The Anniston senior running back ran the wrong pass route, Anniston coach Eddie Bullock said, and ran right under Spencer Howard’s 25-yard pass to the goal line in the fourth quarter against Alexandria on Friday.
Or, as Howard put it, “He’s just so fast, he overran his route.”
It must be nice to score touchdowns by accident. It’s also nice to score so many on purpose, and Pope scored four in the Bulldogs’ 35-6 victory at home.
His four scores, including runs of 86 and 60 yards and an 84-yard punt return, gave him 12 on the season and 11 in Anniston’s past two games. He scored seven in a victory at Cleburne County a week ago.
Pope finished the night with 231 yards on 13 rushes, four pass receptions for 39 yards and 90 yards in punt returns. That’s 360 all-purpose yards as Anniston upped to 2-1 overall, 2-0 in 4A, Region 6 play.
“Nobody’s done much with him, and he’s a great player,” said Alexandria coach Frank Tucker, whose team fell to 1-2, 1-1.
Pope’s 86-yard run on the game’s first play from scrimmage and 84-yard punt return the next time he touched the ball were classic runaways. He cut, found space and kicked on the burners.
His 60-yard run showed just how physically dominant he was on this night. He broke out to the left and got the final Alexandria defender turned and running back toward the sideline to cut him off. Pope cut inside behind the defender, who attempted to turn back in, as well.
Pope reached the defender before he could react, and they bumped. Pope politely extended his off hand with a light, excuse-me stiff-arm before accelerating past him.
“I knew I had him off-balance,” Pope said. “It was just ‘go with it’ when I had him off-balance.”
His final touchdown was the accident.
Howard had Quindarious Jackson breaking behind the defense on a post pattern and lobbed the ball.
Pope came streaking into the picture from the middle of the field and caught the ball in stride as he and Jackson bumped at the goal line.
The play put Anniston up 35-6 with 6:40 left in the fourth quarter.
“He was supposed to have another route,” Bullock said. “It worked out for the best, and he always has his motor going.
“I still want to get other guys involved, because that only makes us better.”
Anniston got someone else involved in the scoring Friday. Howard took a sneak up the middle four yards for a touchdown to put Anniston up 28-6 at 1:49 of the third quarter.
It marked the lone Anniston touchdown this season not scored by Pope, who has 12 of the team’s 13. He has scored on kickoff and punt returns, runs and pass receptions.
“He’s a great running back,” Tucker said, “and I’ll be glad to see him graduate.”
Anniston finished with 303 rushing yards to Alexandria’s 190 and 397 total yards to the Valley Cubs’ 294. Howard completed 8 of 13 passes for 94 yards.
Running back Jarline Lee led Alexandria with 106 yards on 21 rushes. Quarterback Justin Bowen completed 7 of 17 throws for 99 yards, and Tyler Burr had four catches for 78 yards.
Alexandria’s brightest spot came on Burr’s diving, juggling catch of a Bowen pass between two Anniston defenders for the Valley Cubs’ lone score. It came at 4:17 of the third quarter.
Alexandria then tried an on-sides kick, but Anniston recovered.
“Burr made a great catch there, and the main thing is you don’t ever want to give in,” Tucker said. “Even though they were beating us, you never want to tank it up, and I’m proud of them (for not giving up).”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.