E.A. Sports Today

Hayes 3A’s top back

Piedmont quarterback outpoints Ozmint, Qualls; teammate Alexander finishes third in lineman voting

Piedmont quarterback Taylor Hayes (holding plaque) stands with (from left) Bulldogs head coach Steve Smith, 3A Lineman of the Year finalist Neonta Alexander and assistant coach James Blanchard after winning the Class 3A Back of the Year award Wednesday. (Photo by Shannon Fagan)

Piedmont quarterback Taylor Hayes (holding plaque) stands with (from left) Bulldogs head coach Steve Smith, 3A Lineman of the Year finalist Neonta Alexander and assistant coach James Blanchard after winning the Class 3A Back of the Year award Wednesday. (Photo by Shannon Fagan)

By Shannon Fagan
Cherokee County Herald

MONTGOMERY — Taylor Hayes admitted he was a little nervous giving his acceptance speech for the Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 3A Football Back of the Year award Wednesday.

But just like he’s handled anything thrown his way, the Piedmont junior quarterback handled it with class.

“On the way up there, I was thinking about my family and my teammates, because I wouldn’t be up there without any of them,” Hayes said. “It’s truly a blessing to be here to represent our school, our team and our town. To be in the top 48 and come from such a small school and small town that we come from, I’m happy.”

Hayes has a lot to be happy about these days. He helped the Bulldogs (14-1) earn their second state football title in December with a 44-7 thumping of Bayside Academy in Tuscaloosa. In that game, he completed six of 10 pass attempts for 126 yards and a touchdown and was their leading rusher with 63 yards on 11 carries and two more scores to earn the game’s Most Valuable Player honor.

For the season, he threw for 1,760 yards and 19 touchdowns and led the team in rushing with 1,560 yards and 18 scores to earn a first-team spot on the ASWA’s All-State Football Team.

Not bad for an all-state linebacker convert to full-time quarterback this season.

“There’s not a lot of Taylor Hayeses out there,” Piedmont coach Steve Smith said. “You get yourself one of those guys, you’ve got something special. I think you can ask anybody who’s ever coached him in any sport and they’ll tell you he’s a difference maker; his desire and competitive drive is not matched by very many people out there.

“…Taylor could be a college prospect at quarterback just as easily as he could at linebacker. I don’t think anybody’s going to have a signal caller who is any more confident, any more devoted to doing whatever it takes to win a game, than what we have. I’m tickled to death we’ve got him for another year.”

One might have expected the defense to suffer with the move Hayes made during the off-season, but if anything, it made those players on that side of the ball take Hayes’s void as a challenge — including senior inside linebacker Neonta Alexander.

Alexander, an all-state honorable mention the past two seasons, anchored Piedmont’s defense with 162 total tackles and three sacks — after finishing second behind Hayes in tackles in 2014 (128 tackles) and 2013 (127 tackles). He was instrumental in the Bulldogs posting five shutouts, including two in the postseason.

He, too, was at the banquet and finished third in the voting for 3A Lineman of the year, behind Madison Academy offensive lineman Austin Troxell and Gordo linebacker Ben Davis, the award winner.

Like Hayes, Alexander said he was nervous about making a speech if he’d won the 3A lineman award, but he was prepared nonetheless.

“I was practicing speeches just in case I won,” Alexander said. “It feels great to come here and be recognized. I’m going to miss playing with Taylor. I loved playing with him. I missed playing with him (on defense) because we communicated real well, but (Hayes’ full-time move to quarterback) motivated us both to play harder.”

Smith said Alexander also took on the role of mentor last season.

“Neonta not only did his job, but he was also helping groom and mold a young person (freshman Logan Smith) who wound up being a pretty good player for us by the end of the year himself,” Smith said. “That’s what leaders are supposed to do.

“Tay-Tay didn’t mind the extra responsibility. It probably cut into his usage on the offensive side of the ball, but he also had that mentality of doing what’s best for the team. That’s what makes them both so special. Neonta and Taylor have been two great leaders for us the past three years, and they’re both very deserving of being here.”

Spanish Fort senior quarterback Tyler Johnston was named Mr. Football. The UAB commitment threw for 3,619 yards last season on 193-of-286 passes with 39 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 750 yards and 13 scores – all despite playing the last game and a half this season with a torn ligament in his elbow.

Shannon Fagan is Sports Editor of the Cherokee County Herald.

Back/Lineman voting

Class 1A

Terence Dunlap, Maplesville, 36
Grayson Wakefield, Decatur Heritage, 26
Tommy Spivey, Brantley, 23

Cameron Longmire, Georgiana, 19
Tanner Swinney, Hackleburg, 15
Devan Wallace, Maplesville, 14

Class 2A

Chadarius Townsend, Tanner, 66
Dilan Kilpatrick, Fyffe, 63
Peyton Gilliland, Cleveland, 50

Austin Lewter, Tanner, 63
Blaine Hudson, Elba, 50
Ethan Jones, Fyffe, 44

Class 3A

Taylor Hayes, Piedmont, 78

Kearvae Qualls, Colbert Co., 65
Pace Ozmint, Glencoe, 55
Ben Davis, Gordo, 53
Austin Troxell, Madison Acad., 41
Neonta Alexander, Piedmont, 29

Class 4A

Kaleb Barker, Priceville, 78
Tre’ Nation, Leeds, 68
Noah Ard, Cordova, 48

Josephus Smith, Leeds, 68
Dee Nalls, Fayette Co., 46
Sterling Jones, St. James, 36

Class 5A

Jordan Bentley, Guntersville, 55
Ostin McPherson, St. Paul’s, 47
Demarcus Williams, Jackson, 39

Marlon Davidson, Greenville, 69
Quinnen Williams, Wenonah, 59
Darius Whitfield, St. Paul’s, 45

Class 6A

Tyler Johnston, Spanish Fort, 79
Ty Pigrome, Clay-Chalkville, 75
TJ Simmons, Clay-Chalkville, 45

Deonte Brown, Austin, 81
Lyndell Wilson, Carver-Montgomery, 56
Thomas Johnston, Spanish Fort, 51

Class 7A

La’Mical Perine, Theodore, 20
Henry Ruggs III, Lee-Montgomery, 13
Kyriq McDonald, James Clemens, 10
Labryan Ray, James Clemens, 17
Walter Pritchett, Central-Phenix City, 15
Carlton Martial, McGill-Toolen, 11

Tyler Johnston, Spanish Fort, 148
Ty Pigrome, Clay-Chalkville, 139
Ben Davis, Gordo, 80
TJ Simmons, Clay-Chalkville, 69
Deonte Brown, Austin, 68
La’Mical Perine, Theodore, 65
Marlon Davidson, Greenville, 38
Lyndell Wilson, Carver-Montgomery, 37
Jordan Bentley, Guntersville, 37
Quinnen Williams, Wenonah, 32
Kaleb Barker, Priceville, 25
Kyriq McDonald, James Clemens, 25

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