E.A. Sports Today

Saks secures third

Wildcats lock up No. 3 seed out of Class 3A Region 4 and relegate Wellborn to No. 4 with 35-18 victory; Doss, Walker have big games

Dorrien Walker (1) and Gavin Doss played big roles for Saks in its 35-18 victory over Wellborn Friday night. (Photo by Bo Hudgins/Saks Sports Photography)
Randolph County8-15-1

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The Saks Wildcats knew for a couple weeks they were going to the playoffs. They just didn’t know where they’d be going.

They held their postseason fate in their own hands and Friday night locked up the No. 3 seed in Class 3A Region 4 with a 35-18 victory over Wellborn. 

The Wildcats will open the playoffs on the road at Trinity Presbyterian Nov. 4. Wellborn, the No. 4 seed from Region 4, will travel to Region 3 winner St. James.

“We definitely put a major emphasis on this game because of the implications of being third or fourth,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said. “You always want to try to improve your seeding in the region as much as you can.

“To be honest, in games like this this year we have struggled in those fourth-quarter pressure situations. I was happy for our kids to see us come through and break through and make the plays in the fourth quarter to win the game as opposed to doing things that lost us the game.”

Quarterback Gavin Doss led the Saks offense with 252 yards and two touchdowns rushing and 61 yards passing. Dorrien Walker came back from a scary injury in the second quarter to score the first touchdown of the second half and deliver a big sack that thwarted a Wellborn threat when the game was still close.

Walker, a 170-pound junior running back, was lifted and violently dumped on his head and neck by 210-pound Wellborn lineman Andrew Salter after a five-yard loss with 4:34 left in the half. He briefly laid motionless on the field, but never lost feeling or consciousness and eventually was helped from the field under his own power.

He said the hit, which looked like a WWE wrestling move as it unfolded, just knocked the wind out of him and hurt his back “a little bit,” but after stretching in the locker room at halftime was back on the field in the second half. 

“It scared me a little bit because I’d never been slammed in football,” Walker said. “It was an experience to let me know to run the ball a little bit harder than what I’ve been doing.

“Everybody gets hurt; you’ve got to learn from it. At the end of the day it’s a team sport, we all have to work and we have to progress to get better every single day.”

Salter sought out Walker after the post-game handshake line to apologize for the hit, saying it was a play “in the moment.”

“I forgive him; I can’t be mad at him forever,” Walker said. “Everybody gets hurt. I forgive him. I learn to forgive. I can’t really be mad at him.”

But that didn’t mean he didn’t want to get even in other ways. He opened the scoring in the third quarter on a 3-yard run to make it 21-12. Then he ended Wellborn’s first possession of the half when he broke in on a fourth-and-10 from Saks’ 21 and threw Panthers quarterback Grayson Johnson for a 19-yard loss.

“I wanted to play my second half a little better because I feel like my first half I really wasn’t doing anything,” he said. “I did a couple bad things I messed up a little bit. I got a couple sacks on my quarterback. The second half was good for me because I learned from that huge hit.”

“It takes guts from a kid to come back in from something like that and run the football and run it hard, “ Miller said. “He did a great job in the second half for us. We wanted to get him something to have a little success early and feel good about himself.”

The game started promisingly enough for the Panthers. On the third play from scrimmage Xavier Parker burst through the middle and went 50 yards for the game’s first touchdown. But the Panthers failed on the conversion, a circumstance that would haunt them all game.

Saks answered with an 8-yard touchdown run by Doss and Erick Escandon-Paredes kicked the extra point and the Wildcats never trailed again. The teams matched three touchdowns over the first three quarters, but each time Wellborn scored it missed the conversion, twice handicapped by multiple false starts that knocked the attempt farther back. Saks scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

“We got some penalties we shouldn’t have gotten tonight, which were warranted, but we got some silly penalties that we shouldn’t have gotten at crucial times that hurt us,” Wellborn coach Jeff Smith said. “I just think they just got tight and we jumped. I thought we played well in spots and then we made those mistakes.”

The win brought Saks coach Jonathan Miller to within one of 100 for his career. He can hit the milestone as early as next week when the Wildcats wrap their regular season at winless Talladega.

“It’s a little premature, just to be honest,” Miller said when to comment on the milestone. “I’m not counting any chickens before they hatch.”

Saks’ Dorrien Walker wraps up Wellborn quarterback Grayson Johnson for a long fourth-down sack that was one of his big plays in the second half after a scary injury in the first. (Photo by Bo Hudgins/Saks Sports Photography)
SAKS (35)WELL (18)
181st Downs10
5-8-0Passes (C-A-I)5-10-0
61Passing yds64
Saks (6-3, 4-2)77714– 35
Wellborn (5-4, 3-3)6660– 18

W: Xavier Parker 50 run (run failed), 11:11 1Q
S: Gavin Doss 8 run (Erick Escandon-Paredes kick), 7:40 1Q
S: Dorrien Walker 2 run (Erick Escandon-Paredes kick), 7:23 2Q
W: Grayson Johnson 7 run (pass failed), 0:35 2Q
S: Dorrien Walker 3 run (Erick Escandon-Paredes kick), 7:56 3Q
W: Grayson Johnson 1 run (pass failed), 1:38 3Q
S: Jakari Streeter 6 run (Erick Escandon-Paredes kick), 11:53 4Q
S: Gavin Doss 53 run (Erick Escandon-Paredes kick), 5:28 4Q

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