The AHSAA Class 3A football semifinal round playoff game for schools in the “north” half of the bracket will again be an all-Region 5 party. Region 5 champion Piedmont downed Colbert Heights 34-13 on the road last Friday while Region 5 runner-up Randolph County (12-1) bested Sylvania 55-24 at home.
The Bulldogs (12-1) rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat Randolph County 41-31 on Sept. 15 in the game that eventually decided the Region 5 championship and the host role for Friday’s contest. Piedmont enters on a 12-game winning streak. The Tigers are on a 10-game roll. Hillcrest of Evergreen hosts Clarke County of Grove Hill in the other 3A semifinal.
Fultondale tested Randolph County in the second round, a game that Randolph County won 35-28 away from home. The Tigers played at home in the first and third rounds and those games – a 42-6 win over North Sand Mountain and last week’s win over Sylvania – were decided quickly. Piedmont coach Steve Smith said the Randolph County will bring an improved team to Piedmont on Friday.
“Obviously, they’re healthy. They’ve got all their guys playing. They’ve used the time to develop the passing game more. They really hurt Fultondale and Sylvania with the passing game,” Smith said. “They also did very little of the shotgun stuff. It’s been mostly ‘I’ and ‘Wishbone’ stuff, just power football right at you leaning on those good linemen they have and that talented set of backs in the backfield.”
Smith also noted that Randolph County has an outstanding punter but hasn’t done much punting in the past three or four weeks.
“Defensively, they’ve just got so much team speed. They’re in the right position the majority of the time but even if they’re not they can overcome that quickly with great team speed on that side of the ball,” Smith noted. “It’s a solid team and one that will require our team to play really well to beat them.”
As Smith had warned his Bulldogs during the week of preparation for Colbert Heights, Friday’s game against the Wildcats and their ball-control offense was one with a limited number of possessions. Piedmont got maximum results from every opportunity that came its way, starting with a 76-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Kaedon Jenkins to open the contest.
Jenkins said he followed his blockers early. When he got into Colbert Heights’ territory, “The kicker came over and I cut inside of him. I just saw the end zone and started running.” It all took just 15 seconds of clock time and stilled the Colbert Heights crowd.
The Wildcats got a first down then a quarterback sack by Logan Beadles forced a punt. Piedmont moved 73 yards, overcoming an additional 15 yards in penalties, and scored on a 24-yard pass from quarterback Cardavion Myers to running back Lee Stanley. The second of Brant Deerman’s four extra points moved the Bulldogs ahead 14-0 with 2:43 to play in the first quarter. Five minutes into the second quarter, the Wildcats scored to cut that lead to 14-7.
Stanley capped an 80-yard drive with a 16-yard scoring run with 1:52 remaining in the first half. Myers had a 14-yard run and T.J. Fairs a 13-yard gain on a speed sweep along the way. Tackle Davis Young saved the drive when he recovered a Piedmont fumble at midfield.
Trailing 21-7, Colbert Heights tried to answer but a double handoff from the Piedmont 14-yard line resulted in a 15-yard loss on a tackle by inside linebacker Gavin Kircus on the final play of the first half.
The Wildcats put together a 67-yard scoring drive on the opening possession of the third quarter. Fairs blocked the extra point, his third blocked kick of the season.
With its lead narrowed to eight points, Piedmont drove 85 yards on 17 plays to extend the lead to 27-13 with 11 minutes to play on a 1-yard run by Myers. The march took nine minutes off the clock. Myers converted third downs into first downs three times along the way and had a fourth down conversion on a 10-yard run from the Colbert Heights 14. Myers’ most impressive carry was a 15-yard gain on a third-and-7 from the Colbert Heights 37.
“He just took it and ran around the end, plowed over about three people. He just ran through everybody that was in the way,” Smith said.
Myers said he was getting blocks from linemen, backs and receivers.
“I had trust in them,” Myers said after the game. “I was just running hard behind them to get the first down and try to score.”
The ensuing Colbert Heights possession ended when linebacker Logan Smith recovered a fumble at the Wildcats’ 37 with 9:30 to play. Myers scored on a 19-yard run at left end with 6:45 still on the clock and Piedmont led 34-13. Colbert Heights went three-and-out. A 48-yard run by freshman Elijah Johnson almost put more points on the score board but the Bulldog took a knee inside the Colbert Heights 10 on the final two plays of the night.
Smith said later he couldn’t recall another of his teams playing with such efficiency.
“About the only thing I can think of that even compares to it was we drained the second half of the Colbert County semifinal game up there two years ago on two possessions but we didn’t score any points on either one of those. We led 14-0 at the half and that wound up being the final,” Smith said. “It was good execution for us.”
Official Piedmont stats showed Myers with 19 carries for 158 yards. Stanley ran 17 times for 73 yards. Johnson ended with 66 yards rushing on five carries. Myers was 2-for-3 passing for 31 yards with both completions going to Stanley.
Beadles led the defense with 12 tackles, including three sacks and one additional tackle for lost yards.
“He did all that with 42 snaps,” Smith said. “That’s an awful lot of plays to be making from the nose tackle position against a team that liked to run the ball so much on the inside.”
Matthew Thornton made 10 tackles. Kircus had nine stops with one behind the line. Sean Smith recorded six tackles, on for loss. Jakari Foster and Malachi Jackson had five tackles each. Logan Smith and Seth Gardner each made three tackles. Jenkins, Micah Bennefield, Mason Mohon and Taylor Morrow had two tackles apiece.