E.A. Sports Today

Piedmont wins region

Bulldogs claim 15th region title with tie-breaking non-region win over Geraldine in Smith’s 300th career game as a head coach

Piedmont’s Brant Deerman steps in to make a game-changing interception against Geraldine. On the cover, Bulldogs quarterback Mason Mohon runs for yardage down the sideline. (Photos by Rebekah Ford)

By Taylor Beck
Special to East Alabama Sports Today

GERALDINE — After a long tough season and an even longer tiebreaker, Piedmont laid claim to the No. 1 seed in Class 3A Region 6 with a 26-6 victory over Geraldine Friday night.

The Bulldogs finished in a three-way tie for first place in their region with Randolph County and Saks, and breaking the tie went deep into the alphabet soup of tiebreakers, notably the number of victories that were secured by their respective defeated opponents.

The fifth-ranked Bulldogs won that tiebreaker by the slimmest of margins and Randolph County claimed the second spot by virtue of their head-to-head victory over Saks. It was their 15th region title all-time

Piedmont will open the Class 3A playoffs at home next week against Clements, the No. 4 team out of Region 8. The winner gets either J.B. Pennington or Susan Moore in Round 2.

“It was a great win for us,” said Piedmont coach Steve Smith, who was in his 300th game as a head coach. “We played hard tonight. We didn’t necessarily play really good on the offensive side, but defensively we played lights out all night long.

“You look at our region, I think there are six playoff teams in our region and when you look at the defending 4A semifinalist, a 3A state runnerup, a 3A semifinalist, I think a lot of people probably figured we’d be third at best in this region this year. So for our guys to go out and win a fourth consecutive region championship just says a lot about them.

“I’m really proud for our team, for our coaches and for everybody that’s part of Piedmont football that we were able to win this region championship. It’s really special. … This team probably has accomplished as much as far as expectations as any team we’ve had in a long time.”

For any of the tiebreakers to fall in Piedmont’s favor, the Bulldogs had to win Friday night. Turnovers proved to be the difference. After leading only 7-6 at halftime, Piedmont pulled away with the help of three second-half takeaways. Other than big scoring plays from each team, both offensive units struggled in the first two quarters.

With under six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Brant Deerman intercepted a D.J. Graham pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. A failed 2-point conversion attempt pushed the Piedmont lead to 13-6.

Two plays from scrimmage later, Sean Smith was in the backfield forcing and recovering a fumble at the 42 to set up a 3-play touchdown drive. Jack Hayes punched the football into the end zone from 1 yard out to increase Piedmont’s lead to 19-6 after Kaedon Jenkins ran for 38 yards to set up first and goal.

At 3:34 left in the third quarter, Geraldine took the ball again and went on a drive that lasted about two minutes until Graham was intercepted a second time, this time by Jakari Foster.

Piedmont’s final score came with 1:43 left in the game as Hayes pounded it in from the 2. Hayes rushed for 52 yards and two touchdowns.

“In the first half we didn’t really get after it very well,” Smith said. “Our defense was playing very hard, offensively we were just sputtering. At halftime we talked about having a region championship in our grasp if we just go out there and play like we’re capable of and I felt like we responded very well.

“Brant Deerman’s interception return changed the game … Those defensive plays were the backbreakers for Geraldine tonight and the things that catapulted us to this win.”

The start of the game was delayed by a power outage at the stadium. When it did get underway, Geraldine (8-2) scored the first points of the game when Andrew Hall took a pass from Graham and powered his way 64 yards down the sideline for a touchdown with 5:47 remaining in the first half. A failed PAT put Geraldine out front 6-0.

Piedmont answered on the ensuing possession, as Delo Foster capped off an 11-play, 3-minute and 50-second drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Mason Mohon. Deerman’s PAT gave Piedmont a 7-6 lead.

Taylor Beck covers sports for the Sand Mountain Reporter. Kurt Duryea contributed to this story.

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