E.A. Sports Today

Piedmont falls to Leeds

In a battle of top-five teams, Green Wave breaks open a close game in the fourth quarter

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

LEEDS — Piedmont coach Steve Smith knew the one player his team absolutely had to keep tabs on Thursday night was Leeds quarterback TaDarryl Marshall.

The Tennessee commitment lived up to his initials — TD — scoring two second-half touchdowns as the Green Wave washed over Piedmont 29-12 in a cross-classification battle of top five teams both coaches agreed was a “playoff atmosphere game.”

Big players make big plays in big games and Marshall did that. He scored on a 12-yard run in the third quarter to erase one Piedmont lead, and then changed the momentum of the game with a 71-yard punt return early in the fourth quarter.

“We talked all week about keeping it away from No. 1 (Marshall); he’s really dangerous on those returns,” Smith said. “He’s as good a player as we’ll see all year long.

“You can’t let people like that get out of contain because he made a lot of plays with his feet tonight.”

Marshall rushed for 126 yards and was part of a three-pronged attack that produced most of Leeds’ 312 rushing yards. Tre Nation, cleared to play despite cracked vertebrae and begging to get in the game, had 50 yards and the go-ahead touchdown and Tyler Rose had 123 yards.

But the Bulldogs (4-1) had players make plays, too. Darnell Jackson intercepted a Marshall pass in the final minute of the first half to preserve Piedmont’s lead at the break. And Taylor Hayes threw two touchdown passes to Bayley Blanchard.

Marshall, though, was the player to watch. He scored on a 12-yard run in the third quarter, but broke the Bulldogs with his punt return.

“When he returned that punt it changed the whole momentum for them,” Bulldogs defensive back Cardavion Myers said. “They just came out running full speed, going hard and started doing good after that.”

The return came after the Green Wave (3-3) made Piedmont punt over after an illegal formation penalty. The second punt was actually a longer kick, but Marshall went across the field to get it.

“When you’ve got 1 back there, you want people to kick the ball to him,” Leeds coach Keith Etheredge said. “Now, if we’re ahead right there and we’ve got a two-touchdown lead and we want to run some clock, we probably just take the ball. But when the game’s that close, having him back there, you definitely want to make them kick it again. You want him to touch it as many times as possible.”

Marshall’s big return extended Leeds’ lead to 23-12. The Green Wave scored 19 points in the final 12:54 of the game. They scored 13 in the fourth quarter, while holding the Bulldogs to 15 net yards.

“That’s what we play football for – the fourth quarter,” Marshall said. “It’s the biggest quarter in the whole game. It’s what we do.”

“In the fourth quarter we weren’t able to get anything going on offense and kept our defense on the field a long time,” Smith said. “I thought our defense bowed their neck really good there a couple times forcing field goals inside the red zone … We didn’t have a lot of things go our way in the fourth quarter and they did a good job capitalizing.”

Up to that point, the game was about what you’d expect of two top-5 teams in their classifications. Piedmont was ranked No. 3 in Class 3A, while Leeds was No. 4 in 4A.

The Bulldogs led 6-3 at halftime and 12-10 with 2:55 left in the third quarter.

Hayes and Blanchard hooked up for the Bulldogs’ two touchdowns, both of which gave them leads. One was a bullet Hayes zipped past a defender that Blanchard caught on his fingertips in stride and went 65 yards, the other was a soft touch that went for 37.

The touchdowns were part of a string of six straight completions for Hayes. He was 7-of-15 passing for 164 yards.

“He put them right on the money,” Blanchard said. “He threw me a good ball and I just ran as fast as I could.”

“He’s a good receiver,” Hayes said. “I was just trying to give him a chance to make a play and he did.”


Piedmont 0 6 6 0 — 12
Leeds 3 0 13 13 — 29

L – Morgan Coston 27 FG, 4:55 1Q
P – Bayley Blanchard 65 pass from Taylor Hayes (run failed), 4:53 2Q
L – TaDarryl Marshall 12 run (Coston kick), 6:48 3Q
P – Blanchard 37 pass from Hayes (pass failed), 2:55 3Q
L – Tre Nation 44 run (run failed), 0:54 3Q
L – Marshall 71 punt return (Coston good), 9:54 4Q
L – Coston 21 FG, 5:32 4Q
L – Coston 29 FG, 1:00 4Q

Category Pie Lee
First downs 8 16
Rushes-yds 24-58 45-312
C-A-I 7-15-1 2-6-1
Passing yds 164 13
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
Punts-avg 6-34.1 3-24.7

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