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Prep football: Piedmont defense shuts down Lauderdale County

Lauderdale County at Piedmont 08.JPG

Piedmont's Jack Hayes smiles after scoring during the Lauderdale County at Piedmont game. Photo by Bill Wilson

PIEDMONT — Piedmont’s offense wasn’t up to its usual standard of efficiency but the Bulldogs were lights out on defense, controlling the line of scrimmage and bottling up Lauderdale County’s wing-T running attack.

The Bulldogs eliminated the Tigers from the AHSAA’s Class 3A football playoffs for the second time in three seasons with a 31-0 victory Friday at the Field of Champions. In a second-round game in 2019, Piedmont defeated Lauderdale County 42-20 on the way to a 3A state title.

“I thought it was one of our better defensive efforts of the year, especially against the run. That’s a team that kind of makes their living running the football. I thought we did a really good job of stopping the run,” Piedmont head coach Steve Smith said afterward.

Lauderdale County finished the first half with 38 rushing yards and 47 passing yards. Those totals included a 22-yard scramble by quarterback Eric Fuqua in the final 13 seconds of the first half with Piedmont in a prevent defense and a 21-yard pass completed on an untimed down that ended the first half. Other than Fuqua’s scramble, the Tigers’ long gain on a running play in the first half was four yards.

In the second half, Piedmont recorded six stops behind the line of scrimmage for minus-41 yards, leaving Lauderdale County with 25 rushing yards and 57 yards through the air.

What to know

—Piedmont’s best offensive possession started the game and covered 72 yards in 11 plays. The Bulldogs took more than six minutes off the clock. Quarterback Jack Hayes scored on a 4-yard run and the first of Sloan Smith’s four extra points made it 7-0 before the Tigers ever touched the ball.

—The Bulldogs scored again on the final play of the first period. Wide receiver Austin Estes swept from the left side, caught a touch pass from Hayes behind the line and took it around the right corner and down the home sideline for a 57-yard score and a 14-0 lead.

—The only points for the second quarter came on Smith’s 22-yard field goal with 2:02 to go before halftime.

—Midway through the third quarter, inside linebacker Landon Smart sacked Fuqua for a 6-yard loss, forcing Fuqua to punt from the Lauderdale County 21-yard line. The kick went almost straight up then rolled back. Piedmont took over at the Lauderdale County 20. On third down, Hayes completed a pass to Gatlyn Gardner for an 18-yard touchdown.

—The final touchdown came on a 36-yard bomb from Hayes to Estes with five minutes to play. Hayes was 10 of 19 passing for 163 yards and three touchdowns. He also netted 70 yards rushing on 13 carries. Estes had five receptions for 110 yards.

—In the fourth quarter, sophomore Dontavious Jordan ran for 62 yards on five carries.

—Defensive back Omarion Foster had an interception in each half. Linebacker Luke Rhinehart recovered a bad snap by the Tigers at the Lauderdale County 30 early in the fourth.

Who said

—Smart on Piedmont’s defense: “Everybody was doing their assignments and playing together. They coached us up during the week. We knew our assignments. That’s what happens if we all work together as a team.”

Next up

—Piedmont (10-2) hosts Winfield (12-0) in the 3A quarterfinal round.

Sports Correspondent Rip Donovan: 256-236-1551 or 256-235-3557.