Those who watched Randolph County’s 35-28 win over Piedmont on Friday night bought just one ticket but, in reality, saw two entirely different games. The first was the game in which Piedmont (12-2) exploded for three touchdowns in the first half and led 21-0 at halftime. The second was the contest in which Randolph County (13-1) scored five touchdowns in the second half – two in the final two minutes – to claim the Class 3A semifinal game. The loss ended the careers of seniors who won 49 games over four years, the most in any four-year span in Piedmont football history.
“Although I know this loss will be one that sticks with them for a long, long time just because that‘s the way it is and the way sports go, these guys have had wonderful careers. They’ve done a great job of representing Piedmont High School the right way. … I’m very proud of all of them. Just the way they handle themselves, the way they play the game, I think makes all of us proud to be from Piedmont,” head football coach Steve Smith said.
The Bulldogs scored on the first play from scrimmage when T.J. Fairs took a speed sweep around right end, down the sideline and into the end zone from 63 yards out. Brant Deerman, 4-for-4 on extra points for the night, made it 7-0 just 10 seconds into the game.
Piedmont overcame difficult field position to put together an 89-yard drive on its second possession. Cardavion Myers capped the seven-play march with a 32-yard touchdown run. Myers ran for 46 yards on the drive’s third play. Midway through the first quarter, Piedmont led 14-0.
Following a series of punts, Randolph County recovered a fumble at the Piedmont 8-yard line with 7:54 remaining in the first half. On fourth-and-goal, the Tigers were still seven yards away from Piedmont’s goal line. Mason Mohon intercepted a pass in the Bulldogs’ end zone and returned the pick to the Piedmont 37. Eight plays later, Myers completed a 36-yard touchdown pass to Lee Stanley over the middle with 2:06 left in the half. The Tigers managed their only two first downs of the half on the ensuing possession which ended as time expired at the Piedmont 4.
“I thought we played really, really well in the first half. That was a great example of momentum and how momentum can shift,” Smith said. “They made a couple of big plays there, got a little confidence and got rolling. We kind of stalled out on offense in the third quarter and they took advantage of that, got back in the ball game.”
Randolph County needed just four plays to take the opening passion of the second half 70 yards, scoring on a 43-yard run. Piedmont ran three plays and punted. The Bulldogs’ defense forced a three-and-out by the Tigers. Piedmont’s second possession was another three-and-out and a punt from the Piedmont 15 set Randolph County up at the Piedmont 42.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, a 6-yard run on a tight end around capped the nine-play drive and Piedmont led just 21-14. Starting at the Piedmont 32, the Bulldogs picked up nine yards in three plays and were ready to try for a first down on fourth-and-one but a motion penalty added five yards to the distance necessary for a new set of downs and Piedmont punted to the Randolph County 28.
The Tigers got a 34-yard completion to their tight end on a third-and-11 call then ran for another first down to the Piedmont 28. A completed pass and a penalty for roughing the passer gave Randolph County a first down at the Piedmont 9. On fourth down, the Tigers were still nine yards away and scored on a jump pass by a halfback after a direct snap. With 5:51 to play, the score was 21-21.
“They hit us with a couple of gadget plays, the jump pass and the end around, that we were in pretty good position on and they just made those plays,” Smith said.
Piedmont’s offense came alive. Stanley returned the kickoff 31 yards to the Piedmont 41. A face mask penalty on first down moved the ball to the Randolph County 44 and Stanley ran 13 yards for another first down at the Tiger 31. On third-and-two, Myers vaulted over the line at left tackle for four yards. Stanley’s 11-yard gain got another first down at the Randolph County 8 and Myers scored two plays later on a 6-yard carry at left guard, pulling away from a jersey tackle. With 1:46 to go the Bulldogs had the lead back at 28-21.
“I thought we really showed a lot of character with our response there in putting a drive together when the game was on the line. Our guys did a wonderful job driving it down and putting it in the end zone with 1:46 to go, giving us the lead,” Smith said.
Randolph County started from its 36 with an incomplete pass then a short throw to the left flat became a 64-yard touchdown completion down the Piedmont sideline. Twenty seconds had run off the clock. The Tigers attempted to take the lead, possibly win the game, on a two-point conversion. A power run to the left side was stopped when Mohon, Matthew Thornton and Kadeon Jenkins converged on the runner well behind the line of scrimmage.
The onside kick that everyone at the Field of Champions knew was coming was recovered by the Tigers. The kicked ball hit once in Randolph County territory then bounced high as it approached midfield. Game officials ruled no Randolph County player touched the ball until it was across the midfield line.
Randolph County started at the Piedmont 49. A 13-yard run, a 17-yard pass and a 14-yard run later, it was first-and-goal at the Piedmont 5. The Bulldogs held for three downs but a fourth-down halfback dive from inches away scored with 1.6 seconds still on the clock. The Tigers passed for two more points then kicked off out of bounds. Piedmont’s last desperation pass from the Piedmont 37 was intercepted.
“The onside kick took a perfect hop. Everybody was going after the ball. Their guy made a play on it. Then going all the way down to the very last play on fourth-and-goal, a lot of things could have gone either way. In the end, they went their way,” Smith said.
Myers led the Bulldogs with 16 carries for 129 yards. Stanley ran 17 times for 69 yards. Myers was 1-for-4 passing for 37 yards, his touchdown pass to Stanley.
Logan Beadles recorded nine tackles, three for lost yards. Mohon had eight tackles, two for loss, in addition to his interception. Thornton and Sean Smith each had seven tackles. One of Smith’s was behind the line of scrimmage. Myers and Taylor Morrow, who was injured with about seven minutes to play and did not return, each had six stops. Morrow had Piedmont’s lone quarterback sack and one additional tackle for lost yards. Myers also broke up a pass. Jakari Foster made five tackles, one for loss, and broke up one pass. Logan Smith and Seth Gardner each had four tackles. One of Gardner’s was behind the line. Jenkins broke up three passes and made two tackles, one for loss. Fairs and Gavin Kircus also had two tackles apiece.