The local Bulldogs held their guests scoreless in the second half Friday night and christened the newly remodeled Field of Champions with a convincing 40-14 win over Susan Moore. The packed house in the home grandstand on the west side loved every minute of it.
“We talked about it every day this week and we talked about it at least three times tonight,” Piedmont head coach Steve Smith said of the quick-strike threat Susan Moore had demonstrated last year.
Piedmont showed it could generate instant offense this season on its first play from scrimmage. After a Susan Moore punt rolled dead at the Piedmont 35-yard line, junior running back Jamie Major got to the corner at right end and rambled 49 yards.
“I didn’t know we’d get 50, but it felt like we’d get good yards,” Smith said of the play, acknowledging that he had worried all week the excitement surrounding the first game in the new seating arrangement and on the new artificial playing surface would distract his players.
“We made a deal about that in the locker room, that we were going to stay focused,” Major said. “I have faith in my blockers every time I get the ball. It was there and I saw it.”
After the first play, focus was not an issue. Three plays later, Major scored on a 13-yard carry up the middle and Dillon Terry’s kick made it 7-0 with 7:37 left in the first quarter.
“(The linemen) do the work. I just tote the ball,” Major said.
The remainder of the contest, Piedmont allowed two long touchdown passes but Susan Moore was never able to run the football and head coach Bubba Jennings felt that determined the outcome.
“The whole thing is, the way we are, we’ve got to be able to run the football and we couldn’t run the football tonight,” Jennings said. “When their guys are bigger and badder than our guys, they’re going to win and tonight they were.”
In the first half, Susan Moore netted just six yards on the ground. After intermission, Susan Moore managed 12 more. Eight snaps went for lost yards or no gain.
“We were getting really good pressure with just three men (rushing),” Smith said of his three-man front rotation that included Quadree Woods, Marquez Gamble, Jaylan Johnson, Exavyer Jackson and Logan Moore. “Clay Dent and Collin Bradley both came up with some big plays too at inside linebacker.”
Piedmont got touchdowns from five players. Terry kicked two field goals and two extra points. Cass McCord added to Piedmont’s total with a 2-point pass reception from quarterback Chris Strott.
Late in the first quarter, Susan Moore quarterback Brett Glass combined with Dylan Sloan on a 59-yard touchdown pass and the score stood 7-all. It was 27-7 before Susan Moore scored again.
Just more than four minutes into the second quarter, Strott capped a nine-play, 57-yard drive with a touchdown on an 8-yard keeper and Piedmont led 13-0. Less than two minutes later, Landon Pruitt fielded a punt at the Piedmont 45-yard line, faked a reverse to Sloan Garner, then set sail around the right corner with nothing but open field in front of him. Running down the home sideline, Pruitt scored with ease and the Bulldogs led 19-7.
Susan Moore’s next possession lasted barely a minute and ended when Major nabbed an interception and returned it 20 yards to the Susan Moore 27. With 1:59 to play, Strott spotted Dalton Riffey barely over the goal line from 13 yards out and Riffey stayed just inside the boundary line for the score. McCord’s 2-point catch made it 27-7.
It didn’t stay that way long. Glass rolled right on Susan Moore’s second snap and threw deep to Sloan, behind the Piedmont secondary. The scoring play was good for 70 yards, cutting Piedmont’s lead to 27-14 at intermission.
In the dressing room, “Coach (Smith) told us to remember about last year, how they came back,” Strott said. “The offensive line did a great job after halftime and the defense was outstanding.”
The second half was all Piedmont. Terry kicked a 29-yard field goal on the opening possession. The ensuing kickoff was fumbled and freshman Cody Daughtry recovered for Piedmont at the Susan Moore 12. Freshman Dreke Thompson took a handoff on the first play, headed around right end then cut inside and scored. Terry’s extra point made it 37-14 with 7:03 still left in the third quarter. Terry added a 24-yard field goal three minutes into the fourth quarter to set the final score.
Smith was particularly complimentary of Piedmont’s special teams, coached by Everett Kelley.
“We got 13 points directly off special teams,” he said. “Our kick coverage was outstanding.”
Piedmont looks for its third Class 3A, Region 6 win in as many tries at White Plains Friday.