 14 seconds to play to set the final score. After the ensuing kickoff, Holy Spirit got off one more play. Spring Garden head coach Jason Howard said his Panthers were able to halt it around the 40-yard line.        

Holy Spirit had taken and 18-17 lead on an 18-yard field goal with 1:13 to play. The kickoff sailed into the end zone and the Panthers began their final possession at the Spring Garden 20. A 49-yard pass completion from Ivey to Dylan Rogers got the Panthers off to a good start. Ivey then found Colby Slayton for a 16-yard gain on another throw. Runs by Ivey and Weston Kirk milked a little more time off the clock and set up Ivey’s winning touchdown. Spring Garden attempted a two-point conversion that was unsuccessful.

The Saints got the first points of the game on a 35-yard field goal midway through the first quarter. Spring Garden rallied with 17 points in the second quarter. With 5:41 to go before halftime, Ivey completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jonah Smith and Slayton kicked the first of his two extra points. A 20-yard scoring toss from Ivey to Gaines Petty with 4:05 still to play in the half made it 14-3 Spring Garden. Slayton booted a 20-yard field goal with five seconds left in the first half.

Spring Garden kept that 17-3 lead for most of the third quarter. A penalty backed the Panthers up within the shadow of their goal line and the Saints got a safety with 3:21 to play in the third. The ensuing free kick gave Holy Spirit a short field and a 30-yard field goal with 1:38 to go in the third cut Spring Garden’s lead to 17-8. A recovered fumble gave the Saints a short field again and a 12-yard touchdown run with three seconds to go in the third narrowed the Panthers’ lead again, this time to 17-15, and set the stage for the grand finale.

Ivey was 10-for-15 passing for 171 yards. Slayton caught four passes for 58 yards. Rogers had two catches for 57 yards, Kirk two for 29 yards, Petty one for 20 and Smith one for seven.

Kirk led on the ground with 107 yards on 19 carries. Ivey ran eight times for 44 yards. Michael Floyd added 17 yards on two carries and Luke Welsh ran six times for 11 yards.  

Lucky Bolen led in tackles with nine. Pj Smith made seven stops. Colby Slayton had five tackles. Austin Slayton, Draevan Bowman and Petty had four tackles apiece. Rogers made three tackles. Luke Welsh, Brian Kelley and Jonah Smith each had two tackles.

Piedmont collects third straight region title

Piedmont scored the first three times the Bulldogs had the football then responded to every Ohatchee touchdown with one of their own in defeating the Indians 41-20 at the Field of Champions last Friday.

“That’s one of the unwritten keys to football in my opinion,” Piedmont head coach Steve Smith said immediately following the game. “When the other team scores, the best thing you can do is answer that score, take away any momentum.”

Friday’s victory completed Piedmont’s Class 3A, Region 5 schedule. The Bulldogs (8-1) finished as Region 5 champions with a 6-0 region mark and have an open date this week.

This year’s region title is the third consecutive region championship for Piedmont. Region champions play at home in the opening round of the playoffs against a fourth-place finisher from another region. More importantly, any playoff game between Piedmont and one of Region 5’s three other playoff teams will be played on the Field of Champions. In last year’s run to the Class 3A state championship, the Bulldogs hosted Region 5 foe Weaver in the quarterfinal round and entertained Ohatchee in the semifinal round and won handily each time.

“We’re awfully hard to beat here,” Smith said Friday night. “I would prefer if we play any (region opponent) again down the road it would be at the Field of Champions. … It’s really big for playoffs, being able to have people come to our place to play.”

The win over Ohatchee was a combination of efficiency on offense and a stingy defense. Ohatchee’s first and third touchdowns came on explosive plays, a 44-yard pass and a 66-yard run. The Indians scored their second touchdown after an interception gave them the ball at the Piedmont 10-yard line.

“I thought we did a really, really good job against the running game,” Smith said, noting the long scoring run as the lone exception to that statement. “The key against Ohatchee is not letting them hold the ball for six, seven minutes. We had some extended drives on our part and we were efficient with our eight possessions.”  

Piedmont’s offense generated 360 yards on the ground and 13 yards through the air. The rushing game was led by Mr. Outside (mostly) Cardavion Myers at quarterback and Mr. Inside (mostly) Lee Stanley at running back. Each ran for three touchdowns against Ohatchee as Piedmont scored on six of its eight meaningful possessions.  

“We’ve been around each other since I came here in the eighth grade. We’ve just got that bond and we’ve just got the mentality that we’re not going to let anybody stop us,” Stanley said of his relationship with Myers. “You’ve got to worry about him on the outside and he can cut it up and make a move. Me, I’m more of an inside guy but I can go outside.”     

A number of Piedmont’s power runs with Myers have Stanley in front as a lead blocker. It’s a role he relishes.

“I break off and block somebody and he’ll go right where I was. I like the feeling of that because I can feel him go by,” Stanley said. “I’m like, ‘Well, he’s gone.’”

Official Piedmont statistics showed Myers with 234 rushing yards on 23 carries. He scored the game’s second touchdown on a 36-yard run with just under three minutes left in the first quarter to increase Piedmont’s lead to 12-0. His 8-yard scoring run in the middle of the third quarter made it 28-6 after Layton New ran for a two-point conversion. Myers added a 28-yard run at 8:56 of the final quarter for a 35-13 advantage. His lone pass completion went to Darien Bossie for 13 yards.

Stanley finished with 23 carries and 122 yards. He opened the scoring with 6:55 to play in the first quarter on a 2-yard run. His second touchdown, from 17 yards out, came with 6:35 left in the second quarter. A speed sweep by T.J. Fairs added the two-point conversion and earned the Bulldogs a 20-0 lead. Stanley’s 1-yard run with about three minutes to play set the final score at 41-20.

Ohatchee scored with 32.8 seconds left in the first half, cutting Piedmont’s halftime lead to 20-6, then got the second half kickoff.  Smith said the ensuing sequence was the most critical of the contest.

“They had the momentum going in at halftime after they made the big throw. I thought it was huge for us go out and get a second-half stop right off the bat, force a three-and-out, get the ball back and then us drive it down and score and extend the lead to 28-6,” Smith said.   

Inside linebacker Logan Smith led in tackles with 10. Gavin Kircus and Matthew Thornton each made seven stops. Thornton’s included a quarterback and another tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Kaedon Jenkins and Logan Beadles had six tackles apiece. Beadles made two sacks and had one additional tackle for lost yards. Taylor Morrow and Mason Mohon had three tackles each. Morrow had one behind the line and also broke up a pass. Braylon Cole, Jakari Foster, Myers, Malachi Jackson and Sean Smith had two stops apiece. Myers also broke up a pass.