By Lionel Green/Sand Mountain Reporter
Sardis scored 28 unanswered points and posted a second-half shutout in a 34-15 win over Locust Fork in the Class 4A, Region 6 opener for both teams on Friday (Sept. 6) in Sardis City.
Sardis head coach Gene Hill was proud of his team for coming from behind and felt that conditioning was key in the fourth quarter.
“We were down, and we’re not used to being in that position,” he said. “We know we weren’t playing well on offense. We couldn’t get in that rhythm. A lot of that you’ve got to credit to Locust Fork. They were really running the clock under 10 seconds and that keeps it in their offense’s hands.”
Senior Braun Pee opened the scoring for the Lions (2-0, 1-0), slashing seven yards into the end zone for a 6-0 Sardis lead with 1:32 left in the first quarter.
Locust Fork took a 7-6 lead on a 62-yard scoring pass from quarterback Kyle Hornbuckle to Micah Stephens with 10:04 remaining in the second quarter.
At the two-minute mark of the second quarter, the Hornets upped their lead to 15-6 when Hornbuckle scored on a 1-yard keeper on fourth-and-goal and converted the 2-point conversion run.
The Lion offense responded with a perfectly executed two-minute drill, driving 77 yards in 91 seconds to cut the Sardis deficit to 15-14 just before halftime. Senior quarterback Will Scott completed 5-of-5 passes for 69 yards on the drive. Senior Brett Rains caught four of the passes for 58 yards, capping the drive with a 14-yard touchdown catch. Sophomore Keenan Lewis converted the 2-point conversion run.
“That was huge,” said Hill. “I really felt like that was a big part of the game.”
Sardis reclaimed the lead at 20-15 with 56 seconds left in the third quarter on a 10-yard touchdown run by Pee. The key play was a spectacular 12-yard catch by Rains at the sidelines on third-and-7 to keep the drive alive.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Lions defense delivered a clutch score as senior Carlos Mueller recovered a Locust Fork fumble in the end zone to give Sardis a 26-15 cushion with 11:52 remaining in the game.
“That put us up two scores,” Hill said. “In the type of offense they were doing, you get up two scores and it kind of takes them out of their offense. They went to throwing it more than they wanted to. We know we’re capable of scoring on offense, but anytime we can score on defense, that’s a plus.”
Junior Brian Noblitt recovered another Hornet fumble at the Locust Fork 7. That turnover set up Pee’s third touchdown, a 6-yard run with 2:44 left in the game.
Scott hit senior Dylan Bolding on the 2-point conversion pass to cap the scoring.
Pee finished with 88 yards on 10 carries, while junior Jesse Hubbard rushed for 54 yards on six carries. Lewis rushed 13 times for 45 yards.
Scott completed 11-of-17 passes for 135 yards, while Rains caught eight passes for 82 yards.
On defense, Rains and sophomore Austin Hallmark each had an interception.
“Even though I thought they played pretty well in the first half, I had to challenge our defense to get more stops and give our offense more opportunities,” said Hill. “I thought out defense brought their ‘A’ game tonight, and the offense knows they’re a lot better than what they played. Our defense kept us in the game. I feel like that’s what good teams do. When our offense is struggling, the defense picks them up and vice versa.”
Sardis visits Crossville on Friday in a Class 4A, Region 6 game.