Photo courtesy of Bentley Gray Photography
By Shannon J. Allen/Sand Mountain Reporter
Class 5A Sardis led 6A Albertville 14-13 at halftime in last Thursday’s non-region football game, but the Aggies outscored the Lions 32-6 in the second half to pull away for a 45-20 victory in Sardis City.
Albertville (5-4) forced six turnovers, including two fumble recoveries by Caleb Champion. Chi Jordan had two interceptions, returning one of them for a touchdown. The Aggies converted Sardis’ turnovers into 26 points.
Albertville’s defense has forced 32 turnovers this season, an average of 3.5 per game. The amount is believed to be a school record.
“[Albertville] had us reeling, and we’re a little bit shorthanded'” said Sardis head coach Gene Hill. “Our No. 1 and No. 2 [running] backs were out, which I know they’ve got some guys hurt too. We just left too many opportunities there on the table and didn’t play well overall. Defensive-wise, we didn’t tackle very well, and [Albertville] may have had something to do with that.”
Albertville, which improved to 6-0 all-time against Sardis, took the second-half kickoff and marched 77 yards in 10 plays to capture the lead.
Ben Allen was 5-of-7 passing on the drive, with the longest throw a 19-yarder to Chase Kitchens. Luke Kelly swept around right end for 16 yards and a touchdown with 10:13 left in the third quarter, making it 19-14. Allen threw an incompletion on the two-point conversion.
Sardis (5-4) responded by moving 63 yards in 10 plays to reclaim the advantage.
Jay Owens (pictured above) started the drive with a 25-yard completion to Taylor Minyard, and Owens converted a third-and-10 with a 13-yard completion to Jacob Hopper.
Owens ran 17 yards for a first-and-goal at the Aggie 8, but the Albertville defense stiffened and forced Sardis into a fourth-and-goal from the 7.
The officials penalized AHS for interfering with Hopper in the end zone, however, giving Sardis another fourth-down chance. Owens made it count by keeping around right end for a 3-yard TD with 6:29 to go. The Lions’ two-point conversion failed but they led 20-19.
Jordan collected his first interception at the 2:28 mark of the third, setting up the TD drive that propelled the Aggies in front for good. AHS covered 36 yards in five plays. Allen fought his way into the end zone on an 11-yard keeper with 1:03 left. It appeared to be a broken play because Allen dropped the snap, scooped it up and bolted toward the goal line. Allen threw an incompletion on the two-point conversion attempt but AHS was up 25-20.
On the ensuing possession, Sardis went for it on fourth-and-one from the 50. The Lions missed a first down by the length of the football.
Albertville didn’t capitalize on the good field position, but Allen’s 38-yard punt pinned Sardis on its 4-yard line. The Lions lost a yard in three downs and punted for only 22 yards to their own 26.
Kelly dashed for 16 yards and then raced another 10 to the end zone with 7:25 remaining in the game.
Jordan’s second interception went for a pick-six at the 5:51 mark. Jason Rodriguez added the extra point, extending Albertville’s margin to 38-20.
On the first play after the kickoff, Boman intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 38 yards to the Lion 2. Kelly scored from there on first-and-goal, and Rodriguez kicked it to 45-20 with 5:35 remaining.
The Lions failed to field Rodriguez’s high, short kickoff, and he dived into the pile and recovered it at the Sardis 38. The Aggie offense took over and ran out the clock.
Sardis opened the game with a 10-play, 70-yard scoring drive, capped by Owens’ 24-yard TD pass to Temon Wilson. David Corbalan hit the extra point, making it 7-0.
The Aggies answered on their initial drive, as Allen tossed a 3-yard scoring pass to Hayden Mann with 5:41 left in the first period. Rodriguez’s extra point tied it 7-all.
Champion recovered his first Sardis fumble with 4:09 remaining, but the Aggies did not convert it into points.
Sardis erased the tie on its next series by driving 78 yards in five plays. Owens started the drive with completions of 25 yards to Wilson and 29 yards to Brayden Bridges.
On a third-and-17 play, Owens rolled right and lofted a 31-yard touchdown pass down the sideline to Minyard. Corbalan’s point-after made it 14-7.
Champion then recovered his second Sardis fumble at the 50 to set up an Aggie scoring drive.
Allen hit Bell with a pass across the middle, and the 6-foot-7 Bell turned it into a tackle-breaking 25-yard touchdown play with 5:28 left in the second quarter. Rodriguez missed the PAT, leaving Sardis in front 14-13.
Sardis responded with a nine-play drive that reached Albertville’s 2-yard line.
Elijah Moss broke up Brody Samples’ halfback pass in the back corner of the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 2 with 53.7 seconds on the clock.
The turnovers were the difference in the ballgame,” Albertville head coach Cliff Mitchell said. “Hats off to Sardis. They’re a dadgum good football team. They never would give us any kind of breathing room.”
Sardis, which clinched the region’s third seed in their win over Boaz on Oct. 11, visits Central-Clay County in the first round of the state playoffs on Nov. 8. The Lions closes out the regular season at Hokes Bluff this Friday (Oct. 25).