By Chris McCarthy/Editor
An 0-3 start to the season must now seem like a distant memory to Hokes Bluff.
The Eagles scored touchdowns on their first four possessions of the game en route to a 37-6 victory over host Ashville in Class 4A, Area 5 action last Friday (Oct. 7).
The win was the Eagles’ fourth straight, with three of those victories coming in region play. With two region ages remaining, Hokes Bluff (4-3, 2-2) has put itself in prime position to secure its first playoff berth since 2007.
Junior quarterback Landon Johnson had a hand in the first three Eagle scores, running for one touchdowns and throwing for two others as Hokes Bluff raced a 21-0 halftime lead.
Darrian Meads’ 42-yard scoring run on the third play from scrimmage in the second half provided the Eagles with a 42-point cushion.
“We knew that Ashville was big up front and physical, and I thought we executed pretty well on offense,” said HBHS head coach Mike Robertson. “The things that we thought would work wound up working, and I also thought we played pretty well defensively. Coach [Brian] Sexton and his staff did a super job.”
Of Ashville’s 10 offensive possessions, three ended a punt, two in failed fourth down conversion attempts, one in a turnover, one in a defensive touchdowns and one in a safety.
Meads had 135 rushing yards on 15 carries. Johnson was 5 for 9 in passing for 105 yards. The Eagles finished with 310 total yards to Ashville’s 253.
The Eagles took the lead for good on their initial series of the game, an 11-play, 72-yard drive that was capped by Johnson’s 7-yard touchdown keeper at the halfway point of the first quarter.
The Hokes Bluff defense forced a second straight three-and-out, and the Eagles took advantage when Johnson and Braydon Hill hooked up for a 39-yard touchdown with 1:39 left in the opening period. Meads ran in the two-point conversion for a 14-0 advantage.
The following Bulldog drive fizzled out at the Eagle 43-yard line, and Hokes Bluff fed the ball to Meads five out of the next eight plays to get to the AHS 30, from which point Johnson and Meads connected for a touchdown pass. Andrew Colley’s PAT made it 21-0 at 7:54 of the second quarter.
The hosts then put together a drive that ate up most of the remaining clock in the first half. Ashville (2-5, 1-4) used 17 plays to travel 71 yards, converting three third downs along the way.
The Hokes Bluff defense stiffened near the goal line, however, and on fourth and goal from the Eagle 5 Hill picked off a pass in the end zone and made it all the way to the Bulldog 15 as time expired in the half.
“That was the play of the game,” said Robertson. “If they score right there, it would have been a different ball game in the second half.”
The momentum of Hill’s big play carried over into the third quarter, when Meads’ long touchdown run at 10:50 extended the lead to 28 points.
The defense joined in the fun exactly a minute later when Korey Stiefel fell on the ball in the Bulldog end zone following a bad snap. That score and Colley’s extra point made it 35-0.
On the next Ashville series, a snap sailed over the Bulldog punter and out of the end zone, giving Hokes Bluff a safety and a 37-point advantage.
The hosts avoided the shutout Kyle King’s touchdown run with 2:30 left in the game.
“I’m real proud of the kids for [winning] four games in a row,” said Robertson. “It’s pretty much a playoff game next week [at home against region rival Anniston]. Hopefully we’ll make it through the week healthy.”