Piedmont’s Exavyer Jackson recovered an Ashville fumble on the second snap of the game, handing his offense the ball at the visitors’ 22-yard line. On Piedmont’s initial play, senior quarterback Ty Sparks found classmate Denard Spears open in the end zone for the first of Piedmont’s eight touchdowns. Jackson kicked the extra point and Ashville was back on its heels with the game just 55 seconds old.
“It was a passing camp route. We used it a lot and it started working,” Spears said. “Everybody sits in a slant and I go in a slant and run back to the sidelines. Ty made a real good throw and the offensive line gave him some time. Coach always teaches us to make the DBs turn their hips. Once he turned his hips I made my back cut and it was open.”
Matters got worse for Ashville in a hurry. After a quick three-and-out, C.J. Savage returned a punt 25 yards back to the Ashville 27. Sparks picked up two yards on a scramble then connected with Cody Daughtry downfield for 13 yards and a first down at the Ashville 12. On the next snap, Savage beat his defender to the corner of the end zone and Sparks’ throw hit him in stride.
“In practice our game plan was to come out and throw early,” Sparks said. “On film we had seen that they ran a cover two and we thought we could attack that by throwing the corner route. C.J. caught a corner and Denard caught a corner for touchdowns so the plan worked out perfectly.”
Jackson’s kick was low, about the only thing that went wrong for Piedmont, and the score was already 13-0 with 7:26 still to play in the first quarter.
Spears effectively sealed Ashville’s fate with a 55-yard punt return touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. Standing on the left side of the field near the visitors’ sideline, Spears grabbed the kick, headed right and faked a handoff to Savage. Spears reached the Piedmont side of the field and found a wall of blockers awaiting him. Downfield, punter Ethan Fuller was no match for his speed.
“Coach said we should return a lot of punts this year. He called right return which is what I run. I faked it to C.J., who made a good ball fake, and he kind of dragged the defenders with him a little bit,” Spears said. “The wall was set up perfectly, like we practiced, and I just had to run as fast as I could to the sideline.”
The first of six consecutive extra points by Easton Kirk made it 20-0 with the second quarter just 30 seconds old.
On the ensuing possession, Dreek Thompson proved Piedmont could score without the advantage of good field position. Ashville punted to Piedmont 27. Thompson took the first play around right end on a sweep and out-ran the Ashville defense to the end zone.
On Piedmont’s next possession, Darnell Jackson got time in the backfield and became a one-man scoring drive. Jackson carried on five consecutive plays — breaking of gains of 13, 22 34 and nine yards to set up his 2-yard touchdown run.
The opening series of the third quarter, which lasted just four plays, ended the night for Piedmont’s first offense. Thompson had runs of 16 and 21 yards. Darnell Jackson picked up 10 and Jaret Prater scored from 14 yards out.
Late in the third quarter, Neonta Alexander moved from linebacker to running back and upped Piedmont’s lead to 48-0 with a 12-yard run through the line at left tackle. A 37-yard scamper by Tre Reese set up Alexander’s score.
In the fourth quarter, Trevaughn Carpenter completed the scoring with a one-play, 60-yard run.
Thompson was the game’s rushing leader with 110 yards on three carries. Darnell Jackson ran six times for 85 yards. Piedmont did not attempt a pass after the first quarter ended.
“I don’t know that our kids were as pumped and ready for this game tonight as they were last week at Centre but as far as our execution I thought we were pretty sharp. … I felt like our offensive line did another fine job and defensively I thought we did a good job getting to the ball but there’s always still room for improvement,” Piedmont coach Steve Smith said.
Piedmont continues in region play Friday at Glencoe.