PIEDMONT – Piedmont football coach Steve Smith has been a part of some wild and memorable games during his career. He added another to that list against Class 4A Jacksonville on Friday night at the Field of Champions.
The Class 3A, No. 2 Bulldogs rallied from four 17-point deficits in the game to outlast the Golden Eagles in a 55-45 victory.
“I think this one will be one folks remember for a long time,” Smith said. “I was proud of our kids tonight. They showed a lot of character and a lot of guts to hang in there. They just kept coming back. We didn’t get a bunch of stops, but we got some big ones there in the second half. We were able to capitalize and take advantage. Our offense was pretty efficient in the second half, and we got some big stops when we had to have them.”
The last time the Bulldogs (5-0) were down by 17 was at 45-28 following a Jim Ogle-to-Jacoby Zackery 46-yard touchdown pass with 4:31 remaining in the third quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Piedmont went 65 yards in just four plays, with the drive capped by a 24-yard Jack Hayes touchdown run. The extra point made it a 45-35 Jacksonville lead with 3:09 to go in the third.
The Bulldog defense then forced a Golden Eagle punt, which Piedmont took over possession at its own 6-yard line. The Bulldogs marched 94 yards in 14 plays, with Hayes running it in from a yard on the final play of the drive. The point after trimmed Jacksonville’s lead to 45-42 with 7:06 left in the game.
Piedmont’s defense forced another Golden Eagle punt in which the Bulldogs took over at their own 20. Six plays and 80 yards later, Brayden Morgan scored on a 7-yard run with 1:55 remaining, giving Piedmont an improbable 49-45 advantage.
Piedmont pinned Jacksonville (3-3) deep on the ensuing kickoff. The Golden Eagles started on their own 15, but quickly moved the ball down the field. They had back-to-back completions of 19 and 45 yards to move inside Piedmont’s 20, but on a 3rd-and-6, Omarion Foster intercepted an Ogle pass and returned it 92 yards for a touchdown with 30 seconds to go in the game for the final.
“There were a lot of momentum plays in the game for sure; a lot of big plays, turnovers, blocked punts, long pass plays, touchdowns called back,” Smith said. “They had two touchdown runs called back due to holding, and we had a 90-yard kickoff return called back due to holding. It was just a weird game, a lot of crazy stuff happened.”
Piedmont finished the game with 571 total yards (381 rushing, 190 passing). Jacksonville churned out 468 yards of offense (295 passing, 173 yards rushing).
Morgan led Piedmont’s ground attack with 184 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns. He opened the game’s scoring with a 21-yard touchdown run 57 seconds into the game after Blake Fortenberry recovered a Jacksonville fumble. Morgan also accounted for a 70-yard run that set up a Hayes 2-yard touchdown rush with 5:22 remaining in the third quarter that made the score 38-28 in favor of Jacksonville.
Hayes had 20 carries for 148 yards and three scores on runs of 2, 24 and a yard. He was also 16-of-22 passing for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Hayes’s touchdown tosses went for 15 yards to Austin Estes with 11:04 left in the second quarter and 11 yards to Omarion Foster that made the score 31-21 Jacksonville at the half.
Ogle completed 11-of-25 pass attempts for 295 yards had three touchdown passes to lead the Golden Eagles. Taj Morris added 149 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. He also caught a 39-yard touchdown pass with 10 minutes to go in the second quarter to put the Golden Eagles up 31-14.
Piedmont travels to Ohatchee on Friday. Jacksonville is at defending Class 4A state champion Handley.