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Sylacauga wins shootout with Talladega, prevails 49-42

Maleek Pope vs. Talladega 2020

Sylacauga's Maleek Pope ran 15 times for 164 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-42 victory over Talladega on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.

SYLACAUGA -- Sylacauga receiver Caleb Burns already had 103 rushing yards in the second half. Still, with just over five minutes remaining, Aggies coach Andrew Zow turned to the senior once again on Friday night.

The Aggies were clinging to a seven-point lead and now faced fourth-and-3 at Talladega’s 17-yard line. One Talladega defender connected squarely with Burns about 2 yards short of the line to gain, but the 6-foot-3, 215-pound receiver refused to hit the ground until he picked up the first down.

“He runs with a certain aggression that is good for us,” Zow said. “He’s a senior. We’re going to miss him. He’s definitely one of the guys that we got to get the ball to a little more.”

Burns bulldozed his way into the end zone two plays later, and Sylacauga went on to secure a 49-42 victory over Talladega (2-6). He finished the night with 124 rushing yards and one touchdown on only 16 carries. Burns also hauled in a team-high four receptions for 42 yards and another score for the Aggies (7-1).

The Sylacauga offense looked unstoppable for most of the evening, but that fourth down wasn’t the last time Zow’s group seemed in danger of stalling out.

With about 2:30 left, the Aggies faced second-and-17. Instead of running the ball, the Sylacauga coach decided to draw up a deep shot.

Receiver Luke Vincent blew by the Talladega corner who, in what appeared to be a moment of panic, fouled Vincent while the ball was in the air. The ensuing first down effectively secured the shootout victory for the Aggies.

“They knew we were trying to run the clock out, and I’m watching body language from DBs, the defensive player,” Zow said. “He’s sort of like whatever, at this time it’s all runs, and I decided to go.”

Three to know:

  • Talladega quarterback Nigel Scales had a nose for the end zone on Friday night. He completed 15 of 21 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed eight times for 37 yards and a TD.

  • The Tigers evened things up with 67 seconds left in the first half, but that proved to be just enough time for the Aggies to retake the lead. Zow drew up three-consecutive sideline passes less than 10 yards downfield. Then, with 10.7 seconds left, Sylacauga quarterback Brayson Edwards connected with receiver Dontavius Ware in the corner of the end zone for a 15-yard score.

  • Sylacauga scored on its first two drives using only four total plays, thanks in large part to Aggies running back Maleek Pope. The junior ripped off runs of 28 and 44 yards on those drives and finished the evening with 164 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries.

Who said:

Talladega coach Shannon Felder on the play of Scales: “This is definitely one of the better games that he’s played, and when you give him time, he’s proven that he’s about as good as anybody that we play against. And today, we gave him a little bit of time, and on some occasions, he had to make plays himself.”

Zow on the score at the end of the first half: “D-Ware is one of those guys, he can get behind people pretty quick. He’s pretty shifty with his feet, and the closer we got, I almost ran out of room. I probably should have called it earlier."

Up next:

Sylacauga travels to Holtville on Friday night.

Talladega will attempt to lock up a playoff spot Friday at home against Elmore County.