High school football teaser

Kirsten Fiscus / The Anniston Star

PIEDMONT — Piedmont overcame J.B. Pennington’s blitzing defense with four Jack Hayes touchdown passes in the first half and defeated the Tigers 35-0 in the opening round of the Class 3A football playoffs.

Piedmont head coach Steve Smith said the Tigers were “twisting their line and bringing their linebackers every play, basically trying to bring one more than we could block and trying to make us throw it quick to take away the deep passing game.”

Hayes was 17-for-25 passing for 305 yards with no interceptions for the game. He completed 11 of 18 attempts for 214 yards in the first half despite constant pressure.

“Everybody in the box was blitzing really,” Hayes said. “They were trying to bring the house and most times we were able to throw a bunch of quick routes.”

Hayes was sacked on third down on the opening possession and the Bulldogs punted. He was swarmed under again on the first play of Piedmont’s second possession but Jakari Foster’s 23-yard run on the next play slowed the rush a little. Two plays later, Hayes threw short to Austin Estes who flashed down the visitors’ sideline for a 44-yard touchdown and the rout was on.

“Jack did better as the half went on, making the quick throws and quick decisions to get the ball in places where they had vacated,” Smith said of his freshman quarterback. “He continues to grow up and get better each week.”

What to know

—Silas Thompson caught six passes for 57 yards, including touchdown grabs of 18 yards with 17 seconds left in the first quarter and 10 yards with 3:13 to go in the half that increased Piedmont’s lead to 21-0.

—Running back Elijah Johnson moved outside to a receiver position and had four receptions for 58 yards. Hayes escaped a blitz and found Johnson for a 7-yard touchdown completion with 1:31 to go before halftime. Johnson scored the lone touchdown of the second half on a 59-yard run 30 seconds into the third quarter.

—Bryce Mohon was 5 of 5 on extra points and had a 46-yard punt that pinned Pennington at the Tigers’ 14-yard line early in the second quarter.

—Piedmont’s defense limited Pennington to one first down in the first half and three in the second half, one of those on a penalty. Pennington’s David Blaxton returned the second half kickoff 45 yards to the Piedmont 38 but outside linebacker Noah Reedy killed that momentum shift with an interception on the first play from scrimmage.

—Brant Deerman got an interception with 2:41 to go in the third.

Who said

—Smith on Piedmont’s defense: “The defense played lights out, put them in long yardage on second and third downs. I thought that was a big key for us.”

Next up

—Piedmont (10-1) entertains Lauderdale County (9-2), the No. 2 team from Region 8, Friday. Lauderdale County downed Sylvania 46-20 in the first round.

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