The Deshler Tigers extended their winning streak to eight games and in the process eliminated No. 1 ranked Piedmont from the Class 3A football playoffs in the second round. The final was 28-6. The loss, coming after 11 consecutive wins, was difficult to swallow and 45 minutes after the game ended the Bulldogs and their coaches were still in the visitors’ dressing area talking and listening.
“I’m extremely proud of our guys,” Piedmont coach Steve Smith said later. “We’ve had a great season. It didn’t end the way we hoped it would but there’s only one way for it to end the way where you’re happy. I’m just very proud of our guys.”
“I knew we’d have to play lights out to be able to beat this team. Piedmont’s a very, very good football team, well-coached, well-disciplined. … I thought it was a huge advantage playing here, to be on our home field,” veteran Deshler coach John Mothershed said.
The game began ordinarily enough. Piedmont (11-1) forced a three-and-out punt on the initial series. After picking up two first downs, the Bulldogs stalled at midfield. The punt attempt was blocked and Deshler (9-3) took over at the Piedmont 41-yard line. Six plays later, all on the ground, and Tigers led 7-0 after sophomore fullback Terrance Byrd scored on a 10-yard run with three minutes left in the first quarter.
The ensuing Piedmont possession ended when quarterback Cade Bradley was sacked from his blind side and fumbled. Lineman DeAndre Acklin recovered for Deshler at the Piedmont 45.
“I think the blocked punt early in the game was a huge turnaround for us right there and then we came back on the next series and forced a fumble and it kind of put Piedmont on their heels a little bit ,” Mothershed said. “I don’t think they’ve been in that position this year and I think that kind of hurt them.”
Despite outstanding field position, Deshler had to settle for a 30-yard field goal attempt that never reached the uprights. The stop energized the Bulldogs on offense. Piedmont drove 80 yards in eight plays, just over half on a 42-yard Bradley to C.J. Savage bomb that reached the Deshler 20. From the 18, Bradley connected with Jamie Major in the left flat and Major did the rest. Dillon Terry’s kick was ruled wide and Piedmont trailed 7-6 with 5:19 to play before halftime.
Three minutes later, Deshler was up 14-6 on a 39-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Justin Cantrell. With a little more than four minutes remaining in the third quarter, Cantrell completed a 40-yard scoring strike to bump Deshler’s lead to 21-6.
“They were the better team (Friday) night. They did all those things that they had to to win and we didn’t. … The two long touchdown passes, those were killers,” Smith said.
An interception late in the third quarter led to a 1-yard scoring run by Byrd with 10:21 to play and set the final score.
“It just seemed like when we had to have a big play, somebody stepped in and made it,” Mothershed said.
Bradley was 11-for-20 passing for 168 yards. Savage had four receptions for 74 yards. Cass McCord caught four passes, all in the second half, for 54 yards. Darnell Jackson ran eight times and netted 48 yards. Jackson also picked up 20 yards on a pass reception.
Byrd was to big ground gainer for Deshler with 139 yards. He ran eight times for 58 yards in the first half and added 81 yards on 14 attempts after intermission.