By Lionel Green/Sand Mountain Reporter
Sardis senior Brett Rains caught the go-ahead touchdown pass on offense and snagged the decisive interception on defense to lead the Lions to a thrilling 31-24 win over the Geraldine Bulldogs on Friday at Sardis Stadium.
The Class 4A Lions improve to 5-0 with the win. The Bulldogs, ranked No. 9 in Class 3A, drop to 3-2 on the season.
With the game tied at 24-24, Sardis senior quarterback Will Scott threw a 41-yard scoring strike to Rains for a 31-24 lead with 4:38 left in the game.
The Bulldogs marched to the Lions 19 on the ensuing drive, but Rains made a diving interception on the 8-yard line with 1:11 remaining to ice the game.
The two teams battled back and forth all night.
Geraldine scored on its opening drive when Bulldogs quarterback Jake Maddox threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Payton Dowdey for a 7-0 lead with 10:04 left in the first quarter.
Sardis sophomore Austin Hallmark intercepted a Maddox pass on the Bulldogs’ next drive, setting up the Lions at the Geraldine 36. Four plays later, senior Braun Pee scored on a 3-yard run to knot the game up at 7-7 with 1:52 remaining in the first period.
At the 3:05 mark of the second quarter, the Bulldogs added a safety for a 9-7 lead when their defense forced Scott to the throw the ball out of the back of his own end zone.
Down 9-7 at halftime, Sardis resorted to its high-speed passing game.
On the Lions’ opening drive of the second half, Scott lofted a 32-yard rainbow pass to Rains, giving Sardis its first lead at 14-9 with 10:17 left in the third.
Geraldine responded with its powerful ground game.
Devan Totherow scored on a 2-yard touchdown plunge and added a 2-point conversion run to give the Bulldogs the lead back at 17-14 with 6:19 remaining in the third. The key play of the scoring drive was a 40-yard run by Jacob Bolin.
The Lions’ ensuing drive stalled at the Geraldine 7. Senior kicker Tim Kalascheck nailed a 25-yard field goal to tie the game at 17-17 with 2:41 left in the third.
Geraldine ran the ball to the 40 on its next drive before a fumbled ball popped into the air on the first play of the fourth quarter. An alert Hallmark caught the ball and returned it 45 yards for the touchdown and a 24-17 Sardis lead with 11:48 remaining in the game.
The Bulldogs tied the game on their next drive. Totherow capped a 10-play, 77-yard drive with a 2-yard scoring run bulled to tie the game at 24-24 with 6:16 left. Totherow carried the ball all 10 plays of the drive, which included a 45-yard run.
Scott completed 12-of-19 passes for 249 yards. Rains caught fives passes for 140 yards. Hallmark had four receptions for 45 yards.
The Lions only amassed 63 total yards rushing. Pee had 30 yards on four rushes to lead Sardis.
Sardis head coach Gene Hill said his players needed a challenge like Geraldine, the best team Sardis has played so far this season.
“The first four games we played were not really close games where we had to play the entire fourth quarter,” Hill said. “I knew going into this [game] we were going to have to play four quarters. Having to play four quarters and scrapping like we did and finding a way to win the football game, I think that’s big for our football team.
“We still didn’t slow them down in the second half,” Hill added. “The two mistakes Geraldine made on offense, we took advantage of. As far as slowing them down, we didn’t do that. This ball game could’ve gone either way. I could very easily see them winning the ball game, but our guys found a way to win it.
“This is really huge for us going into the second half because looking ahead at our schedule, we’ve got a tough Guntersville team. So we’re going to be in some four-quarter games.”
Before the Geraldine-Sardis game, the Lions honored former quarterback Corey Garmon, who suffered serious injuries as a soldier while in Afghanistan. Garmon flipped the coin at the start of the game, a coin toss that his alma mater won. He didn’t feel any pressure, saying the winner of the coin toss doesn’t matter much.
“You’re going to have to do what you have to do,” he said.
Hill said Garmon’s attendance made the game special.
“Yesterday, he spoke to us when we had out pregame meal on Thursday,” Hill said. “He talked about when he played quarterback here.”
Sardis visits Guntersville on Friday as the Lions return to region play.