By Mark Everett Kelly, For East Alabama Sports Today
PIEDMONT – Jack Hayes bounced back from a tough season opener with a big game Friday night as he continues to move up the statewide passing charts.
Hayes completed 20-of-29 passes, including his 500th career completion, for 419 yards and five touchdowns and no interceptions to lead top-ranked Piedmont back into the winner’s circle, 40-7, over Sylvania.
His first completion of the night was his 500th all-time. He now has 126 career touchdown passes, one behind No. 2 Bo Nix on the all-time list, and 164 touchdowns accounted for, six behind No. 1 Kristian Story of Lanett.
Hayes rebounded from a confusing struggle in the opener in which his 18 yards passing were originally considered a misprint.
Against Sylvania, he had as many touchdown passes as he had completions the week before, leading scoring drives of 67, 61, 89 and 53 yards and completing 12-of-19 for 211 yards and four touchdowns as Bulldogs jumped out to 27-0 halftime lead.
He now has 8,153 passing yards for his magnificent career at Piedmont and is just 17 yards shy of replacing former Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson (Hoover, 2001-03) in the top 10 for most passing yards in Alabama high school football.
Despite his success, Hayes doesn’t pay much attention to his individual numbers.
“Honestly, I don’t pay much attention to it. Winning is what matters,” he said. “Sylvania is a good team. They are one of the top teams in our region. We just played really well, a whole lot better than last week.”
Receiver Ishmael Bethel inspired the offense after the Bulldog defense forced a turnover on the Rams’ opening possession. His leaping grab on third-and-13 looked destined for the turf before the 6-foot-2 sophomore came down with a 33-yard reception.
Hayes connected with Bethel again, this time on fourth-and-4, moving the ball to the 11. The Bulldogs converted their third fourth down on the opening drive as Hayes used a great play-action fake to connect with Parker Thornton for a 6-yard score.
The Rams never recovered, totaling just 83 yards for the rest of the half.
Bethel led the Bulldogs with five catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns, but dropped two beautiful throws from Hayes in the first half, robbing himself of two more potential scores.
“We had a better week of practice and preparation,” Hayes said when asked about the difference in his teams play after a poor performance in a 21-14 loss to Cherokee County last week.
Piedmont hosts Plainview on Friday while Sylvania takes on Ohatchee.