E.A. Sports Today

Wadley comes up short

(UPDATED) Bulldogs’ score first on big run, but injury limits offense and Sweet Water rallies for record-tying 11th state championship

Hewitt-Trussville 14, Smiths Station 13 (2 OT)
Thompson 38, Central-Phenix City 22

Piedmont 35, Montgomery Academy 33
Sweet Water 40, Wadley 16
Pike Road 51, Pleasant Grove 14

Vigor (13-1) vs. Oneonta (13-1), 11 a.m.
Cleveland (12-2) vs. Clarke County (12-2), 3 p.m.
Clay-Chalkville (14-0) vs. Hueytown (13-1), 7 p.m.

By Tim Altork
The Randolph Leader

BIRMINGHAM – On his first carry of the 1A state championship game, Wadley senior running back Jumall Buchanan went 69 yards for a touchdown. On his second carry he suffered an injury to his right leg.

It turns out that second carry was also his last, and Wadley’s dynamic two-back offense was forced to play without its second-leading rusher for the rest of its biggest game of the year.

The end result was a 40-16 Sweet Water victory Thursday in a game that left Wadley with plenty of what-if questions, especially regarding the absence of Buchanan.

“I think it impacted [the outcome] a pretty substantial amount because we rely on him a lot,” said Wadley head coach Shenan Motley. “It was a pretty big factor as far as our game and our game plan with most stuff that we do because we’ve got to put somebody else in there that doesn’t have a whole lot of experience at that spot.”

Buchanan’s opening run and a kickoff return for a touchdown late in the second quarter by Jacob Marable helped Wadley keep the game close through the first half. Wadley also got a 29-yard field goal from Brock Baldridge and trailed just 20-16 at the break.

But the physicality of the Sweet Water team took over in the second half, and Wadley was held scoreless over the final two quarters.

The dagger came with Wadley trailing 27-16 early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Lakevion O’Neal connected with receiver Calon Cottle on what would have been a 43-yard gain on fourth down to give Wadley a first-and-goal inside the 5. But a holding penalty wiped out the play, and Wadley was forced to punt.

Sweet Water scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession to make it a three-score game, and Wadley’s hopes of its first-ever playoff-won state title were essentially dashed.

The victory capped an undefeated season for Sweet Water (14-0), which has now won seven state titles since 2006 and 11 in school history, equaling the AHSAA small-school record of 11 football titles by Hazlewood, which is now closed after merging with Courtland to form R.A. Hubbard High School.

“Our goal was to win state,” Sweet Water coach Pat Thompson said. “This means the world to our community.”

Wadley, which averaged over 300 rushing yards per game through its first 14 contests, was held to just 161 yards on the ground. Buchanan actually finished as the team’s leading rusher with 72 yards on his only two carries. Marable was held to 54 yards on 13 carries after leading the Bulldogs with over 1,400 yards and 22 touchdowns prior to the title game.

Eighth-grade linebacker Jaquez Wilkes stayed busy for the Wadley defense with 12 tackles and a sack. Joseph Freeman had eight stops

Sweet Water piled up over 500 yards of offense, with 366 of those coming on the ground. Christian Dunning ran for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Jaland Lewis Horton ran for 158 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries and also caught a 55-yard touchdown pass and was named the game’s MVP.

“We stepped up and made it happen,” Horton said.

The loss was a sour end to maybe the sweetest season in the history of Wadley’s program. Their appearance in the state championship game was the first ever in school history, and their 13 wins matched the school record in that category.

It was the first they had won that many games since going 13-1 three straight years in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Wadley was 3-8 a year ago.

Tim Altork is sports editor of The Randolph Leader. Josh Bean of the AHSAA contributed to this story.

Sweet Water 40, Wadley 16

Sweet Water14671340

W – Jumall Buchanan 69 run (Brock Baldridge kick), 11:41 1Q
S – Walker Thompson 2 run (Michael Cole kick), 3:21 1Q
S – Jake Shroeder 44 pass from Walker Thompson (Michael Cole kick), 0:41 1Q
W – Brock Baldridge 29 FG, 4:09 2Q
S – Jaland Lewis Horton 55 pass from Walker Thompson (kick failed), 1:18 2Q
W – Jacob Marable 86 kickoff return (kick failed), 1:05 2Q
S – Christian Dunning 8 run (Michael Cole kick), 9:43 3Q
S – Jaland Lewis Horton 1 run (Michael Cole kick), 8:20 4Q
S – Christian Dunning 35 run (kick failed), 2:45 4Q

Wad (16)SW (40)
91st Downs18
35Passing yds138

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