E.A. Sports Today

Bulldogs top Bears

Thursday roundup: Hayes continues to climb career charts as Piedmont, Munford, PV pick up big region wins; JCA remains unbeaten in 8-man

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT — When the AHSAA broke up Class 3A, Region 5 for its latest realignment, sending Piedmont and Ohatchee farther north and the other three Calhoun County teams in the region south, it was thought one of the great leagues in the state was gutted for good.

The policymakers didn’t do the Bulldogs any favor, sending them to a league that had four other playoff participants from the year before. And if those teams that stayed thought they were going to have it easy because they didn’t have Fyffe, they were mistaken.

The league figured to be quite a gauntlet, but the defending state champion Bulldogs have beaten two of those playoff teams each of the last two weeks – Sylvania for their first win and Plainview Thursday night 34-21 – to make a statement about who was going to be top dog in the region.

“I think there are eight teams in this region, all of which are vying for a playoff spot, so any time you can get a win in the region against any of these teams is going to be huge towards establishing a pecking order for the playoffs,” Piedmont coach Steve Smith said. “We lost some good teams, but we picked up some good teams. I don’t know it’s safe to say it got stronger or got weaker necessarily.

“This was a game tonight that it appeared we were in control of and then, boom, they hit a big play, boom, we turn it over, they get it and score ahead and here we are having to recover an onsides kick to hold on. That’s the way it’s going to be in this region, I think, week in and week out. I don’t know that anybody’s head and shoulders good enough to just go out there and have a cakewalk every week.” 

Every time something good happened for the Bulldogs’ defense in the game, Chance Murphy was usually in the middle of it.

The junior defensive end blocked an extra point, batted down a third-down pass and recovered a late onsides kick — all in the second half — to help the Bulldogs win.

“We just do our job on defense and I was just doing my job and it so happened to come to me a lot,” he said.

Murphy’s blocked PAT kept the Bears from narrowing the gap and his onsides recovery came after the visitors drew within 28-21 with 7:35 to play.

After the onsides recovery, Jack Hayes drove the Bulldogs 52 yards in six plays, rushing for all but one of the yards and scoring on a 24-yard burst for an insurance touchdown with 3:43 to go.

“We came out after Chance’s recovery and kind of just put it on our offense,” Smith said. “We told them we’re not throwing the ball right here, we’re not putting it in the air, we’re going to try to grind this thing out.

“Our offensive line did a good job of getting some movement, our backs did a good job with some kick-out blocks while they were bringing some guys off the edge. I don’t think there were many people who were doubting whose hands the ball was going to be in. Jack had been kind of a single-wing type thing right, but I thought our backs and our receivers and all the linemen did a good job on that last drive of blocking and (Hayes’) pretty tough when he gets a little crease.”

Hayes accounted for all five touchdowns to move within two of passing Lanett’s Kristian Story to become the AHSAA’s all-time leader in that category, including two through the air to pass Bo Nix for second on that career list. He needs seven to set the career touchdown passes record.

He tied Nix with a 2-yard pass to Ish Bethel in the second quarter and passed the former Auburn quarterback on a 45-yarder to Rollie Pinto on the first play of the second half. Hayes also scored on runs of 3, 1 and 24 yards.

For the game Hayes completed 18 of 23 passes for 208 yards and rushed for 104 yards.

“He’s just like all the other Hayes kids; they’re cookie-cutters,” Plainview coach Dale Pruitt said. “He’s really good and he’s really good doing the things that nobody knows he’s doing. He’s four-year starter and has won how many state championships. That just don’t happen. He’s had some dudes around him, but he’s been the dude. He does a good job.”

Plainview’s triple-option offense opened the game with a 71-yard touchdown drive that consumed almost half the first quarter, but the Bulldogs (2-1) adjusted and shut down the Bears’ next four possessions through the third quarter to open a 28-7 lead.

The difference was “real simple,” Bulldogs coach Steve Smith explained.

“The first possession everything they had was a positive gain,” he said. “Their bad plays on their first possession were three yards. They were moving the chains, controlling the clock. We played pretty solid, but we just couldn’t stop them. That drive went according to script, exactly the way I’m sure they wanted to and after that you looked in there and they had a zero or a minus-2 … and that makes it a lot tougher to convert first downs.

“We were able to come out and get stops in four straight series between the first drive and their second score, and that was huge because it  gave us a chance to get a little momentum on the offensive side and make it a multi-score game.”

Piedmont 34, Plainview 21

121st Downs18
79Passing yards208
Plainview (0-3)70014 –21
Piedmont (2-1)71476 –34

Pl – Levi Brown 19 run (Brayden Lingerfelt kick), 6:29 1Q
Pd – Jack Hayes 3 run (Sloan Smith kick), 3:11 1Q
Pd – Jack Hayes 1 run (Sloan Smith kick), 10:13 2Q
Pd – Ish Bethel 2 pass from Jack Hayes (Sloan Smith kick), 4:46 2Q
Pd – Rollie Pinto 45 pass from Jack Hayes (Sloan Smith kick), 11:41 3Q
Pl – Levi Brown 24 pass from Trey Rutledge (kick blocked), 10:45 4Q
Pl – Levi Brown 1 pass from Trey Rutledge (Andrew Hall run), 7:35 4Q
Pd – Jack Hayes 24 run (kick failed), 3:43 4Q

Jack Hayes Climbing the Charts

TD Passes128 (2)Chris Smelley, ACA134
TD Responsibility174 (2)Kristian Story, Lanett175
Completions537 (14)Jeremy Yates, Colbert Hts.753
Passing Yards8,354 (9)Jamarcus Russell, Williamson10,774
Total Offense11,108 (5)Kristian Story, Lanett13,218
Next on total offense list: Zach Smith, Susan Moore (11,266); Next on passing yards list: Kristian Story, Lanett (9,070)

Munford mauls Talladega

TALLADEGA – The Munford Lions bounced back from a loss to Anniston with a crushing 56-17 win over the Talladega Tigers. It pushed their overall record to 2-1 and 1-1 in Class 4A Region 4.

Talladega leads the all-time series 17-9, but the Lions have dominated lately, winning nine of the last 10 games. The Tigers won the first 16 games of this series, but the tide has shifted in the last 20 years.

“You’re probably looking right now at Anniston and Handley as the top two guys and everybody else is racing for 3 and 4,” Munford coach Michael Easley said. “At least that’s the mentality I want everybody to have at this point.

“You kind of look at it on paper before the season and kind of figure that three region wins will get you in. Well, there’s one, and that’s what I talked about with the kids. The first thing you want is to lock up a playoff spot. The second thing you want to do is play for seeding. We talked about we need three to get in, so lets start chopping away. We got one tonight, so that’s a big deal.”

The game was never in doubt as the Lions bolted to a 49-6 halftime lead. Then Riley Brown started the second half with a 75 yard kickoff return to make it 56-6 and with the clock running continuously the Lions only had five more offensive snaps in the second half. 

Munford quarterback Sylvester Smith ran for two touchdowns in the first half, including on their first play from scrimmage, and threw for two more to Brown. Smith had 170 yards of total offense in the game, rushing for 83 yards on eight carries.

Sophomore running back Tank Edmundson scored a pair of touchdowns and rushed for 115 yards on seven carries. 

Munford returns home for another key region game against Cleburne County next week, while Talladega travels to Jacksonville.

“That’s another game that will go a long way in our region to figure out that 3/4 spot,” Easley said. – Brant Locklier

MUN (56)TALL (17)
111st Downs8
67Passing yards139
Munford (2-1)212870 –56
Talladega (0-3)06011 –17

M – Sylvester Smith 39 run (Dakota Frank kick), 9:14 1Q
M – Tank Edmundson 61 run (Dakota Frank kick), 4:02 1Q
M – Sylvester Smith 11 run (Dakota Frank kick), 2:02 1Q
M – Riley Brown 33 pass from Sylvester Smith (Dakota Frank kick), 11:31 2Q
M – Tank Edmundson 4 run (Dakota Frank kick) ,7:45 2Q
M – Riley Brown 18 pass from Sylvester Smith (Dakota Frank kick), 5:39  2Q
T – Terrance Swain 58 pass from Kenny Jackson (kick failed), 1:47 2Q
M – B.J. Anderson 19 run (Dakota Frank kick), 0:47 2Q
M – Riley Brown 75 kickoff return (Dakota Frank kick), 11:46 3Q
T – Jackson Burel 22 FG, 1:39 3Q
T – Amare White 41 run (Kenny Jackson run), 2:02 4Q

PV has happy Homecoming

JACKSONVILLE – On Homecoming Night, Pleasant Valley rewarded its fans with an explosive running attack and just about a perfect second-half performance in swamping winless Holly Pond, 48-19. 

The Raiders scored 27 unanswered points to pull away from a 21-19 halftime lead.

“I’m proud of the kids and how they responded.,” PV coach Jonathan Nix said. “We made good adjustments at halftime, and I think that paid off a lot.”

The visitors identified with Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities” as the first and second halves were the “best and worst of times,” especially for quarterback Sawyer Dillenger.

The sophomore brilliantly led the Holly Pond offense in the first half. He culminated its 11-play 86-yard opening drive with a five-yard touchdown run to give the visitors an early 7-0 lead. After the Broncos’ second drive stalled on downs at midfield, Sawyer’s 44 yards (24 rushing, 20 passing) helped move the ball to the Raiders’ 26, where freshman Bradley Woods’ touchdown run gave them a 13-7 lead.  

Pleasant Valley freshman quarterback Braxton Salster answered his counterpart on the Raiders’ next two drives. He connected with fellow freshman Jayden Sparks on a 41-yard touchdown pass,  then finished off their next drive with a sensational full-body extension touchdown dive on a 23-yard run. Sparks also scored the Raiders’ first touchdown on a 9-yard run.

Salster finished the day with 106 passing yards (9-of-10) and 48 rushing yards on 10 carries.

Dillenger helped provide a miraculous end to the first half, leading the Broncos down the field in the final 50.8 seconds. After a 37-yard completion to senior Christian Couch (3 catches, 58 yards), the Holly Pond quarterback’s 14-yard run appeared to take up the remaining time in the first half. However, the referees put 1.2 seconds back on the clock and the Broncos took advantage of the extra play, as freshman Boston Gibbs caught a deflected pass in the end zone, cutting PV’s lead to 21-19.

Dillenger completed 11 of 18 passes for 135 yards while rushing for 127 on eight carries. He totaled 267 yards of the Broncos’ 302 first-half yards. 

The Raiders (2-1) ran for 397 yards and six touchdowns, led by junior Holt Bentley, who rushed for 178 yards and three touchdowns on eight carries. Bentley ignited the Raiders’ second-half dominance with a 60-yard touchdown runs run on the first play from scrimmage. Senior RB Dalton Haynes also joined the Raiders’ party with 109 rushing yards and a TD on 11 carries. 

The defense held Holly Pond (0-4) to just 24 yards passing and 39 yards rushing on 14carries in the second half, thanks to critical tackles by senior Dason Vick and an interceptions by senior Tristian Green. – Mark Everett Kelly

JCA wins again

JACKSONVILLE – Freshman quarterback Noah Lee completed 23-of-43 passes for 442 yards and five touchdowns as Jacksonville Christian beat Tabernacle in eight-man football, 58-52, to remain unbeaten. Travis Barnhill accounted for five touchdowns for the Thunder (4-0). Lee has yet to be intercepted this season.

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