WEAVER — Two weeks in a row, Piedmont has played its best defense with its back to the goal line.
Two stops when Weaver got to the Piedmont 4-yard line — one at the end of the second quarter and the next early in the third — made the difference as the Bulldog survived 33-27 in Friday’s Class 3A, Region 5 classic.
The second-ranked Bulldogs improved to 6-1 and stayed unbeaten in region play. Not that Piedmont coach Steve Smith came away happy.
“We didn’t tackle very well tonight, but give credit to them for the way they played,” he said. “Their guys were ready to play and played extremely hard. Our guys did enough to get out of here with a win.”
Sixth-ranked Weaver fell to 4-2, including 1-2 in region with losses to Piedmont and Ohatchee. The remaining region schedule includes winnable games at Glencoe and at home against Pleasant Valley, wrapped around a crucial game at Randolph County in two weeks.
The Bearcats came away with a sense of what can happen if they play their way to a playoff rematch with two-time defending champion Piedmont for the second year in a row.
“I think the boys realize, ‘Hey, we’re not that bad,’” Weaver coach Daryl Hamby said. “This is a wakeup call to them.”
Cardavion Myers led the way for Piedmont, accounting for 226 total yards and four scores — touchdown runs of 55, six and seven yards and a 37-yard touchdown pass to Darien Bossie in the first quarter. Myers also came up with a crucial end-zone interception on the final play of the first half, with Piedmont leading 21-7 and Weaver due to get the ball to start the third quarter.
Piedmont’s Lee Stanley added 102 yards on 16 rushes, including a 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Quarterback Dalton Hamby led Weaver, hitting on 10 of 20 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns … 72 yards to Robert Gaines in the second quarter, 28 to Shamar Spinks in the third and seven to Gaines to bring Weaver within 33-27 with 2:15 to play.
The younger Hamby came back after missing a few plays with leg cramps to throw his touchdown pass to Spinks, trimming Piedmont’s lead to 21-14 at 2:26 of the third quarter.
Dalton Hamby’s run-pass options and scrambles kept Weaver moving against Piedmont’s defense. He finished with 91 yards on 12 carries.
“We figured out they can’t tackle me and cover people out in space,” he said.
Hamby led a 65-yard drive to answer a Myers touchdown, completing a key fourth-down pass to Gaines to set up Spinks’ 8-yard touchdown run to bring Weaver within 27-20 with 5:29 to play.
The Bearcats’ ensuing onsides kick failed, and Myers took advantage with his final score of the night at 3:52.
“Weaver, they came out and played real hard,” Myers said. “We didn’t focus today. We didn’t play good at all. We got lucky and scored touchdowns when we needed it.”
Reminiscent of Piedmont’s win at Leeds a week before, the Bulldogs’ goal-line defense made the difference.
Weaver had first down at the Piedmont 11 on the first drive of the third quarter and got as far as the 4, but Piedmont dropped Spinks for losses on second and fourth downs.
The Bearcats had first and goal at the 4 late in the second quarter. After Dalton Hamby spiked the ball to stop the clock at 11.4 seconds, he threw incomplete over the middle on second down then scrambled right on third down.
Myers tracked the play and picked off the pass into the end zone.
“I just wanted to keep my eye on my man and saw him rolling my way and just made a play on the ball,” Myers said.