Since he was hired in 2006, head coach Steve Smith has coached Piedmont to the state playoffs every year and to the quarterfinals six times.
As Piedmont (10-2) prepares to host Madison Academy (12-0) in Friday's Class 3A quarterfinals, this year’s seniors have played in 11 playoff games and have gone 8-3. With that much playoff experience, Smith does not have to psych them up for games. His expectations are the same every year.
“We want to have a chance to play for a state championship,” Smith said. “Our guys are used to that. They’re used to the demands that are placed on them for pretty much a year-round schedule. They’ve bought into that big time. They work extremely hard.”
One thing that has come to be expected from the Bulldogs is a region championship. They won in each of the past three seasons. A 40-15 loss to Saks in Week 8 derailed their hopes for a fourth in a row.
However, finishing second in the region has not derailed their hopes at their main goal of a state championship. 2009 was the last time Piedmont finished second in the region. A Week 8 loss to Leeds cost the Bulldogs the championship. They went on to the playoffs and defeated Leeds in the semifinals before defeating Cordova for a state crown.
History has a chance to repeat itself if the Bulldogs can defeat Madison Academy and Saks can defeat Colbert County on Friday, which would pair the two Calhoun County rivals. But, you will not catch Peidmont looking ahead.
“We’ve not even talked about it,” Smith said. “The only team I know that’s still playing besides us is Madison Academy.”
Madison Academy is ranked No. 1 in 3A. The Mustangs have victories over 5A Cullman and 4A Clay Central. Their high-powered offense averages 46.1 points a game. Their defense gives up only 14.1 a game.
It will undoubtedly be the Bulldogs’ toughest game, but it will not be easy for the Mustangs. They will have to overcome Piedmont’s senior class, which was in the eighth grade when the Bulldogs won a state title in 2009. Defensive lineman Caleb Adams and offensive lineman Exavyer Jackson lead that senior class and the team as captains.
“The way captains are picked here,” Smith said, “I let the team vote on them prior to the beginning of the season. I think the type of character both of these kids are made of, their work ethic, their competitive spirit, the fire that they’ve got on the field makes them ideal captains.”
Added Adams: “People look up to you. You feel like you need to step up and show what you’re made of. I feel like it’s a big honor.”
Jackson was one of the few eighth-graders to finish the season with the varsity in 2009. While he did not get to play, he cherishes that experience and uses it as motivation.
“It made me feel like I need to do it again,” Jackson said. “I haven’t been able to get there since my eighth-grade year. The feeling of the atmosphere when we won state during the game is just unbelievable. I want to feel that feeling again.”