Prep showdown: Piedmont’s Smith: This is biggest game of the season
by Brandon Miller
Oct 14, 2013 | 2805 views |  0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Piedmont’s Sarandon Dunbar (22) gets tripped up by Saks’ Tre Smith (7) in the 2011 game between the two teams. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star/file)
Piedmont’s Sarandon Dunbar (22) gets tripped up by Saks’ Tre Smith (7) in the 2011 game between the two teams. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star/file)
PIEDMONT — Piedmont coach Steve Smith doesn’t need a reminder about how big Friday night is.

His Bulldogs sit at No. 2 in the Class 3A state rankings, but the road to a fourth straight region championship leads through the gutty Saks Wildcats.

That’s where unbeaten Piedmont is headed next, facing a date with unbeaten Saks, a meeting that will decide the region title for the third straight year.

“This is the biggest game of the season on our schedule for obvious reasons,” Smith said.

“The Leeds game was a fun game to play in, but it didn’t have a lot of implications as far as playoffs and stuff like that. When it was over, it was over. This game, however, has huge implications.”

For Piedmont, getting back to within one win of a region title might be a surprise to some, considering the Bulldogs lost plenty of players to graduation.

But Smith said he downplayed the doubt.

“We’ve just taking the approach that we’re supposed to be down,” he said. “We’re just going to go out there and prove people otherwise.”

Piedmont’s average margin of victory so far has been 44 points a game. The Bulldogs’ average 51.1 points while allowing 7.1 points each week.

Defensively, Piedmont is just as good as last year, allowing 0.2 points a game more. Offensively, the Bulldogs are on a tear. After averaging 36.6 points a game leading into the Saks game last year, they’ve increased that number by 14.5 points, the equivalent of two touchdowns.

“We felt going into the season that our offensive line was our biggest question mark. We have a lot of talent at running back, receiver and a few quarterbacks, but if we were going to be as successful as we have been it started with the line,” Smith said. “They’ve done a fantastic job. We also have a little more speed at skill positions than we have in the past. They’ve made plays for us.

“They’ve created a recipe for success.”

But the success Piedmont has seen this year is an afterthought when the Bulldogs face seventh-ranked Saks on Friday night. Smith said playing the Wildcats with the Class 3A, Region 5 title up for grabs is what makes this game the toughest on the Bulldogs’ schedule.

“I don’t know if you can shut Saks down. You just have to try to contain them and the big play,” Smith said. “We’re very similar to each other in that they have lots of guys all over the field that do good things when they get the ball in their hands. They’ve just done a good job of utilizing their playmakers and getting them in open space. They’ve got the best offense we’ve seen all year long. If they come out the way they have this year and so do we, then it’s going to be an atmosphere that people want to be involved in.”

Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star
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