After big win, Piedmont faces another big one

As big as last week’s 41-19 win at Leeds was for Piedmont, and it was huge, Friday’s game at Weaver is even bigger.

Along with Piedmont (5-1) and Randolph County, the Bearcats (4-1) were among the preseason favorites in Class 3A, Region 5.

They won their first three games handily but stumbled against rebuilding Ohatchee and now desperately need to defeat Piedmont to have a realistic hope of winning the region. A win by Piedmont would push the Bulldogs to 4-0 in Region 5 with games against Wellborn and Ohatchee still to be played.

Piedmont coach Steve Smith said Sunday the Bearcats are similar to Leeds in big-play potential, mentioning Shamar Spinks, London Knight, Robert Gaines, Drake Monroe and Dalton Hamby. “They’ve got some talent, no doubt about it, and they’re improved as far as their line goes,” Smith said.

Weaver head coach Daryl Hamby has moved Caleb Allison from center to fullback on offense, giving Weaver a very big body in the backfield. Allison now plays linebacker on defense.

Smith said regardless of the formation, Weaver plays an attacking style on defense, forcing opponents to make quick decisions. The Bearcats have been able to produce a significant number of negative plays with that aggressive defense.    

“It may be the finest Weaver team that they’ve had,” Smith said.

Leeds received the opening kickoff and took a 7-0 lead on a five-play drive of 40 yards. Piedmont answered with back-to-back scoring marches of 73 and 93 yards. Quarterback Cardavion Myers scored the first touchdown on a 13-yard run with 6:15 left in the first quarter. A Myers to Darien Bossie pass of 31 yards highlighted the drive.

The Bulldogs then forced Leeds to punt, with the ball dying at Piedmont’s 7-yard line. Fifteen plays later, Myers scored on another 13-yard run at 9:04 in the second quarter. The second of Brant Deerman’s five extra points made it 14-7 Piedmont.

A 26-yard field goal with 5:20 to go before halftime got Leeds within four points at 14-10 but the Bulldogs closed out the first half with a 12-play, 78-yard scoring drive that featured runs of 26 and 22 yards by Lee Stanley and ended on a 1-yard Myers pass to Bossie with nine seconds left in the half. Deerman made it 21-10.

Smith described the first series of the second half as chaotic for Piedmont. It ended with Leeds taking the ball at the Piedmont 15 and gaining a first-and-goal at the Piedmont 1. From there, first Logan Smith and then Malachi Jackson made tackles for lost yards and Kaedon Jenkins added a tackle for no gain on third down. Leeds settled for a 21-yard field goal.

For the Bulldogs, gains of 25 yards by Stanley and 26 yards by Jenkins sparked a four-play, 66-yard drive and Stanley scored on a 2-yard run. With 5:39 left in the third, Piedmont led 28-13.

Smith said the two occasions the defense forced field goals and the ability of the offense to respond with touchdowns each time were the turning points in the game.

Leeds got its final touchdown on a 43-yard run with 4:57 still to play in the third. Piedmont added to its lead on a 44-yard run by Jenkins with 2:02 to play in the third. After a blocked PAT, Piedmont led 34-19.

A Taylor Morrow interception ended the ensuing Greenwave possession. After trading punts, Stanley picked up 33 yards on the initial snap then scored on a 2-yard run with 9:06 to go. Deerman’s extra point made it 41-19.

According to Piedmont statistics, Stanley ended with 21 carries for 210 yards. He now has rushed for 3,170 yards on 350 carries. Research by Mike Naugher shows he is the sixth Piedmont player to rush for at least 3,000 yards in his career.

Myers ran 22 times for 136 yards. Jenkins contributed 78 yards on four tries. Layton New ran twice for 28 yards.

Myers was 5-for-5 passing for 49 yards. Bossie had three receptions for 36 yards. T.J. Fairs caught two passes for 13 yards. Smith said both catches by Fairs helped the Bulldogs overcome penalties.

Logan Smith was in on eight tackles, two for lost yards, and recovered a fumble. Mason Mohon made seven tackles. Jackson had six tackles. Sean Smith and Christian Doss recorded five stops apiece. Two of Smith’s were behind the line of scrimmage.          

Logan Beadles, Gavin Kircus and Matthew Thornton made four tackles apiece. One of Thornton’s came behind the line. Jenkins and Jackson Barber each made three tackles. Braylon Cole and Jakari Foster each recorded two tackles. 

Spring Garden’s homecoming fun

Two football teams headed in different directions collide in Gadsden on Friday night. Spring Garden (4-1) travels to meet Coosa Christian (2-4) in a crucial Class 1A, Region 6 game for each team.

Coosa Christian has lost three straight starts but is 1-0 in Region 6 games with region games against Spring Garden, Cedar Bluff, Gaylesville and Woodville still to play. Spring Garden has won four straight games and is already 3-0 in Region 6 with only Cedar Bluff remaining on its region slate after Coosa Christian. If the Panthers win Friday, they can finish no lower than second in the region standings.

“That’s a huge game,” Spring Garden head coach Jason Howard said of the meeting with Coosa Christian immediately following his team’s 34-14 homecoming win over Donoho last Friday night. “That’s a home playoff spot on the line. That would be big for this group.”     

Spring Garden’s biggest issue may be taking the Conquerors too lightly. Coosa Christian lost to Donoho 56-7 on Sept. 22. Howard said the Conquerors are better than their score against Donoho indicated.

“I’ve seen them on film several times. They’re very scary because they’re very athletic and they can score on any play,” Howard said. “We’re going to have to go up there and play penalty free, no turnovers and win at the line of scrimmage.”

Against Donoho, Spring Garden took advantage of two short-field situations for a 14-7 halftime lead. The first came on the opening kickoff when Donoho failed to field a pooch kick and Michael Floyd captured the free ball for the Panthers on the Donoho 34-yard line. Spring Garden converted two third-and-short calls and Luke Welsh scored on a 4-yard run with 8:09 left in the first quarter. Colby Slayton, 4-for-5 on extra point attempts, made it 7-0.

The next three times the Panthers had the ball they punted twice and lost possession on downs once, managing just one first down along the way.

With 6:09 to go in the second quarter, Jonah Smith sniffed out a screen pass and intercepted at the Donoho 23. A run lost three yards then quarterback Luke Ivey passed to Dylan Rogers in the end zone where Rogers out-jumped Donoho’s Seth Ford for a 26-yard touchdown catch. Slayton upped Spring Garden’s lead to 14-0.

A 46-yard touchdown pass by the Flacons trimmed the Panthers’ lead to 14-7 at halftime. At the break, Spring Garden had rushed for just 60 yards.

“Penalties killed us in the first half. We kept putting ourselves back behind the chains and we’re not good when we put ourselves behind the chains,” Howard said.

Christian Crider, in his fourth year as the starter at center, saw a different problem.     

“In the first half, the blocks weren’t getting made. We were too busy trying to get up on backers and we’d just leave our guy to begin with,” Crider said. “The second half, we really executed our blocks.”  

The Panthers ran for 184 yards in the final two quarters. Andrew Floyd returned the second half kickoff 23 yards to the Spring Garden 29. From there, 14 running plays carried the ball to the Donoho 3. Ivey passed to Welsh, alone in the end zone after coming out of the backfield, and the Panthers led 21-7 with 5:39 left in the third quarter.

Donoho got its second touchdown on the ensuing possession but the Panthers answered immediately. Weston Kirk started with a 26-yard kickoff return to the Spring Garden 35. He added a 34-yard run around left end along the way and capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run up the middle on a direct snap on the first play of the fourth quarter. Slayton’s kick was wide left but the Panthers led 27-14.

An interception by Slayton at the Donoho 30 set Spring Garden’s final touchdown. Andrew Floyd scored on a 1-yard run with 46.8 seconds to play.       

Kirk rushed for 129 yards on 16 carries. Welsh ran 15 times for 65 yards. Ivey was 8-for-10 for 80 yards. Rogers had three catches for 46 yards, Michael Floyd three for 11 and Gaines Petty one for 10. Smith, Slayton and Dylan Gowens each had an interception for the Panthers.