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Five facts: The Piedmont Bulldogs' semifinal squad

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Piedmont's Jack Hayes looks to get past Lauderdale County's Michael Brown. The Piedmont Bulldogs played host to Lauderdale County Friday night in the 2nd round of the AHSAA state playoffs. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

What to know about the Piedmont Bulldogs:

—Steve Smith’s 14th season at Piedmont and 25th as a head coach is vintage. The Bulldogs are 12-1, raising his record to 244-74 overall, including his time at Cedar Bluff, and 159-29 at Piedmont, where he won state championships in 2009, 2015 and 2016 and finished 2018 as Class 3A runner-up. He has 17 seasons with double-digit wins, including 12 at Piedmont. His last losing season was 2000, at Cedar Bluff.

—The Bulldogs won their fifth straight region title, all coming in a region widely regarded as one of the state’s best. Class 3A, Region 6 has produced two state champions and two runners-up in that span, and Piedmont will play region foe Wellborn in the semifinals. The region has also had two teams face off the semifinals each of the past four seasons, with Piedmont and Randolph County battling to reach the finals in 2017 and 2018 and Piedmont and Ohatchee in 2016. Piedmont beat Colbert County in the 2015 semifinals.

—This season might go down as one of Smith’s best coaching jobs. Entering this season, the Bulldogs had to replace starters at 16 positions, including nine on offense. Returnees included center Hayden Young, fullback Elijah Johnson, defensive end Sean Smith, defensive end Bryson Ingram, defensive back Brant Deerman, defensive back Jakari Foster and punter/kicker Bryce Mohon.

—How young is Piedmont? On a roster of 48 players, 35 players are freshmen and sophomores. In preseason, Smith said this marks the first time in his Piedmont tenure to have back-to-back, single-digit senior classes, but the Bulldogs also got two intriguing transfers in wide receiver/running back Ethan Swinford (Munford) and safety Trey McFarland (Randolph County). Swinford fractured his fibula late in the regular season and saw limited action in his return, Piedmont’s victory over Geraldine in the quarterfinals.

—From Cole Peace at Cedar Bluff to Jack Hayes at Piedmont, Smith has made quarterback play one of the bedrocks of his success. Hayes, a freshman, took over this season, after seeing extended action as an eighth-grader. The younger brother of Taylor Hayes, who quarterbacked the Bulldogs to state titles in 2015 and 2016, Jack has accounted for 2,507 total yards and is responsible for 42 touchdowns. That includes 2,057 yards passing and 37 touchdown passes with just eight interceptions.

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.

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