Piedmont football: More physical Bulldogs beat Wellborn on second try

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Piedmont's Silas Thompson grabs a touchdown pass over Wellborn's Khavion Wesley. Piedmont played host to Wellborn in a rematch from a regular season game Friday night in the north 3A semifinal game. Piedmont won the game 41-7 to advance to the 3A state championship game. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

PIEDMONT — Piedmont and Wellborn played twice this football season and each time the more physical team won the game.

In the regular season that was Wellborn. Friday night, in the semifinal round of the Class 3A playoffs, it was Piedmont. The Bulldogs scored at least one touchdown in every quarter and downed the Panthers 41-7.

Piedmont head coach Steve Smith said afterward that Wellborn’s offensive line had knocked the Bulldogs off the ball in the first meeting, won by the Panthers 40-35.

“We kind of pride ourselves on being physical. They took it to us last time. I thought we came back tonight and we were the more physical team and I was really proud of that,” Smith said.

Wellborn rushed for just 27 net yards in the first half and had 46 yards on the ground in the second half, 26 of those coming on the final series against Piedmont reserves.

Piedmont’s first score came on a 4-yard pass from freshman quarterback Jack Hayes to Max Hanson on a fourth-and-goal call. The first of five extra points by Bryce Mohon made it 7-0 after each team had its first possession. Wellborn quarterback Jett Smith completed a 53-yard pass to Tanner McQueen to set up a 12-yard touchdown run by Smith for a 7-7 tie but the rest of the night belonged to the Bulldogs.

Hayes scored on a 1-yard run the third time Piedmont had the ball, capping a 35-yard drive. The Bulldogs got the first break of the game when Trey McFarland recovered a fumbled punt at the Wellborn 4-yard line. After a motion penalty, Hayes connected with Silas Thompson for a 9-yard score and Piedmont had the 21-7 lead it took into the halftime break.

An interception by Brant Deerman midway through the third quarter set Piedmont up at the Wellborn 40. Six snaps later, Hayes scored on a 14-yard run up the middle. Mohon’s only miss left Piedmont ahead 27-7 with 2:48 left in the third.

Junior running back Elijah Johnson completed the scoring with a 20-yard run with eight seconds left in the third and a 29-yard run at 6:50 of the fourth.

What to know

—Hayes completed 11 of 24 passes for 130 yards in the first half for 130 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. He completed 3 of 6 passes in the second half for another 22 yards. Hayes also rushed for 117 yards on 15 carries and scored two rushing touchdowns.

—Junior running back Elijah Johnson ran 11 times for 115 yards and scored twice. Austin Estes had seven receptions for 48 yards.

Who said

—Hayes on the running game in the second half: “We threw it so much in the first half we got them thinking throw on third down and we’d just run the ball.”

—Johnson on the second half: “They weren’t hitting me as hard as they did the first quarter so I was just pounding it down their throats.”

Next up

—Piedmont (13-1) will meet Mobile Christian (9-4) in the Class 3A championship game Thursday at 11 a.m. in Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Bulldogs defeated Mobile Christian for the 2016 Class 3A title, also at Jordan-Hare.