E.A. Sports Today

Hayes, Bulldogs refuse to lose

Hayes directs Piedmont on do-or-die drive to beat Cedartown in the final minute

Austin Brazier (above) and Taylor Hayes (cover) are full-steam-ahead in Piedmont's game with Cedartown Friday night. (Photos by Shannon Fagan)

Austin Brazier (above) and Taylor Hayes (cover) are full-steam-ahead in Piedmont’s game with Cedartown Friday night. (Photos by Shannon Fagan)

By Shannon Fagan
Special to East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT — Taylor Hayes has been presented with all sorts of scenarios as Piedmont’s starting quarterback, but he hasn’t been in a game situation where he had to direct a winning drive with time winding down.

But that’s what he was presented with Friday night and he passed the test with flying colors.

Hayes calmly guided the Bulldogs on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that he capped with a 5-yard touchdown run with 22.1 seconds remaining. When junior Cardavion Myers added the 2-point conversion, it capped the defending 3A state champion Bulldogs’ 29-22 comeback victory over Cedartown, Ga., in the second game of the inaugural Border Battle at the Field of Champions.

Hayes rushed for 43 yards on nine carries. He also completed 7-of-11 pass attempts for 105 yards.

“Coach (Steve) Smith said in the locker room there’s just something about being a Piedmont guy that just refuses to lose — I think he’s right,” Hayes said. “We got our character built up through summer workouts, working hard at two-a-days. We’ve just bonded. It’s a brotherhood. I’m not going to let my brother down, and I know they’re not going to let me down. We didn’t panic. We knew we were going to score there at the end.

“We had ran left quarterback sweeps and quarterback powers left I think five or six plays in a row. Krae (Keener), one of our best senior linemen, said ‘Hey Coach, we haven’t ran right. I know I’m getting my guy.’ That’s what we did. I could have drove a car through (the hole).”

Smith had confidence in Hayes and the rest of the top-ranked Bulldogs in the clutch.

“We practice that a lot,” Smith said of game-winning drives. “The thing I’m probably the most proud of right there is everybody else might have been getting a little antsy, but the guys on the field kept their composure and did what they were supposed to do. They didn’t panic in that situation.

“I think that’s a sign of a good team. You’ve got to be able to keep your composure when you’re backed in a corner like that and you’ve got to get something to pull it out and win the game. I’m very proud of our guys for doing that.”

Early on, it looked as if Piedmont would run away with the game. The Bulldogs took a 14-0 lead by the end of the first quarter on the strength of Hayes’ arm.

His 6-yard fadeaway pass to a diving Austin Brazier just inside the right pylon helped give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead. And then he threw a 49-yard bomb to junior receiver Darien Bossie with 47.7 seconds left in the first quarter to give them a two-touchdown cushion.

But Cedartown (0-1) battled back to tie the game before halftime behind its quarterback, Trevon Wofford. Wofford capped a 5-play, 53-yard drive with a 2-yard run. Piedmont blocked the ensuing extra point, keeping the score at 14-6 with 4:54 remaining in the second quarter.

A little under four minutes later, Wofford delivered a 58-yard scoring strike to running back Quan Neal. Wofford also connected with fullback Tyler Blalock for the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 14.

Wofford completed 7-of-21 pass attempts for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 26 yards on eight carries with a score.

After Piedmont regained the lead at 21-14 on Hayes’ 2-yard touchdown with 9:04 left in the game, Wofford struck again. He connected with Neal for a 45-yard score with 3:59 to play.

After an offside penalty against Piedmont on the extra point, Cedartown coach Scott Hendrix decided to go for two to take the lead. Running back Tony Mathis took a sweep to the left and darted into the end zone, giving Cedartown a 22-21 advantage.

“It was a yard-and-a-half,” Mathis said. “We’d been running the toss sweep and had success through the game. You saw Piedmont stack everybody in there. It wasn’t a genius call or anything. We ran the toss sweep, we blocked it and the kid got in there.”

That set the stage for Hayes to put together the game-winning drive. He connected with Myers for a 21-yard gain, setting the Bulldogs up with a first-and-goal at the Cedartown 7-yard line. Two plays later, Hayes punched it in.

“There was no secret; they were going to run No. 11 (Hayes),” Hendrix said. “That kid is a winner. He’s hard nosed. We knew what they were going to do. We tried to put enough guys in there to stop them, but we didn’t do it. We just came up a little short.”

Cedartown plays rival Rockmart next Friday. Rockmart defeated Cherokee County 54-28 in the first game of the Border Battle doubleheader on Friday.

Piedmont hits the road to Centre to face the rival Warriors, also on Friday.

“We’re going to celebrate this win this weekend, but we’re going to go to work on Centre on Monday,” Hayes said. “Centre, in my opinion, was one of the best teams we played last year. They had a rough game tonight, but I know that’s not going to last. They’re going to come back strong.”

Shannon Fagan is sports editor of the Cherokee County Herald in Centre.

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