E.A. Sports Today

Indians get in

Class 3A Region 6: Ohatchee clinches playoff spot with victory over Plainview; Piedmont completes undefeated region season

Hokes Bluff4-53-4
Westbrook Christian4-52-5

By East Alabama Sports Today

OHATCHEE – When the Ohatchee Indians were 0-7, they were a team just looking for the next win. The playoffs were somebody else’s business.

But the Indians’ fortunes turned over the last three weeks. They started getting injured players back. They started building some depth. And Friday night they started making playoff plans after securing a playoff spot out of Class 3A Region 6 in their final regular-season game with a 41-28 victory over Plainview.

With their third straight win, the Indians (3-7, 3-4) finished the season tied with Hokes Bluff and Plainview for the fourth seed in the region. But two of those three wins came against the teams they were tied with, so they held the tiebreaker.

They will open the Class 3A playoffs at Gordo. It would appear to be a tall order, but a month ago it wasn’t even on the menu.

“It’s a whole different feeling from the first of the week,” Indians coach Chris Findley said. “We’re just super proud of our guys and coaches and the work we put in to be resilient and not give in when it could have been super easy at 0-7. Not just 0-7, but 0-4, 0-5, 0-6, all the way to 0-7. It could have been easy to lay down but nobody did. I couldn’t be more proud of everybody.

“This one feels as special as any of the undefeated region champions. That’s obviously the goal, but what we went through and the work we put in to make this one happen it makes it feel as special as any of them.”

Even with their climb back into contention, the Indians needed help to complete the task. First and foremost they had to win, but they also had to have Piedmont beat Hokes Bluff and Sylvania to beat Westbrook Christian to keep the Warriors out of the tie. All of that happened and the PA announcer kept everyone on the Creekbank informed at every turn.

It was a breakout night for sophomore H-back Nate Jones. He got the Indians on the board with a 92-yard pic-six on the opening possession of the game. The Bears ate up more than seven minutes of game clock on the drive and threw a pass on fourth down that Jones intercepted and brought all the way back.

The Indians onsides kicked and recovered and Jones, who became the regular H-back when the wave of injuries struck in the Saks season opener, scored again. The teams traded touchdowns the rest of the game. The Indians recovered three onsides kicks in the game, the last inside two minutes after they regained a 13-point lead.

Jones finished with 165 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Bryce Noah rushed for 120 yards and two scores.

“It was always in the back of my mind (they could make the playoffs) because we were getting guys back here and there, getting back in shape and getting healthy, and we thought we could still be a playoff caliber team, we thought we still had that talent and ability,” Findley said. “You’re like, if we could just get one, if we could just get one, you focus one week at a time.

“That’s one of the messages we had the whole time: We’re going to get all our guys back, we’re going to get healthy, we’re going to get in shape and by the time they get back we’re going to have depth from the young guys having to play. Is it possible at 0-6 and we decided yes it’s still very possible. After Geraldine, at 0-7, that’s when I deep dove into it and decided it’s still even possible now.”

As long as there’s math, there’s a chance.

Piedmont perfect in region

HOKES BLUFF – The Piedmont Bulldogs celebrated their their 18th region championship last week. This week, they wrapped up their seventh unblemished region campaign.

The Bulldogs mounted two long drives and added a special teams score in the first half Friday and went on to beat Hokes Bluff 28-7 at Mike Robertson Stadium. They completed their first undefeated region season since 2017.

Their first-round playoff cross at the Field of Champions will be with Oakman Nov. 4. The Wildcats finished fourth in Class 3A Region 5. The only meeting between the two squads came in Rund 2 of the 2015 playoffs with the Bulldogs winning 64-22 setting a school record for points scored in a playoff game. That team, led by all-state quarterback Taylor Hayes, would go on to win the 3A title at Jordan-Hare Stadium by defeating Bayside Academy 44-7.  

Friday night’s game got off to an explosive start for the Bulldogs (7-2, 7-0), although it didn’t look to start that way. On their first drive of the game, the Bulldogs were backed up inside the 3 due to penalties and a sack of senior quarterback Jack Hayes. But catches by Ish Bethel and Rollie Pinto moved them out to the 39 where Hayes hooked up with Pinto on a 61 yard touchdown. 

Sloan Smith, who set the school’s career record for extra points last week against Geraldine, converted on the first of his four point after attempts to make it 7-0.

Later in the quarter Hokes Bluff scooped up a Piedmont fumble and appeared to be headed for a touchdown, but Chris Jon Gurley ran down the Logan Wieman to prevent the score. Piedmont’s Jake Austin then intercepted Hokes Bluff quarterback Connor Masters at the 4 to end the threat.

Piedmont then took 12 plays to cover the 96 yards with Hayes connecting with Bethel on an 8-yard score. Hayes completed 22 of 33 passes in the game for 264 yards and two touchdowns.

On the ensuing possession, the Bulldogs forced the Eagles to punt and Max Hanson returned it 58 yards in front of the Piedmont bench to make it 21-0.

After a scoreless third quarter, junior running back Dontavious Jordan sprinted 41 yards for the Bulldogs final tally. Jordan rushed for 112 yards on 14 carries.

Hokes Bluff put points on the scoreboard with 37.6 seconds left as Bryce Whitaker burst up the middle and went 49 yards for an Eagle touchdown.  The Bulldogs defense held Hokes Bluff to 167 total yards.

Piedmont concludes the regular season on the road at Legion Stadium in Sylacauga where they will face the winless Aggies. – Kurt Duryea

Piedmont 28, Hokes Bluff 7

PIED (28)HB (7)
221st Downs8
264Passing yds72
Piedmont (7-2, 7-0)71407 –28
Hokes Bluff (4-5, 3-4)0007 –7

P – Rollie Pinto 61 pass from Jack Hayes (Sloan Smith kick), 6:07 1Q
P – Ish Bethel 8 pass from Jack Hayes (Sloan Smith kick) 5:37 2Q 
P- Max Hanson 58 punt return (Sloan Smith kick) 3:17 2Q
P- Dontavious Jordan 41 run (Sloan Smith kick) 11:50 4th
HB – Bryce Whitaker 49 run (Leon Chen kick), 0:37 4Q

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