Cel­e­brat­ing a cham­pi­onship

Pied­mont Bull­dogs for­mally hon­ored for sec­ond state ti­tle

Cherokee County Herald - - SPORTS - By Shan­non Fa­gan

Sports Ed­i­tor

Smith, who sur­passed for­mer Bull­dog coach Ge­orge Hoblitzell as the win­ningest coach in Pied­mont foot­ball history ear­lier this sea­son, gave many thanks in his re­marks to those as­sem­bled. Among those Smith thanked were the play­ers, his coach­ing staff, the Pied­mont sup­port staff, and the com­mu­nity.

“There are a lot of places in this state like Pied­mont that do a great job of ral­ly­ing around their school and the ac­tiv­i­ties that go on at the school, but I feel like we’ve got the neat­est sit­u­a­tion around,” Smith said. “A lot of ac­co­lades come our way from the aca­demic side. To com­pli­ment that with a strong ath­letic pro­gram, some­thing peo­ple can be proud of, some­thing that unites and brings a com­mu­nity to­gether on Fri­day nights, is spe­cial. There were guys at this pre­sen­ta­tion to­day who played back in the 40s and 50s. There were guys who were at games like Colbert County, some three hours away, who are 80 years old-plus who have a lot of pride in Pied­mont.

“An ath­letic pro­gram a lot of times can bring across a lot of gen­er­a­tions and a lot of dif­fer­ent groups uni­fy­ing for a com­mon goal. To have the op­por­tu­nity on my end to be the head coach at a place like this is pretty awesome.”

Along Pied­mont’s path to its lat­est cham­pi­onship was a third-round bat­tle at three-time de­fend­ing state cham­pion Madi­son Acad­emy on Nov. 20. The Mus­tangs had ended Pied­mont’s sea­son the past two years, but the Bull­dogs man­aged to pull off a 35-21 vic­tory to get over the hump this sea­son.

But as big as that win was, Smith said the fol­low­ing week against Colbert County in Leighton may have been the big­gest game Pied­mont faced all sea­son.

Pied­mont de­feated Colbert County 14-0 to clinch its ti­tle game trip to Tuscaloosa.

“That next week, hav­ing to play Colbert County, who prob­a­bly was hot as any team in the state and us hav­ing to go into one of the most hos­tile en­vi­ron­ments was huge for us,” Smith said. “I read some­thing a long time ago that C.T. Man­ley Sta­dium in Leighton was voted the tough­est place to play in Alabama. Be­ing able to go into that en­vi­ron­ment, plus it was Thanks­giv­ing week and we weren’t in school, and that gets kids off their rou­tine – to go play and ex­e­cute as well as we did against an ex­tremely tal­ented team, that was huge for us. That kind of set the stage for the cham­pi­onship game.”

One of the stars for Pied­mont in the 3A ti­tle game was Hayes. He threw for 126 yards and a touch­down and also rushed for 63 yards on 11 car­ries and scored twice more to earn the 3A cham­pi­onship game Most Valu­able Player honor.

But be­ing a state cham­pion still hasn’t hit Hayes just yet.

“We’ve al­ways talked about this grow­ing up through our years in high school. We never got to do this, and now we’ve fi­nally done it,” Hayes said. “Sum­mer work­outs, 100-de­gree heat, the start of two-a-days, all of those up-downs, sprints, blood and sweat … Th­ese guys, I’d take them into bat­tle against any team in the state, no mat­ter what clas­si­fi­ca­tion. We’ve all been through the same thing, and we all made it. It all paid off for us.”

And now, there’s al­ready talk of Pied­mont do­ing it again. The Bull­dogs lose 10 se­niors, but they are ex­pected to reload for an­other ti­tle run next year.

“Expectations I’m sure will be out the roof for us next year,” Smith said. “We’ve got a lot of peo­ple com­ing back, but I hope th­ese kids we’ve got com­ing back understand that just be­cause you’ve got kids com­ing back on pa­per, what got us to where we were in Bryant-Denny (Sta­dium) and how we were able to fin­ish the sea­son off can be at­trib­uted to all the time, work and ef­fort they put in be­tween the fi­nal game of 2014 and the first game of 2015.

“There’s go­ing to be a lot of chal­lenges out there for us. There’s a lit­tle bit of un­cer­tainty, not know­ing where we’re go­ing to fall as far as clas­si­fi­ca­tion. We could be (Class) 4A, but we may be 3A. There’s a lit­tle bit of the el­e­ment of the un­known, but I’m sure it will re­vi­tal­ize us when we come back to work in Jan­uary and get ready to start off-sea­son work­outs.”

Pied­mont mayor Bill Baker un­veils a sign cel­e­brat­ing Pied­mont’s two foot­ball state cham­pi­onships on Dec. 15 at the Bull­dogs’ cham­pi­onship cel­e­bra­tion.

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