PLEASANT VALLEY — Retooling Piedmont hopes to find a typical Piedmont running game this season and helped its cause Friday, by showing a passing game.
In a rare look, the Bulldogs went with four wide receivers and turned freshman quarterback Jack Hayes loose. He threw four touchdown passes to lead Piedmont past Pleasant Valley 28-0 in the Class 3A, Region 6 opener for both teams.
“It’s so fun,” Hayes said of the opportunity to lead with his arm. “It’s a lot more fun than getting beat up running the ball.”
Hayes did some of that as well, rushing for 50 of Piedmont’s 78 yards on the ground. Pleasant Valley (1-1) came determined to stop the ground game Piedmont (2-0) showed against Addison in last week’s season-opener, and a four-wide passing game became Piedmont’s answer.
Hayes completed 19 of 26 passes for 245 yards, hitting touchdown passes of 40 yards to running back Elijah Johnson, 39 to receiver Coleman Reid, 18 to receiver Silas Thompson and 11 to Austin Estes.
Thompson caught a team-high six passes for 57 yards and two scores. Ethan Swinford caught five passes for 27 yards, Reid three for 76 and Austin Estes four for 36.
Hayes threw quick passes against backed-off coverage then hit balls down field, including Reid’s deep slant for a touchdown and a long lob for Johnson’s touchdown.
“They were crowding the line and playing kind of soft on the corners and giving us the quick, underneath throws,” Piedmont coach Steve Smith said. “It was part of what we wanted to do tonight, if they played us that way, and we thought they might, just daring us to throw the ball.
“Jack threw the ball and made some good reads tonight. Our receivers made some nice catches and yards after catch, and the line, for the most part, did a good job pass protecting and giving us time to throw it.”
Pleasant Valley had chances to challenge Piedmont. A shanked punt started the Raiders’ second possession at Piedmont’s 31-yard line, but the Bulldogs turned them over on downs.
Swinford’s fumble on a quick screen to start the third quarter gave Pleasant Valley a shot at Piedmont’s 24, but Sean Smith grabbed quarterback Brody Phillips’ jersey and wouldn’t let go for a fourth-down sack.
“The most important two parts of the game are the little five-minute parts,” Pleasant Valley coach Johnathan Nix said. “Five minutes to start the game, five minutes before halftime, five minutes after you come out of the locker room and five minutes at the end.
“We had a chance, down here, and didn’t take advantage of it, and we had a chance coming out of halftime and didn’t take advantage. Credit them on defense. They’re good.”
Piedmont had chances to score more. A 17-play drive in the second quarter came up empty when a dead-ball offsides penalty took Bryce Mohon’s would-be 30-yard field goal off the board, and he missed from 25.
Mohon also missed wide left from 27 yards on the final play of the second quarter. He made all four extra points, however.
Still, a Piedmont team with new starters at 16 positions, including four on the offensive line, managed well against a challenge from Pleasant Valley, a more veteran team with playoff aspirations this season.
“Our line was very good,” Hayes said. “They played above their age, really. They blocked for me all night, and it really paid off.”