E.A. Sports Today

Bulldogs’ big boost

Hayes throws late touchdown pass as Piedmont edges Handley to win its 7-on-7 tournament

Handley coach Larry Strain (L) and senior quarterback Rhett Fetner leave the field together after playing host Piedmont in the championship game of the Bulldogs' 7-on-7 tournament Saturday.

Handley coach Larry Strain (L) and senior quarterback Rhett Fetner leave the field together after playing host Piedmont in the championship game of the Bulldogs’ 7-on-7 tournament Saturday.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT — Reigning 3A state champion Piedmont will go into training camp next month with a little more pep in its step after winning its 7-on-7 tournament Saturday.

The Bulldogs came from behind to beat 4A Handley 14-8 for the title when Taylor Hayes threw his second touchdown pass of the game to Austin Brazier with the third of the final four untimed plays.

The hosts went 8-0 to bring a positive end to their summer passing camp schedule. They went 3-3 and 2-4 in their previous two 7-on-7 events, not looking real sharp at Hoover in June and faltering after lunch at Samford in mid July.

“We’ve got some good young skill players on both sides of the ball, but they just haven’t had a whole lot of work,” Piedmont coach Steve Smith said. “We’ve made some progress. I’ve been really proud with how the guys have gotten better as we’ve gone through the summer and I thought today it came together for us really good.

“It was a good overall day for us today. We got what we wanted out of it. I think everybody got better today.”

It looked as if the Bulldogs were going to come up short in the championship battle of tournament unbeaten. They turned the ball over on downs inside the 5 with three minutes left, but got it right back when Carl Myers intercepted a tipped ball.

Hayes got the Bulldogs inside the 20 when the clock expired, but the rules allow for four extra plays after the horn and Hayes used three of them to get in the end zone. Hayes had his first pass of the game intercepted on a tipped ball and then went 11-of-16 for 116 yards.

“I guess it’s good that our new receivers and I can get on the same path and play well under pressure in a championship game,” Hayes said. “I thought we played good today, gave good effort. We didn’t lose, that’s always good.

“It showed us if we keep working hard we can keep getting better every week. I don’t guess it would’ve been a bummed summer (if they didn’t win Saturday) because we worked hard and had some fun, but this is just the cherry on top to win this.”

Handley scored first when Rhett Fetner capped his opening possession with a 15-yard touchdown pass. He was 4-of-5 for 36 yards on the opening drive, but missed on his next six passes.

Fetner, a projected upper first-round pick in next June’s baseball draft already committed to Auburn, just rejoined the football team on Wednesday after a summer of baseball capped by an impressive showcase showing at the Mets’ Citi Field.

The only day he practiced with the team was Friday. He directed the Tigers to 151 points in eight 20-minute games.

“This is probably my first full week back of football and I think we had a real good day,” Fetner said. “Everything looked sharp, especially for the first full week. We looked a lot better than I thought. Everybody ran their routes hard, full speed. I kind of knew where they would be and put the ball there and it worked out good.”

The 7-on-7 isn’t all about offense. Myers’ late interception in the championship game was Piedmont’s 11th in the tournament. The Bulldogs had six in the final two games, two of which they returned for touchdowns. Handley also returned two picks for touchdowns in its semifinals win over Sand Rock.

Pool A: Piedmont 5-0, Sand Rock 4-1, Cleburne County 3-2, West End 2-3, Anniston 1-4, Coosa 0-6.
Pool B: Handley 5-0, Southside 3-2, Jacksonville 3-2, Pell City 2-3, Ranburne 2-3, Anniston 0-5.

Quarterfinals: Piedmont def. Pell City, 21-12; Cleburne County def. Southside, 19-12; Sand Rock def. Jacksonville, 14-17; Handley def. West End, 28-8.
Semifinals: Piedmont def. Cleburne County, 32-7; Handley def. Sand Rock, 20-12.
Championship: Piedmont def. Handley, 14-8.

This story will be updated.

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