E.A. Sports Today

Saks takes upper hand

Top-ranked Wildcats take upper hand in Class 3A Region 6, knocks off Piedmont with ‘drive of the season’

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT — There was no formal ceremony in the middle of the field, but there was a changing of the guard in Class 3A Region 6 Friday night.

Top-ranked Saks came into the Field of Champions and knocked off perennial region and state power Piedmont 25-13 to take over first place in the most competitive 3A region in the state.

The Wildcats (6-0, 4-0), who dropped into the region from Class 4A in the latest AHSAA reclassification, scored two touchdowns in the first four minutes of the game to take control and sealed it with what coach Jonathan Miller called “the drive of our season” in the fourth quarter and are now the only undefeated team in the region.

The Bulldogs (4-2, 3-1), meanwhile, fell into a tie for second with Randolph County, a team it beat in a thriller three weeks ago to start the gauntlet Saks is about the face. The Wildcats were the sixth straight undefeated team Piedmont has played this season.

“Piedmont is a really great team and I give all props to them,” Saks running back Johnathon Cobb said. “But I always felt like when we came to this region we were going to be the best team and I want to prove it. I want to keep proving it.”

With the victory, the Wildcats ended Piedmont’s 26-game region winning streak – going back to 2014 – and its 18-game regular-season home winning streak.

Combined with last week’s loss at Jacksonville, it marked the first time the Bulldogs have lost back-to-back games since September 2014 (Glencoe/Leeds) and the first time since September 2000 and 2001 (Ohatchee) they have lost back-to-back games against Calhoun County opponents. They have lost back-to-back games in the same season only three times in coach Steve Smith’s 13 years with the program.

Just like the week before at Jacksonville, the Bulldogs fell behind early and couldn’t overcome the deficit. The Wildcats opened a 15-0 lead a little more than four minutes into the game on a pair of Cobb touchdown runs and never lost the lead.

The Bulldogs couldn’t generate much offense. Saks held them to 158 yards net, with 57 of it coming on two passes by Mason Mohon to T.J. Fairs on the first two plays of their final possession. Just like last week, their biggest plays were kick/punt returns by Fairs.

“We had to come back from two scores down against a good ball team; that’s mighty tough to do,” Smith said. “Our guys fought hard, fought to the very end of it, but we just didn’t make enough plays.

“We’ve lost a couple close ones the last couple weeks. We’ve just got to go back and regroup and not let this game affect us the rest of the way.”

The Bulldogs did get close a couple times – answering Cobb’s second TD with Mohon’s 35-yard touchdown run to make it 15-6 and drawing within 18-13 on Elijah Johnson’s 19-yard run with 5:04 left in the third quarter – but Saks sealed it with Miller’s “drive of our season.”

It was a 13-play, 53-yard march that took up the first 7:32 of the fourth quarter and was capped by Daveon Dukes’ 6-yard run that may or may not have been fumbled before he reached the goal line. Dukes was thrust into full time duty as the Wildcats quarterback the whole second half after Roilan Torres hurt his left leg in the second quarter.

“I had to come out and play my best; the seniors were counting on me,” Dukes said. “I had messed up a lot but I came back and fought for my team. There was a lot of pressure on me, but I’m good under pressure.”

Cobb played a big role in the drive, as he does is all of the Wildcats’ games. He touched it seven times in the drive and picked up the necessary short yardage on third- and fourth-and-1 to keep the chains moving. He finished with 134 yards rushing on 22 carries. Three other backs had at least 45 yards rushing.

“Early in the game I had to fight adversity; I caught cramps,” Cobb said. “I knew my team was going to lean on me. I’m supposed to be the leader, so I knew I had to come through for them and get the first downs.”

The Wildcats then turned back Piedmont’s final threat when Tony Hunley batted down a fourth-down pass for Matthew Thornton in the flat inside the 5. The play came right after T.J. Gibbs threw Mohon for a five-yard loss from the 6.

“That was probably the most crucial thing I’ve ever done in a game,” Hunley said. “I had the second man. I knew No. 9 (Thornton) was going to go in the flats. He waited until No. 16 (Logan Pruitt) came across and went underneath him into the flats slowly. I knew it was coming. I was either going to get the pick or had to bat it out. I couldn’t let him catch it.”

Saks 25, Piedmont 13
Team stats Saks Pied

First downs 19 9
Rushes-yds 52-311 23-78
Passes 3-4-1 7-15-2
Passing yds 17 80
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Punts-avg 4-29.5 4-40.8
Penalties-yds 9-75 3-30

Scoring summary
Saks 15 3 0 7 – 25
Piedmont 6 0 7 0 – 13

S – Johnathon Cobb 2 run (Anthony Cornejo kick), 9:50 1Q
S – Johnathon Cobb 42 run (Johnathon Cobb run), 7:52 1Q
P – Mason Mohon 35 run (run failed), 6:30 1Q
S – Anthony Cornejo 23 FG, 18.1 2Q
P – Elijah Johnson 19 run (Brant Deerman kick), 5:04 3Q
S – Daveon Dukes 6 run (Anthony Cornejo kick), 4:28 4Q

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