It wins non-region games, too.
With no real implications but loaded with championship feel, top-ranked Piedmont knocked off No. 2 Leeds 7-0 Thursday night like the coveted blue map was on the line.
“These might be two of the best defenses you’ll see throughout the state in 3A,” said Piedmont coach Steve Smith.
The game’s lone touchdown came after Bulldogs defensive end Marquez Gamble recovered a fumble by Leeds (4-1) quarterback Tadarryll Marshall on the 13-yard line. Piedmont capped the drive on the first play of the second quarter, on third-and-6, with Cade Bradley hitting Jamie Major for the decisive touchdown.
“If we don’t turn the ball over inside the 15-yard line, we may still be playing,” Leeds coach Keith Etheredge said.
Leeds’ best chance to tie the game came in the middle of the fourth quarter when Jonathan Hagler returned a punt from the Green Waves’ 19-yard line to the Piedmont 27.
“Jonathan Hagler has done a great job for us returning punts,” Etheredge said. “We knew if we could block their gunners, then we would have a chance of getting a couple of punt returns.”
However, the Green Wave was unable to move the ball. After tailback Tre Nation rushed for 1 yard on two carries, Marshall was forced to throw the ball.
“We can’t be so one dimensional,” Etheredge said. “We came out in the second half, put together a good drive, came down here and shot ourselves in the foot again. We can’t do that against a great football team.”
Marshall’s throw on third-and-9 from the 26, though, connected with Jabari Lundy for a 12-yard gain. However, it was the same tale afterward. After Dakota Cred ran the ball for no gain, Marshall was sacked, followed by an incomplete pass.
“When they got down there on the 20, I know they couldn’t hear because I couldn’t hear,” Smith said.
On fourth-and-11, Marshall took the third of his four sacks in the fourth quarter alone.
Piedmont got the ball on the 16-yard line with 3:17 remaining but gave the ball right back to Leeds. However, the Green Wave yet again was unable to move the ball. Three incompletions and an 11-yard sack by Gamble gave the Bulldogs the ball back to set up in the victory formation.
The contest provided a battle of field position the entire game, and Smith gave credit to his defensive assistants after the game.
“We played the whole first half on their side of the field, and in the second half, they flipped the field on us with that punt return,” Smith said.
As the clock continued to tick and Leeds’ hopes of winning disappeared, Smith said he started playing offense more conservatively.
“Offensively, we probably do as much as most people would like to see, but we moved the chains a few times,” Smith said. “But, like I told the guys in there, it’s complementary football. Sometimes your offense and your defense struggles, but tonight our defense played extremely well.”
Bradley finished 7 of 16 passing for 86 yards and a touchdown. C.J. Savage led the Bulldogs in receiving with three catches for 57 yards, and Sarandon Dunbar led the team in rushing with 31 yards on 12 carries.
Leeds was led on the ground by the freshman Nation, who finished with 53 yards on 18 rushes. Marshall finished 2-for-9 for 19 yards.
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.