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Prep football: Piedmont ready to roar into region showdown at Wellborn

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Piedmont's Jadon Calhoun scores during the Hokes Bluff at Piedmont game. Photo by Bill Wilson / The Anniston Star

PIEDMONT — Piedmont looks plenty ready for its key region showdown at Wellborn next week.

Jack Hayes passed for 261 yards and five touchdowns, and the Bulldogs dominated Hokes Bluff 40-7 in 3A, Region 5 action Friday on the Field of Champions.

Piedmont (7-1) upped to 5-1 in Class 3A, Region 5 headed into next week’s key region showdown at Wellborn (8-0, 6-0). Piedmont must win to force a three-way tiebreaker atop the region.

“If we win, we’re region champion,” Hayes said. “That’s how it is, and that’s really how we view it.”

Wins by defeated region opponents would decide the tiebreaker. Piedmont’s defeated non-region opponents have a combined 12 wins through Friday, and the Bulldogs close the regular season at Alexandria (8-0).

Wellborn’s defeated non-region opponents, Anniston and Hamilton, have a combined five victories, and the Panthers have no remaining non-region games. Wellborn could clinch the region title outright with a victory over Piedmont.

The Panthers beat Piedmont 40-35 at home in 2019. Piedmont avenged that loss in the semifinals, 41-7, and went on to win the 3A title.

Ohatchee (7-1, 5-1) defeated Cleburne County and Anniston in non-region play, and those teams have four combined wins. The Indians close the regular season against Munford (5-4) at home.

Piedmont seeks its sixth straight region title and third in a row by prevailing in the three-way tiebreaker.

“Big game next week, and Wellborn’s got a great team,” Piedmont coach Steve Smith said. “You’re talking about going to play the number two team in the state, on their home field, undefeated. 

“It’ll be a great, great ballgame. That’s what high school football is all about. I’ve got a lot of respect for their program.”

With the victory over Hokes Bluff on Friday, Piedmont won its second game in a row after falling to Ohatchee 20-15 two week ago. The Bulldogs outscored Pleasant Valley and Hokes Bluff 88-7 in two games since then.

The loss to Ohatchee came a week after Piedmont beat 7A Grissom in a replacement game, after Jacksonville forfeited for COVID-19 reasons.

“It’s made us come together as a team, like it did last year against Wellborn,” Hayes said. “After us beating Grissom, we kind of got the big head and thought we were unbeatable.

“Getting beat shows us we’re just like every team. We have to work like every team, and we came back that week and worked real hard and had a great week of practice. These two games have been really good for us.”

Piedmont set the tone quickly against Hokes Bluff (4-4, 3-3). Hayes went 7-for-9 for 133 yards and three scores in the Bulldogs’ first three possessions. Hayes’ touchdown passes covered 72 and 4 yards to Jadon Calhoun and 6 yards to Sean Smith.

Add Elijah Johnson’s 4-yard touchdown run, and the Bulldogs exited the first quarter with a 26-0 lead. Hokes Bluff had no first downs in three first-quarter possessions.

Hayes added a 20-yard touchdown pass to Coleman Reid at 6:41 of the second quarter, and Piedmont carried a 33-0 lead into halftime. Hayes completed 12 of 16 passes for 192 yards in the first half.

“Last week, he had some decent stats, but he wasn’t very sharp,” Steve Smith said. “He didn’t put the ball where he wanted to put it, and it’s something he worked on this week, and he was conscious of this week in practice, and he was sharp.”

The Bulldogs outgained Hokes Bluff 312-16 in the first half, and Hokes Bluff went without a first down until Tucker Griffin’s 81-yard run at 2:45 of the third quarter.

Hayes followed with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Austin Estes on a fade, and Piedmont led 40-7 one play into the fourth quarter.

“The receivers ran some good routes, and we kind of mixed our passing game up a little bit,” Steve Smith said. “We hit all of the different zones of the field and got a lot of people involved in that passing game.

“When we do that and we’re not just playing outside the hashes, we’re a lot better off.”

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.

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