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franklin county times

No. 4 Red Bay tames No. 9 Piedmont 31-23

By Staff
Kim West
Franklin County Times
RED BAY – Despite bitterly cold conditions and a second-half comeback by No. 9 Piedmont, fourth-ranked Red Bay used a red-hot start to subdue the Bulldogs 31-23 in the state quarterfinals Friday night at Fred Bostick Jr. Memorial Stadium.
With the stands jam-packed on both sides, undefeated Red Bay claimed its 13th straight victory with a big-play passing game sparked by sophomore quarterback Cody Palmer, who was 6-of-9 for 150 yards and two touchdowns, and a strong run defense that made the stubborn Bulldogs one-dimensional.
"We threw the ball early and stopped them from running the ball," Red Bay coach Dale Jeffreys said. "We got up on them, but then our offense couldn't get first downs. After we got the 21-point lead, we didn't try to use any of our special plays. We probably got too conservative because we wanted to try and control the game, but we couldn't keep possession of the ball."
Red Bay held Piedmont's rushing trio – running backs D'Eric Jackson and Wesley Minton and quarterback Chase Childers – to a combined negative-32 rushing yards.
After a 20-yard return by Joe McKinney, the Tigers started the game with a bang as Palmer found a wide-open McKinney over the middle for a 78-yard touchdown. Pablo Makepeace's PAT gave Red Bay a 7-0 lead with only 21 seconds into the first quarter.
Red Bay forced a three-and-out on Piedmont's opening drive, and Palmer was 3-of-4 during the Tigers' six-play, 66-yard drive that included a 52-yard completion to Cody Armstrong and a 3-yard touchdown pass to Makepeace, who drilled the extra point to increase the lead to 14-0.
Piedmont's second drive stalled at its own 37-yard drive as Tyler Nichols and Adam Henson each had tackles for losses and Nichols batted down Childers' pass on third-and-14.
Jackson intercepted Palmer on the third play of Red Bay's next drive. The Bulldogs started from Red Bay's 39-yard line but went three-and-out again after Terry Wilemon and DJ Elrod sacked Childers on third-and-4.
After both teams traded punts on their next possessions, Red Bay turned to its running game. The Tigers drove 63 yards on eight straight running plays, including an 18-yard gain by Armstrong and a 16-yard scamper around right end by Makepeace. Josh Senkbeil busted in from the 3-yard line and Makepeace struck the PAT to give Red Bay a 21-0 lead with 1:35 remaining until halftime.
Piedmont drove from its own 23-yard line down to the Tigers' 21 as Childers, who finished 25-of-41 for 362 yards with three touchdowns, completed 5-of-7 passes to four different receivers, but time expired before the Bulldogs could take a shot at the end zone.
Piedmont took advantage of two straight three-and-outs by Red Bay by scoring on two straight possessions in the third quarter.
Marquis Diamond turned a short Childers pass into a 66-yard touchdown run, and Minton caught the 2-point conversion pass to put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard. Piedmont scored again on a 14-play, 64-yard drive that was capped by a 21-yard touchdown catch by Jackson. Diamond drilled the PAT to narrow Red Bay's lead to 21-15 as time expired in the third quarter.
The Tigers responded with a seven-play, 72 yard drive highlighted by 68-yard rumble by Senkbeil, and a 28-yard field goal by Makepeace put them ahead 24-15 with 9:19 left in the fourth quarter.
After two straight Piedmont incompletions, Nichols sacked Childers and Elrod scooped up tue loose ball and returned it 30 yards for a 31-15 Red Bay lead.
"On that play we tried a twist with our defense, and it was the first time we had ever used it," Jeffreys said. "We were able to get a lot of pressure on their quarterback, and hats off to him because he took a lot of hits from our defense tonight."
After both teams traded punts, Childers shook off two incompletions to connect on four straight passes, including a 50-yard bomb to Jackson and a 15-yard scoring pass to A.J. Young with 4:45 left in the game. Diamond caught the 2-yard conversion as the Red Bay lead was cut to 31-23.
Piedmont tried an onside kick, but Wilemon gathered it in at the Red Bay 47. After a bad snap on fourth-and-14, Makepeace eluded several tacklers and managed to punt the ball to the Bulldogs' 28-yard line with 2:59 left.
Piedmont moved 58 yards in nine plays to the Red Bay 24, but the drive sputtered as the Tigers' defense took control.
With Wilemon applying heavy pressure, Henson tipped Childers' pass on second-and-10, and McKinney nearly came down with an interception. John Thigpen dropped Childers for a 5-yard loss on third-and-10, and Armstrong broke up a pass intended for Diamond on fourth-and-15 as Red Bay took over on downs and ran out the 56 seconds remaining on the clock.
Senkbeil rushed 17 times for 102 yards and a touchdown, his sixth in three playoff games and 28th score this season. He has has 1,676 rushing yards through 13 games and could reach the 2,000-yard mark with two more playoff games.
The Tigers will host a familiar foe next Friday in the state semifinals as they host No. 1 Fyffe – the team that eliminated Red Bay from the playoffs last season.
"We'll get back to work this week and get ready for the No. 1 team in the state," Jeffreys said. "They beat us (37-7) in the second round last year, and nobody has really challenged them this year."
Fyffe (13-0) manhandled J.B. Pennington Friday night and has only been involved in one close game this year. In Week 3, the Red Devils narrowly won 28-21 over Sand Rock, the same team Red Bay beat 26-7 in the second round this year.