PIEDMONT — There was no substitute for playoff experience Friday at Piedmont’s Field of Champions.
The Bulldogs were in the quarterfinal round of the state football playoffs for the seventh straight season. Winfield was undefeated but in the quarterfinals for the first time in five years.
“Our guys, I don’t think the moment was too big for them because they’d been there in plenty of games like this before,” Piedmont coach Steve Smith said afterward. “I definitely think that experience played in our favor.”
In what many considered a big upset, the final score was Experience 43, Winfield 14 and Piedmont advanced to the Class 3A semifinals Friday at Saks. The Wildcats also pulled an upset, beating 2020 state champion Fyffe 14-7 at Fyffe.
What to know
—The game was actually two different games from Piedmont’s offense. In the first half, Piedmont rushed for 230 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Jack Hayes ran the ball 20 times for 165 yards and scored on runs of five yards, 15 yards and 1 yard. In the second half, Hayes was 4 of 5 passing for 113 yards and three touchdowns, He completed scoring passes of 34 yards to Austin Estes, 36 yards to Gatlyn Gardner and 34 yards to Rusty Escamilla.
—Late in the first quarter, Winfield’s Drew Cook scored on a 55-yard run down the visitors’ sideline. Despite Cook’s jaunt, the Pirates finished the half with 47 net rushing yards. Ja’borri McGhee had a 61-yard touchdown run with 4:52 to go in the third quarter too cut Winfield’s deficit to 34-14. Hayes to Escamilla made it 40-14 two minutes later. Sloan Smith’s 25-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter set the final score.
—Senior running back Brayden Morgan, who Hayes said ran like a madman, ran nine times for 129 yards. Morgan had 54 yards on four carries at halftime and added 75 yards on five totes in the second half.
—Piedmont’s defense generated six plays for negative yards. Linebackers Brody Epps and Landon Smart each had a fumble recovery for Piedmont. With 2:54 to play, the Bulldogs forced a turnover on downs at the Piedmont 4-yard line after Winfield had first-and-goal at the Piedmont 10.
—Smart on the challenge faced by the defense: “They probably were expecting to do what they had been doing to other teams. You’ve got to be confident in what you do. I understand why they’d think that but we just kept on bringing it to them. … We weren’t going to give up and it worked for us.”
—Winfield junior quarterback Aidan Quinn, who said Piedmont’s defense didn’t do anything Winfield hadn’t already seen: “They were just doing it a lot better than we expected. We prepared for it. They were stronger than us and got past us.”
—Smith on Winfield’s defensive adjustments at halftime: “We ran the ball so efficiently in the first half that they brought an extra guy down and went to man coverage.”
—Smith on the second-half touchdown passes: “We hit the three big touchdown passes in the second half — one to the wide guy, one to the wide guy on the other side and one to the guy down the middle. Those big-play opportunities are derived from being able to run the football on the inside.”