E.A. Sports Today

High intensity

Piedmont, Randolph County prepare for four-quarter football game in early Class 3A Region 6 showdown

Friday’s Calhoun County games
Alexandria at Boaz
Anniston at Cleburne County
Cleveland at Ohatchee
Donoho at Winterboro
Jacksonville at Cherokee County
Oxford at Charles Henderson
Piedmont at Randolph County
Saks at Wellborn
Weaver at Pleasant Valley
White Plains at Ashville

By Jeremy Wortham
Special to East Alabama Sports Today

WEDOWEE – When No. 1 Randolph County and No. 3 Piedmont meet for the third time in 10 months Friday night, the crowd will once again be promised one of the most spectacular games of the year, a game filled with intense play after intense play as both teams try to grab an early upper-hand in Class 3A Region 6.

“It’s definitely going to be a second half game,” Randolph County coach Pat Prestridge said. “Who can finish and eliminate penalties, turnovers and stay focused will more likely come out on top.”

“Regardless of who each team lost, I can look at the film and tell you there’s plenty of talented players on the other side,” Piedmont coach Steve Smith on FNN’s preview broadcast.

The teams played split shootouts last year, with each winning on the other’s field. Randolph County’s win came in the Class 3A semifinals and snapped the Bulldogs’ 12-game winning streak.

The Tigers staged an incredible fourth quarter comeback that went down to the final second to stun the two-time reigning state champion and earn a trip to the state championship game. In the first meeting, Piedmont rallied from a 13-0 halftime deficit to win.

Prestridge expects a highly motivated Piedmont team to come into Hulond Humphries Stadium because of last year’s playoff game, but Smith said it’s a new year.

“They’re going to come in here for blood,” Prestridge said. “I’m sure they’ve done circled our name since that loss. We’ve just got to stay focused and not let them get to our head and we’ve got to hit back. We just got to play self control football.”

“There’s no extra motivation just because it’s two different seasons, two different teams,” Smith said. “We’ve got new faces, they’ve got new faces. At the end of the day all you’ve got are memories of what happened and it has nothing to do with this year’s game.”

Both teams rely heavily on running the ball.

Piedmont’s offense is led by a trio of running backs – TJ Fairs, Kaedon Jenkins and Elijah Johnson. They have combined for 497 of the team’s 686 total rushing yards over the last two weeks. Quarterback Mason Mohan hasn’t found his footing just yet passing – 6-of-15 for 93 yards – but has rushed for 95 yards. They’re about to face a defense that has allowed only 146 yards a game, 113 rushing.

The Tigers, meanwhile, are more limited in their backfield due to recent injuries and transfers. Atario Hester, the team’s only experienced back returning from last year, has 281 yards rushing. Their other backs include Donte Jordan, TJ Sims and Johnathon Prothro.

Quarterback Demarcus Davis gained substantial playing time last season and has stepped in as the Tigers’ first-year starter. Davis has found some early season success through the air (10-of-13, 183 yards) and has piled up 102 yards rushing.

“It’s going to take both teams best effort to come out with a win,” Smith said.

This year’s Class 3A, Region 6 appears even stronger and more balanced than last year (when it was Region 5). With Saks, Weaver, Wellborn and an improved Pleasant Valley in the mix, every region game now becomes a must win. After 10 weeks, two playoff worthy teams are going to be left out of the playoff discussion.

“Two of the teams are going to be sitting at home; it’s a shame, but every week is going to be a dog eat dog,” Prestridge said. “It didn’t get no easier when Ohatchee moved out, it just got tougher.”

“I think there’s a lot of region champions in our region all lumped up into one,” Smith said, comparing the region to the SEC West of high school football. “There’s not a break in this region all year long. I’d be very surprised if there’s an undefeated region champion this year, just because I think there’s that much parity with the top 5 or 6 teams.”

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