By Kurt Duryea, For East Alabama Sports Today
HOKES BLUFF – The Piedmont Bulldogs celebrated their 18th region championship last week. This week, they wrapped up their seventh unblemished region campaign.
The third-ranked Bulldogs mounted two long drives and added a special teams score in the first half Friday, then went on to beat Hokes Bluff 28-7 at Mike Robertson Stadium. They completed their first undefeated region season since 2017.
Their first-round playoff cross at the Field of Champions will be with Oakman Nov. 4. The Wildcats finished fourth in Class 3A, Region 5. The only meeting between the two squads came in Round 2 of the 2015 playoffs, with the Bulldogs winning 64-22 to set a school record for points scored in a playoff game. That team, led by all-state quarterback Taylor Hayes, would go on to win the 3A state title at Jordan-Hare Stadium by defeating Bayside Academy 44-7.
Friday night’s game got off to an explosive start for the Bulldogs (7-2, 7-0), although it didn’t look to start that way. On their first drive of the game, the Bulldogs were backed up inside the 3 due to penalties and a sack of senior quarterback Jack Hayes. But catches by Ish Bethel and Rollie Pinto moved them out to the 39 where Hayes hooked up with Pinto on a 61-yard touchdown.
Sloan Smith, who set the school’s career record for extra points last week against Geraldine, converted on the first of his four point-after attempts to make it 7-0.
Later in the quarter Hokes Bluff (4-5, 3-4) scooped up a Piedmont fumble and appeared to be headed for a touchdown, but Chris Jon Gurley ran down Logan Wieman to prevent the score. Piedmont’s Jake Austin then intercepted Hokes Bluff quarterback Connor Masters at the 4 to end the threat.
Piedmont then took 12 plays to cover the 96 yards with Hayes connecting with Bethel on an 8-yard score. Hayes completed 22-of-33 passes in the game for 264 yards and two touchdowns.
On the ensuing possession, the Bulldogs forced the Eagles to punt and Max Hanson returned it 58 yards in front of the Piedmont bench to make it 21-0.
After a scoreless third quarter, junior running back Dontavious Jordan sprinted 41 yards for the Bulldogs final tally. Jordan rushed for 112 yards on 14 carries.
Hokes Bluff put points on the scoreboard with 37.6 seconds left as Bryce Whitaker burst up the middle and went 49 yards for an Eagle touchdown. The Bulldog defense held Hokes Bluff to 167 total yards.
Piedmont concludes the regular season on the road at Class 5A Sylacauga on Friday.