E.A. Sports Today

Saks still perfect

‘Hungry’ Wildcats take apart Westminster behind strong running game that helped produce nearly 600 yards of offense

Saks’ Brent Clark (4) lunges for extra yardage during Friday’s 4A playoff victory over Westminster. On the cover, Johnathon Cobb led a Saks ground attack that amassed 448 yards. (All photos by Greg Warren)

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

The Saks Wildcats looked like a team on a mission to be in Tuscaloosa the second weekend in December Friday night as they took apart Westminster Christian 42-21 in a first-round Class 4A playoff game.

“These kids are hungry,” Wildcats head coach Jonathan Miller said after his team improved to 11-0 with its first playoff win since 2014. ”They want to make a run in the playoffs. We play in such a tough region — I think all four of our region teams advanced tonight – we have to bring it every week and this group is really playing hard right now.”

The third-ranked Wildcats, ranked No. 1 in some polls, will host Dora (9-2) in the second round Friday.

It was the running of tailback Johnathon Cobb and quarterback Laderrick Bell that kept Westminster Christian on its heels all night. Bell, Cobb and JaDarris Griffin all rambled for more than 100 yards and Roilan Torres added 79 yards as Saks rolled up 584 total yards.

“The deepest position we have on this football team is our running backs,” Miller said. “We have lots of guys that can run the football. I have been pleased with the way these guys have played all year.”

Saks drove it the length of the field in all six of its first-half possessions, scoring on four of them as it rolled to a 30-0 halftime lead. Of those that missed, one ended with a fumble at the 17 and the other was called back due to a penalty.

Saks roared back from the fumble to go 78 yards on its next possession and scored on a 22-yard burst by Cobb and his two-point conversion.

Westminster, also the Wildcats, bounced back with their best drive of the game as they used short passes by quarterback by Ian Thies to drive all the way to Saks 22 before being stopped on downs.

Thies connected on six straight passes on the drive. The Saks defense rose up and held on fourth down and took complete control after that.

Saks got three more touchdowns before the half and had one called back on the last play of the half that would have made it worse. Bell had sprinted in from 25 yards, but a holding call took it off the board.

Miller’s team had 401 yards of total offense in the first half to just 90 yards for Westminster. Cobb had 102 yards on 14 carries and Bell had 97 on seven carries. Bell also 6-of-11 for 136 yards through the air with touchdown passes to Will Fletcher and Rodolfo Torres.

Bell was superb at quarterback, ending the night with 106 yards rushing and 136 yards passing.

”It all starts with our offensive line,” Bell said. “We all trust each other and we trust the coaches and that line does a great job of blocking for us to get our yards.”

Cobb got banged up a little in the first half and did not play in the second.

“I will be OK and ready to go next week,” Cobb said.

Saks extended the lead to 36-0 with an 11-yard run by Griffin in the fourth quarter.

Westminster scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns against the Saks reserves. In the last wild 46 seconds it scored two touchdowns on long passes and recovered two onside kicks and had a chance to score another touchdown.

“I thought we never would get out of here,” said Miller.

Westminster put the ball in the air 40 times.

”We knew they were a good passing team and we had to play sound football in our secondary and I thought we did,” Miller said. “They did get things going right there at the end with some of our other guys in the line-up.”

Saks 42, Westminster 21

West (21) Saks (42)
16First downs22
231Passing yds136
0Fumbles lost0

Westminster 0 0 0 21 — 21
Saks 8 22 0 12 — 42

S – Johnathon Cobb 22 run (Johnathon Cobb run), 3:42 1Q
S – Rodolfo Torres 12 pass from Laderrick Bell (Roilan Torres run), 10:20 2Q
S – Roilan Torres 1 run (run failed), 6:17 2Q
S – Will Fletcher 8 pass from Laderrick Bell (JaDarris Griffin run), 5:39 2Q
S – JaDarris Griffin 11 run (run failed), 11:55 4Q
W – Brooks Reinhart 45 pass from Ian Thies (Cade Rawlings kick), 10:54 4Q
S – JaDarrius Griffin 25 run (run failed), 10:54 4Q
W – Michael Parker 41 pass from Ian Thies (Cade Rawlings kick), 0:46 4Q
W – Jeremiah Childs 19 pass from Ian Thies (Cade Rawlings kick), 0:32 4Q

Saks’ T.J. Gibbs (20) tries to prevent Westminster quarterback Ian Thies from gaining any more yardage than necessary.

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