E.A. Sports Today

State champs

MVP Hayes and Piedmont roll over Bayside Academy to win the Class 3A state football title, their first since 2009

Piedmont quarterback Taylor Hayes leaves two Bayside Academy defenders in his wake as he streaks down the sideline on a 48-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. (Photo by Billy Garrett/garrettsportshots.com)

Piedmont quarterback Taylor Hayes leaves two Bayside Academy defenders in his wake as he streaks down the sideline on a 48-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. (Photo by Billy Garrett/garrettsportshots.com)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

TUSCALOOSA – Usually, the celebratory Gatorade shower comes in the closing seconds of the game, not before the two-minute warning.

Steve Smith got his with 2:11 showing on the stadium clock. That’s how thorough Piedmont’s dominance was at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Thursday’s Class 3A state championship game.

Piedmont quarterback Taylor Hayes put together an MVP-style first half and Darnell Jackson scored two touchdowns in less than a minute early in the second as the Bulldogs rolled over Bayside Academy 44-7 for their first state crown since 2009 – when Hayes, Jackson and two others Thursday starters were team managers.

“We got a little anxious, but I think we knew we had it under wraps so we went ahead and gave him the shower,” Hayes said.

“We were thinking about doing it with three minutes left,” Jackson said, “but coach called for the defense on the field so everyone had to run back out … We put them away the second half. It was just over with at 2:11.”

The Bulldogs (14-1) didn’t think they played all that great in the first half, but they opened a 23-7 lead as Hayes threw one touchdown pass and rushed for two more. Jackson scored twice 58 seconds apart in the first two minutes of the second half to put away any doubt.

The Bulldogs then settled in and plotted their plan of attack on the sideline. Finally, with 2:11 left, Hayes – the outright MVP — and Jackson crept behind Smith and upturned the barrel of blue sports drink all over their coach’s back.

“I was completely unaware,” Smith said. “It got me good. I’m soaking wet right now. I’m drenched – but it’s a great feeling. It’s a great type of drenched, that’s for sure.”

Hayes threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Bayley Blanchard to open the scoring and had scoring runs of 1 and 48 yards in the half. He completed six of 10 passes in the game for 126 yards and was the team’s leading rusher with 63 yards on 11 carries – all in the first half.

“They came out sticking us; I think we were a little shell-shocked,” Hayes said. “I know me and Darnell didn’t play the first half we wanted to … I think if we’d have played better in the first half we could’ve pulled away a little sooner … but I think we broke their will a little bit and came out and dominated the second half.”

Jackson removed what little doubt remained about the outcome when he scored touchdowns 58 seconds apart in the third quarter.

He scored in a 25-yard run on the Bulldogs’ second play of the half — the first was a 29-yard Hayes throw to Blanchard — and then on a 20-yard run on the first play after the Bulldogs recovered a Bayside fumble.

Three minutes after Jackson’s second score, Cardavion Myers went 46 yards to make it 44-7 with 6:06 to play. That’s three touchdowns on five offensive plays.

“When we got the turnover and he called 27-sweep again, Bayley Blanchard said, ‘I’ll meet you in the end zone,’” Jackson said. “I made a move on a guy and went into the end zone and he was right there waiting on me and he said, ‘I told you so.’”

Both teams used quick strikes to score their first touchdowns.
Piedmont got it started when Blanchard kept his concentration through a bump from the defensive back and hauled in a 45-yard pass from Hayes.

“Taylor threw a great ball and the DB actually covered me really well,” Blanchard said. “I was getting that ball no matter what and once I got in the end zone I looked up and I was like, ‘Man, I just scored in Bryant-Denny Stadium.’ It was a great feeling.”

The Admirals (11-4) matched it on the ensuing possession when Connor Sirmon hit a wide-open Wil Cox for a 58-yard score. It was all Piedmont after that.

Cox was so open because Jackson slipped on the coverage, but the Bulldogs’ captain made up for it by nearly breaking the ensuing kickoff, setting up the go-ahead touchdown.

His 3A title game record 71-yard return set up Piedmont at the 24. Hayes scored in a 1-yard sneak, capping an eight-play drive in which he carried six times and completed a fourth-and-7 pass from the 21 to keep the chains moving.

“That was a big thing for the team,” Jackson said of his return. “The receiver from Bayside ran a great route. He gave me two cuts and went deep. I really tried to get pass interference so he wouldn’t catch it, because I knew he was going to catch it.

“During that time it was going through my mind that it’s tied up so I have to do something to help the team out. I had to make something for my team.”

Easton Kirk extended the lead to 17-7 with a 29-yard field goal with 5:33 left in the half.

Hayes extended it further with his 48-yard dash down the sideline. The Admirals attempted to knock him out of bounds, but he’d have none of it.

Bayside threatened in the closing minutes of the half, but a huge sack by Austin Brazier threw the Admirals back and they missed a 34-yard field goal attempt.

“Darnell and Bayley and Taylor, along with (wide receiver) Brett Akin, were all managers on our team in ’09 when we had the first opportunity to come here,” Smith said. “We talked about it on the way home that day how cool it would be to win one yourself as a player and I’m excited for them they got to accomplish that.

“We thought we had a chance at the beginning of the year, but on paper it doesn’t really help you any on the field. You’ve got to go out and do it and our kids played their best football when it mattered the most, here at the end of the year.”

Piedmont coach Steve Smith carries the blue state championship trophy to his awaiting team.

Piedmont coach Steve Smith carries the blue state championship trophy to his awaiting team.

Piedmont 44, Bayside Academy 7

Bayside Academy 7 0 0 0 — 7
Piedmont 14 9 21 0 — 44

P – Bayley Blanchard 45 pass from Taylor Hayes (Easton Kirk kick), 8:24 1Q
BA – Wil Box 58 pass from Connor Sirmon (Colin Douglas kick), 5:43 1Q
P – Hayes 1 run (Kirk kick), 1:48 1Q
P – Kirk 29 FG, 5:33 2Q
P – Hayes 48 run (kick failed), 3:07 2Q
P – Darnell Jackson 25 run (Blanchard pass from Hayes) 10:04 3Q
P – Jackson 20 run (kick failed), 9:06 3Q
P – Cardavion Myers 46 run (Kirk kick), 6:06 3Q

Team stats BA Pied
First downs 14 11
Rushes-yds 47-130 35-224
C-A-I 6-15-0 6-10-0
Passing yds 98 126
Fumbles-lost 4-2 0-0
Punts-avg 7-29.3 4-28.5
Penalties-yds 4-30 2-20

RUSHING: Bayside – Wil Cox 18-75, Hamilton Biggs 6-29, Andrew Citrin 10-26, John Bryant 3-11, Seth Shirley 3-6, Charles Norton 3-0, Nathan Cook 1-(-3), Connor Sirmon 2-(-5), John Douglas 1-(-9). Piedmont – Taylor Hayes 11-63, Darnell Jackson 7-61, Cardavion Myers 3-61, Lee Stanley 2-18, Neonta Alexander 2-11, Layton New 3-9, D’Adrian Nations 1-4, Brett Akin 1-3, T.J. Fairs 1-3.

PASSING: Bayside – Connor Sirmon 4-10-0-92-1, Charles Norton 2-5-0-6-0. Piedmont – Taylor Hayes 6-10-0-126-1.

RECEIVING: Bayside – Andrew Citrin 3-21, Wil Cox 2-67, Charles Norton 1-10. Piedmont – Bayley Blanchard 4-97, Austin Brazier 2-29.

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