MONTGOMERY – The third time proved to be the charm for Piedmont junior quarterback Jack Hayes.
The previous two seasons, Hayes was a finalist for the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Class 3A Back of the Year, but didn’t come away with the top honor.
That all changed on Thursday afternoon at the Montgomery Renaissance.
Hayes won the award over Catholic-Montgomery junior running back Jeremiah Cobb and Montgomery Academy junior running back Jashawn Cooper.
Hayes completed 160-of-258 pass attempts for 2,673 yards and 38 touchdowns. He also ran for 1,027 yards and 21 touchdowns on 210 carries for the state champion Bulldogs (13-2) last season.
Hayes earned the state championship game’s Most Valuable Player, honor after accounting for 266 total yards and five touchdowns. He ran for 143 yards on 36 carries with two scores and completed 8-of-17 pass attempts for 123 yards and three touchdowns as Piedmont rallied from a 23-point halftime deficit to win 35-33 over Montgomery Academy back on Dec. 2 in Birmingham.
Hayes, who was also named a Super All-State selection on Thursday, was humbled by the honor.
“I beat out two really good guys in Montgomery Catholic and Montgomery Academy,” he said. “Those are two really good players under any other circumstances they probably would’ve have (won). The fact that we won state and how we finished is probably why I won it.
“I think the people who won it the past two years deserved it, especially (Fyffe’s) Ike (Rowell) last year because they won state. The guy from Flomaton (Da’Quan Johnson) I think he deserved it too. I just had to wait my turn I feel like.”
Piedmont coach Steve Smith said he felt like Hayes deserved the 3A Back top honor.
“I know it’s a tough job for the sportswriters because of so many quality players, but I’m a little partial to ours,” Smith said. “We’ve had some winners in the past, but I felt like we had some others who were very deserving in the past. This year, Jack getting to take the award home, I thought it would’ve been awful hard for the sportswriters to mess it up this year considering what he accomplished on the field and our team’s success.”
Hayes wasn’t the only Bulldog player at Thursday’s banquet. Senior linebacker Landon Smart was a finalist for the Class 3A Lineman of the Year honor, which went to Montgomery Catholic senior linebacker TJ Dudley.
Smart led the Bulldog defense in tackles (152) and was second in tackles for loss (9). He also finished the season with five sacks.
“For Jack and Landon to be down here this year, it would’ve been an injustice for them not to be here if you’re picking the top backs and linemen from the state this football season,” Smith said. “I think it proves to them the things we preach all the time, when the team is successful, the individuals will be recognized.”
Hayes and Smart add to Piedmont’s lengthy list of players as back and linemen finalists over the past 10 years. Smith has coached 17 players that have been up for those honors in that span, some of them in multiple years.
“We’ve been real fortunate,” Smith said. “That goes back to what we try to preach to the kids all the time. When the team is successful, the individuals will be recognized.”
Thompson’s Ryan Peppins was named the state’s Mr. Football winner on Thursday.
Peppins, a senior receiver, helped his team win a third straight Class 7A championship this season. He totaled 80 receptions for 1,379 yards and 23 touchdowns for the Warriors, who finished 13-1.
His career featured 172 receptions for 2,755 yards and 43 touchdowns, plus 326 return yards with a touchdown and 11 rushes for 94 yards.
Peppins was also the 7A back of the year, marking the fifth straight season that a Thompson player has won that award.
Below is a list of Thursday’s award winners.
Ryan Peppins, Thompson
Backs of the year
7A: Ryan Peppins, Thompson
6A: Earl Woods, Hueytown
5A: DeMarcus Lacey, Pleasant Grove
4A: Walter Taylor III, Jackson
3A: Jack Hayes, Piedmont
2A: Logan Washburn, Cleveland
1A: Brayden Kyle, Decatur Heritage
AISA: Landon Sims, Escambia Academy
Linemen of the year
7A: Jeremiah Alexander, Thompson
6A: Trevon McAlpine, Saraland
5A: Khurtiss Perry, Pike Road
4A: Michael Towner, Vigor
3A: TJ Dudley, Catholic-Montgomery
2A: Caden Story, Lanett
1A: Kedrick Brown, Brantley
AISA: Kross Colley, Chambers Academy
(top players regardless of school’s classification)
Ryan Peppins, Thompson
Earl Woods, Hueytown
Khurtiss Perry, Pike Road
Jeremiah Alexander, Thompson
Will Stokes, Madison Academy
Walter Taylor III, Jackson
Emmanuel Henderson, Geneva Co.
Conner Harrell, Thompson
Jack Hayes, Piedmont
Khalib Johnson, Clay-Chalkville
TJ Dudley, Catholic-Montgomery
Justice Finkley, Hewitt-Trussville
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