The Bulldogs improved to 9-1 on the regular season and will host Winfield next week in the opening round of the Class 3A playoffs.
“We can’t afford to dwell on anything that has happened in the past,” Bulldogs coach Steve Smith said. “Nine-and-one is a good season for us in the regular season but our ultimate goal is to get to Tuscaloosa and have a chance to win a state championship.”
Lincoln went three-and-out on the initial possession of the game. Piedmont kept the ball more than five minutes and drove 67 yards in 10 plays, aided by a roughing the passer penalty, for the game’s first score. A 16-yard pickup on a throw from quarterback Ty Sparks to Denard Spears got the Bulldogs close. On the next snap,, Sparks connected with C.J. Savage for eight yards and a touchdown. The first of six straight extra points by Easton Kirk made it 7-0 with 5:05 left in the first quarter.
The first of Piedmont’s four interceptions of the night ended the Golden Bears’ next possession. Dreek Thompson got the pick and carried it almost 50 yards to the Lincoln 14-yard line. Two plays later, Darnell Jackson scored on an 8-yard run and Piedmont led 14-0.
The Bears punted again then the teams traded interceptions. Piedmont’s, by Cody Daughtry, came at the Lincoln 22. Tyler Lusk, in at quarterback, got his team into the end zone on one play, a 22-yard pass to Savage with 11:37 left in the second quarter.
“I was hoping we would get out here and battle with them a little bit tougher. They’re a good football team. They came out and they got after us good,” Lincoln coach Brad Wallace said. “We’ve got to make some corrections and try to get ourselves more physical in these big-time ball games.”
Lincoln struggled to run the ball all night. Quarterback Chance Byrd led the ground attack. He netted 53 yards after sacks cost him 21 yards on the ground.
No other Lincoln runner had as many as 25 yards.
“I think getting out and getting that early lead kind of forced them to be a little bit more one dimensional than they wanted to be,” Smith said. “We played a little bit more zone tonight than we normally play, had some safeties roaming free and were able to get some interceptions.”
Wallace tipped his hat to Piedmont and the effort the Bulldogs put forth.
“They were just playing good tough football in the trenches and we’ve got to come off and do the right things on our offensive line,” he said. “We’re going to keep working in our practices next week and try to get ourselves better for this first round.”
Trailing 21-0, Lincoln took advantage of good field position to score before halftime.
Piedmont was unable to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-inches and turned the ball over on downs at the Lincoln 45. Byrd found his passing rhythm with four completions in four attempts. A 20-yard throw to Hunter Webster got the Bears to the Piedmont 19.
After a procedure penalty backed the ball up five yards, Byrd found tight end Dontavious Johnson on a fade route in the end zone. Nicholas Pope’s kick made it 21-7 with 1:32 left in the half.
The second-half kickoff went to the Bulldogs and a 50-yard return by Jackson set Piedmont up at the Lincoln 43.
The Bulldogs needed just four plays, all on the ground, to score. Sparks started the drive with a 29-yard run and finished it with a 3-yard keeper.
“I think us getting that great return and then being able to punch it in on offense kind of took a little bit of the momentum that they had attained before the half away,” Smith said.
After a Lincoln fumble, Piedmont marched 93 yards and scored with eight seconds left in the third quarter.
A 6-yard run by Jaret Prater put the points on the scoreboard. The Bulldogs’ final touchdown came when a short pass from Lusk to Spears became a 65-yard touchdown play with 7:41 to play. Spears picked up one block then made one cut and was gone.
“I expect Winfield to be a very solid football team,” Smith said. “I expect them to come up here expecting to win the game. Our kids are going to have to get up and be ready to play in that game.”