A silver lining

Malik Pope rushed for 263 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries Friday night.

Bad bounces, sloppy field conditions and tough breaks derailed Sylacauga’s chances Friday in a 34-20 loss to Jasper in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs.

The Aggies were in position to tie the game on a drive in the Vikings’ red zone while trailing 27-20 with under four minutes left.

Quarterback Daylon Keith ran for 2 yards on fourth-and-12 from the Jasper 14-yard line, but the Vikings’ defense committed a personal foul that gave the Aggies half the distance to the goal.

Sylacauga head coach Matt Griffith said there was some confusion on the field as to what down and distance resulted from the penalty, and after a 2-yard run by Journey Stockdale, the Aggies had unexpectedly turned the ball over on downs.

“Right there at the end, when we get the horse-collar call, we really thought it was a first down,” Griffith said. “We thought we were first-and-goal from the 6. The referee said we were fourth-and-5 on a repeat down. He explained it to me and he’s right with the call …

“That hurts us, but you’ve got to remember (we were down) to our third-team center (Graham Hughey). I had to suspend our first-team center (Peyton Bearden), and our second-team center (Austin Allen) got hurt halfway through the game … Our kids played really hard against a really good football team.”

Sylacauga defensive lineman Christian Twyman set up the ill-fated drive by stripping Vikings running back Kaden Shelton and returning the ball to the Jasper 12.

Five to know

- Aggies freshman running back Malik Pope showed Griffith a glimpse of what the next three years might look like with a breakout performance. Pope rushed for 263 yards on 20 carries, with two highlight-reel touchdowns -- a 67-yard score on the Aggies’ first possession and a 71-yard romp to start the fourth quarter.

- Jasper senior quarterback Michael Crear tossed a pair of touchdown passes (5 yards and 39 yards) and added a long touchdown run in the final two minutes. Shelton joined the multi-touchdown club with a 1-yard run and a 40-yard pass to wide receiver Xavier Waldrop.

- Crear’s second touchdown pass was set up by a little Sylacauga bad luck on an Aggies’ punt return. The ball took an Aggies-friendly bounce at the Sylacauga 40 but bounced off the leg of sophomore defensive back Dontavius Ware. The Vikings recovered at the Aggies’ 39.

- The teams picked up offsetting personal foul calls midway through the fourth quarter when an altercation occurred between Sylacauga defensive back Gabe Cox and Jasper wide receiver Cole Bonner. Bonner struck Cox with an open hand to the face. It was unclear what Cox had done to pick up the offsetting penalty.

- Stockdale had a 5-yard scoring run to pull Sylacauga within 20-13 in the third quarter.

Up next

- The Aggies end their campaign at 7-4, while Jasper advances to face Southside-Gadsden in the second round next Friday.