E.A. Sports Today

Hayes puts the arm on Ohatchee

Piedmont rides Hayes’ arm back to state title game, this time undefeated; QB throws 5 TD passes, accounts for 7 scores in game

Piedmont quarterback Taylor Hayes had another big night, leading the Bulldogs into the 3A state title game by accounting for seven touchdowns. (Photos by Shannon Fagan)

Piedmont quarterback Taylor Hayes had another big night, leading the Bulldogs into the 3A state title game by accounting for seven touchdowns. (Photos by Shannon Fagan)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT — Taylor Hayes has the reputation for being a bulldozer of a runner, the kind of ballcarrier who’d just as soon run over you for the necessary yards on fourth-and-2 as burst up the middle for 12 or 15, but his arm isn’t half bad either.

Piedmont rode Hayes’ magnificent left arm back into the Class 3A state championship game Friday night as the senior quarterback threw five touchdown passes among the seven scores he accounted for in a 53-26 win over Region 5 rival Ohatchee in front of more than 5,000 at the Field of Champions.

The Bulldogs, 14-0 and riding the state’s longest active winning streak (24 games), will play Mobile Christian (13-1) for the state title Thursday at 11 a.m. in Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Hayes was the driving force in the first-ever state semifinal game between two Calhoun County teams. He rushed for 173 yards and two second-quarter scores on 17 carries and was a sharp 9-of-12 for 214 yards through the air. Five of his completions found the end zone.

“I’ve never had that many (touchdown passes), I don’t know,” Hayes said. “Me and my dad were just talking in the locker room and he said you didn’t get beat up tonight. It was better not getting up. That’s probably the most touchdown passes I’ve had, so I guess I’m happy about that, but I’m way more happy we’re going back to the state championship and go to Auburn and hopefully finish it off 15-0.”

Hayes beat the Indians with his legs in their first meeting and beat them through the air Friday. He threw touchdown passes to Austin Brazier (15 and 18 yards); Cardavion Myers (61 and 24) and Darien Bossie (43) and had second-quarter touchdown runs of 3 and 14 yards.

The 61-yarder to Myers came on a sharp throw that got to the spot a second before Indians’ defensive back Kevin Williamson went for the pick. The throw to Bossie was a beautiful floater that caught the receiver in mid-stride. The second one to Brazier was his 24th TD pass of the season, allowing him to pass cousin Tyler Lusk (2014) for his school’s single-season record.

“Taylor Hayes gets a lot of credit for being a bulldozer-type runner,” Smith said, “but I’ve told people for a long time he probably throws as a good of a touch ball as any quarterback I’ve ever had and tonight he was able to display that in front of a big-time crowd. He won tonight more with his arm than with his legs. He threw the ball extremely well.”

Going into the final game of his high school career next week, Hayes now has 7,608 combined rushing (3631) and passing (3979) yards in his career and has been responsible for 106 touchdowns (58 rushing, 48 passing). He already was No. 1 in touchdown responsibility and passed Chase Childress (2006-2009) on the all-time yardage list Friday.

Hayes praised the players around him, from the beefiest linemen to the fastest and surest-handed receiver, for the success he enjoyed against the Indians (12-2). Everyone else heaped praise on the quarterback.

“Too much Taylor Hayes,” Ohatchee coach Scott Martin said. “He’s the best player in this state … He was the best player on the field in Week 8 and he was the best player on the field tonight. He can play football at the quarterback position for a lot of schools. I don’t know why he doesn’t have many offers to play quarterback; Doug Flutie wasn’t real big either and made people pay for it.

“He was very sharp tonight. It was the best game I’d seen him play in a while. He’s just got so much moxie. I don’t use that word all the time, but he’s got so much moxie out there. He is a leader. He just dominated the game. He single-handedly took control of it.”

Ohatchee was playing in the state semifinals for the first time since 1977. The Indians’ only two losses this season were to Piedmont, which Martin believes “will go on and win the state championship on Thursday.”

Austin Tucker rushed for 261 yards and scored touchdowns on bursts of 47 and 70 yards for the Indians. He finished the season with 2,274 yards and 27 touchdowns rushing.

In Mobile Christian, Piedmont will face a team that hasn’t lost to an Alabama opponent this season. The Leopards’ 21-14 semifinals win over Gordo was their closest game of the year.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are looking to finish off their first 15-0 season – and first undefeated season since 1945 – with a second straight state championship and third under Smith.

“It’s been a goal since the start of summer workouts; we’ve been killing ourselves out here,” Hayes said. “It’s fun to go back-to-back and make a little history. Coach Smith said we hadn’t had our best game yet. I think tonight could’ve been our best game, but hopefully we’ll keep it going to next Thursday, too.”

Piedmont 53, Ohatchee 26

Ohatchee 0 7 6 13 — 26
Piedmont 6 26 14 7 — 53

P – Austin Brazier 15 pass from Taylor Hayes (kick failed), 4:18 1Q
P – Taylor Hayes 3 run (pass failed), 11:53 2Q
O – Taylor Eubanks 2 run (Gage Harrell kick), 10:44 2Q
P – Cardavion Myers 61 pass from Taylor Hayes (Darien Bossie pass from Taylor Hayes), 9:57 2Q
P – Taylor Hayes 14 run (run failed), 1:27 2Q
P – Cardavion Myers 24 pass from Taylor Hayes (pass failed), 0:12 2Q
P – Darien Bossie 43 pass from Taylor Hayes (Easton Kirk kick), 9:16 3Q
O – Austin Tucker 47 run (pass failed), 6:34 3Q
P – Austin Brazier 18 pass from Taylor Hayes (Easton Kirk kick), 0:31 3Q
P – Lee Stanley 5 run (Easton Kirk kick), 9:22 4Q
O – Taylor Eubanks 18 run (Christian Fitch kick), 5:07 4Q
O – Austin Tucker 70 run (pass failed)

Team stats Ohat Pied
First downs 16 21
Rushes-yds 46-349 37-256
Passes 2-9-2 9-12-0
Passing yds 34 214
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-0
Punts-avg 1-30.0 1-44.0
Penalties-yds 3-35 2-25

Individual leaders
Ohatchee: Taylor Eubanks 19-87, 2 TDs; Austin Tucker 22-261, 2 TDs; Piedmont:
Taylor Hayes 17-173, 2 TDs; Lee Stanley 9-39, 1 TD.

PASSING — Ohatchee: Taylor Eubanks 2-9-2, 34 yards; Piedmont: Taylor Hayes 9-12-0, 214 yards, 5 TDs.

RECEIVING — Ohatchee: Jesse Sellers 1-28, Cameron Ray 1-8; Piedmont: Austin Brazier 3-48, 2 TDs; Cardavion Myers 4-106, 1 TD.

Taylor Eubanks (14) and Austin Tucker both scored two touchdowns for Ohatchee Friday night and each finished the season with 27 rushing touchdowns.

Taylor Eubanks (14) and Austin Tucker both scored two touchdowns for Ohatchee Friday night and each finished the season with 27 rushing touchdowns.

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