However, the fifth-ranked Bulldogs didn’t think they did everything they should’ve.
The defending Class 3A state football champions downed Plainview 28-7 at home in the third round of the state playoffs to advance to this week’s semifinals and move a step closer to achieving its ultimate goal of repeating as state champions.
Even with the three-touchdown margin, the Bulldogs turned the ball over three times — twice in the red zone, had a punt blocked and were penalized 11 times. It was a less than spectacular outing that began with a lackluster week of practice in preparation for the unranked Bears.
After two days of practice, this week, both Piedmont coach Steve Smith and players said the team is refocused and reenergized for Hamilton on Friday night, a game to decide who’ll play in next week’s Super 6 state finals at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“We were lackadaisical last week,” junior linebacker Dalton Riffey said. “We kind of took our opponent lightly. We thought we had it won. Then we got out there and were in for a fight.
“This week, we’re a lot more focused. ... If they’re not doing it right, they’re working hard to figure out how to do it.”
The Bulldogs (12-1) defeated Hamilton 63-35 at home in last year’s quarterfinals before upsetting 2008 champion Leeds on the road to advance to the state final.
Hamilton comes into Friday’s game undefeated at 13-0 and ranked second in the state.
Piedmont’s success this season has included a couple close calls. The Bulldogs downed Susan Moore 26-23 in Week 2 and won by just a point at Glencoe in Week 5. Their lone loss came in a 43-42 overtime thriller at Class 5A Gulf Shores.
After that, though, they rolled through the regular season.
“We feel really good about where we’re at,” Smith said. “We feel very fortunate to be in this situation. We caught some breaks earlier in the year in some close games. Kids made some plays and we came out on top. It definitely put us in a good position as far as the playoffs went to be at home. A break here or there, things go the other way and we’d be a different seed in a whole different situation.”
Now, the Bulldogs are right where they want to be.
Smith said his team’s motto all season has been, ‘2010: Do it Again”, the rallying cry they repeat in unison each time they leave the weight room.
“These guys,” Smith said. “They hear it from people, ‘Hey ya’ll lost all these guys to graduation. Well, you know, you’re winning all these close games. You’re getting lucky’, all the things that people throw out there at them. I think they’ve got a little chip on their shoulder to say, ‘Hey, we want to go and prove to everybody that we can get the job done.
“They probably have a lot of people that told them, ‘Ya’ll were sloppy last Friday night’ and I think it’s going to serve as motivation to step it up and not play that way anymore.”
Smith said he can recall the excitement, following Piedmont’s win against Hamilton last year after having its season derailed in the third round in 2008 and 2009.
“I think our guys, and maybe our fans and everybody to some extent, have just now awakened to the fact that that we’re one more away from getting to play for the state championship. It seems like everybody has kind of picked their game up a little bit this week.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.