AUBURN — If rules for Thursday's Class 3A state finals allowed Piedmont's Steve Smith to challenge a referee's call, he was going to do so, if necessary.
Given a red flag to throw when he wanted to ask for a replay review, Smith tossed it on the field twice in the first half, winning one review and losing another in a 23-12 loss to Flomaton.
Still, don't count Smith as a fan of the process.
"When they asked about doing that, I personally was kind of opposed to it because I think it takes away a little bit of the human element from the game," Smith said. "I see in football games, coaches make mistakes, players make mistakes, referees make mistakes. I was not a big fan of instant replay, but today in the situation we were in, we used it."
Smith noted the coincidence in him throwing the red flag twice in the first quarter.
"I was like a kid who's never had any money — I was throwing that flag twice in the first five minutes," Smith said while speaking to a group of reporters after the state finals news conference.
Each head coach was allowed two challenges in each game. If he challenged a call and was proven right, he didn't lose his challenge. If they didn't win the challenge, they lost one and were charged a timeout.
Theoretically, he could challenge 20 times in a game, as long as he didn't lose more than once.
Flomaton finished fast
Flomaton never has won a state championship until this year, and the Hurricanes did it even though they didn't win their region.
They finished tied for second in Class 3A, Region 1 behind Mobile Christian, which lost in the second round.
Flomaton lost three of its last five regular-season games, falling to Region 1 foes Bayside Academy and Mobile Christian and Class 2A playoff team Southern Choctaw.
"They're a great example of a team getting hot at the right time and playing with confidence," Smith said.
Flomaton coach Doug Vickery Jr., who just completed his 13th season at the school, said the key to the turnaround came when the Hurricanes beat Thomasville 43-42 in their eighth game of the season. That followed two losses, and Vickery said he thought his team had turned it around.
"When we beat Thomasville, unbelievable game, I told them, 'We'll be in Auburn,'" Vickery said. "Each week, I told them we'd be in Auburn, and they believed it. We've been in Auburn and we won it."
Jenkins' quick TD
Piedmont scored a quick touchdown on its first offensive snap of the second half, when Kaedon Jenkins rolled around left end and down the sideline for a 75-yard scoring run and a 12-9 lead.
After that, Piedmont gained only 74 yards on 19 plays against a senior-laden Flomaton defense.
"It was a huge play," Smith said. "We talked at halftime we were having some issues with getting all 11 people executing at the same time. That was a play we executed really well. After that, we had some chances with the lead to extend the lead. We got down down on our end of the field, and we couldn't get off that end."
Piedmont suffered six turnovers Thursday that Flomaton turned into a touchdown and a field goal. The Hurricanes made four turnovers (all interceptions), and the Bulldogs got one touchdown out of them.
"It was a pretty ugly game on both sides with lots of turnovers," Smith said.
It especially hurt Piedmont that it lost the ball three times when Flomation was kicking the ball to the Bulldogs. Another lost fumble came on the first play after getting the ball back.
"We had some fumbled the ensuing kickoff after (a touchdown)," Smith said. "We fumbled a couple of punt returns. We fumbled on a speed sweep. We had a couple of interceptions. Over the course of a day, it wasn't any one play that beat us. It was a situation where we didn't play our best, and Flomaton played a little better than we did today."