E.A. Sports Today

Smith hits milestone

Smith earns 100th win at Piedmont in important region shutout over Wellborn

Piedmont running back Darnell Jackson (2) rushed for 170 yards and three first-half touchdowns to help coach Steve Smith (cover) earn his 100th coaching victory with the Bulldogs.

Piedmont running back Darnell Jackson (2) rushed for 170 yards and three first-half touchdowns to help coach Steve Smith (cover) earn his 100th coaching victory with the Bulldogs.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT — The message the crowd went home with Friday night glowed brightly from the scoreboard like a beacon on a dark night.

Up there in bright lights was a big picture of Bulldogs coach Steve Smith with the words “100 wins at Piedmont.” (Actually, the ‘Piedmont’ was represented by the P logo, but you get the idea.)

Smith picked up his 100th coaching victory at the program he turned into a perennial Class 3A contender with a huge 35-0 region win over Wellborn.

He is now 100-23 in 10 seasons with the Bulldogs, 185-68 in 21 seasons overall, but typical of his persona, he deflected the credit elsewhere.

“It’s a great honor, that’s for sure,” Smith said. “I think it’s really indicative of the kind of players we’ve been blessed to have over the last 10 years and a great coaching staff.

“I’m just a product of the people that surround me and very proud to be a part of that. Tonight, though, the thing that was the biggest focus for us was this was a huge game with region implications and to be able to go out and play the way that we did I was so proud of our guys’ effort.”

The victory kept the Bulldogs (6-1, 5-0) atop the Region 6 standings and allowed them to vanquish one of their closest challengers. Depending on the outcome of next week’s Glencoe-Weaver game, they could clinch the region in two weeks at Weaver.

The players were aware of the Smith’s milestone beforehand and in the dressing room after the game presented him with the game ball.

“We don’t think he’d have liked the ice bath from the Gatorade over the head,” senior defensive lineman Jamie Crutcher said.

Darnell Jackson rushed for 170 yards and three first-half touchdowns, including a 62-yard scoring burst up the middle on the fifth-ranked Bulldogs’ first offensive play of the game. He also scored on runs of 14 and 16 yards.

Quarterback Taylor Hayes rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown, and Bayley Blanchard returned a punt 34 yards for another score. Blanchard had another punt return for a touchdown called back by a penalty.

Jackson had 142 yards at halftime. More than half of those yards came on two bursts up the middle, the product of some self-examination on the Bulldogs’ part during the week.

“We’ve been real outside conscious the last few weeks,” Smith said. “When we looked at that and I saw how outside oriented we were, we knew we had to be able to establish some things in the middle and be able to run the ball between the tackles. That was a big part of our game plan tonight.”

The Piedmont defense held Wellborn’s powerful offense to 135 net yards in posting its second straight shutout. It was the first time Wellborn had been shutout since the second round of the 2012 playoffs (31 games).

The Panthers (4-3, 2-3) never crossed midfield with their offense. They did have it in Piedmont territory once — late in the first quarter after a fumbled punt — but the Bulldogs (6-1, 5-0) held them out of the end zone on four downs from inside the 10.

“This is the best defensive game we’ve had,” Crutcher said. “Just domination and execution.”

PIEDMONT 35, WELLBORN 0

Wellborn 0 0 0 0 — 0
Piedmont 7 14 7 7 — 35

P – Darnell Jackson 62 run (Easton Kirk kick), 9:00 1Q
P – Jackson 14 run (Kirk kick), 3:12 2Q
P – Jackson 16 run (Kirk kick), 1:29 2Q
P – Taylor Hayes 2 run (Kirk kick), 3:05 3Q
P – Bayley Blanchard 34 punt return (Kirk kick), 6:00 4Q

Category Well Pied
First downs 6 19
Rushes-yds 38-75 40-314
C-A-I 3-8-0 4-10-0
Passing yds 60 56
Fumbles-lost 0-0 3-2
Punts-avg 9-28.6 2-43.5
Penalties-yds 1-5 2-22



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