By Al Muskewitz, East Alabama Sports Today
PIEDMONT – Jack Hayes ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more as Piedmont completed its part in a three-way tie for the Class 3A Region 5 title with a 47-16 win over Wellborn, but the Bulldogs need one more victory next week to claim the region’s No. 1 seed to the playoffs, the true measure of the region champion to coach Steve Smith.
If the Bulldogs (8-1, 6-1) beat Class 5 Region 6 champion Alexandria in their final regular-season game next week at the Field of Champions, they will claim the No. 1 seed in the region. If they lose, they’ll fall to No. 3 and play their first playoff game on the road.
“We really don’t worry about it, to be honest with you,” Smith said. “We know we have an outstanding opponent coming in with Alexandria, 9-0 and top 3 in 5A. It’ll be a great playoff type atmosphere.
“Last year’s game came right down to the wire and Coach (Todd) Ginn does a great job for them. We’re just excited to play that game. It’ll be a good lead-in to the playoffs, wherever we may have it.”
Wellborn took the early lead on Jesse Lewis’ 2-yard touchdown run and Xavier Parker’s two-point conversion with 9:28 left in the first quarter. The Bulldogs answered with a 3-yard TD run by Hayes, but they didn’t take the lead until Brayden Morgan’s 17-yard run and Sloan Smith’s PAT with 2:46 left in the first quarter.
A 43-yard Estes punt return set the Bulldogs up in the red zone and two plays later Hayes went in from 16 yards out to make it 20-8.
Omarion Foster’s 28-yard interception return made it 27-8 and Hayes’ 62-yard touchdown pass to Estes gave the Bulldogs a 34-8 halftime lead. Trevor Pike’s interception at the 1 killed Wellborn’s ensuing drive and the Bulldogs ran out the clock.
Parker Thornton scored two third-quarter touchdowns for Piedmont, while Kevin Clark scored on a 3-yard run for Wellborn (5-4, 4-3). The loss snapped the Panthers’ five-game winning streak.
Hayes completed 11-of-18 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns, bringing his career total touchdown passes to 103. Estes caught four passes for 105 yards and had 202 total yards. Thornton was the Bulldogs’ leading rusher with 50 yards on seven carries.
The Bulldogs held Wellborn to 233 total yards. Brody Epps led the defense with 12 tackles, Landon Smart had 11 and Noah Reedy had eight, including three behind the line of scrimmage.
“I thought we played well,” Smith said. “We had a little lull at the end of the first half where we had a couple off possessions and didn’t move it well, but I thought we played well most of the game. The defense really played lights out tonight.”
It’s the fourth year in a row the region has ended in a three-way tie. The Bulldogs have gotten the benefit of the tiebreaker each of the previous three years.
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