By Taylor Beck/Sand Mountain Reporter
With potential state playoff positions hanging in the balance, the Sardis Lions hung on late to defeat its Class 5A, Region 6 rival Pirates at L.F. Corley Jr. Stadium in Boaz, 31-28.
With the victory, the Lions improve to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in region play and clinched a playoff berth. The Pirates fell to 3-5 and 2-3 on the season.
Dating back to 2013, Sardis has won five of the last seven meetings between the neighboring schools.
Sardis opened the game with a 12-play, 65-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead. Lion running back Luke Morris finished the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. The extra point kick by David Corbalan Gomez was successful. He finished the night 4-of-4 on PATs.
With 2:38 remaining in the first quarter, Boaz running back Kadin Bennefield ripped through the Sardis defense for an 80-yard touchdown run to cut the Lion lead to 7-6. The extra point attempt was blocked.
Boaz’s Carson Chamblee intercepted the ball with under two minutes remaining in the first quarter, but the Pirates failed to capitalize on the turnover.
With 9:38 left to play in the half, Sardis quarterback Jay Owens tossed a pass to Jacob Hopper (pictured above) for a 32-yard touchdown to increase the Lions lead 14-6.
With 7:33 remaining in the second quarter, Boaz tied the game at 14-14 after Bennefield raced 14 yards to the end zone and a 2-point conversion was successful.
With under six minutes remaining in the half, the Pirates’ Lorenzo Goss intercepted the ball at the Boaz 39-yard line. But for the second time, Boaz was unable to capitalize on the turnover.
After forcing Boaz to punt, Sardis took possession at the Lion 37 with 4:37 remaining in the half and drove to the 2. With 1.3 seconds on the clock, Gomez nailed a 19-yard field goal to lift Sardis to a 17-14 lead at intermission.
Boaz started with the football to begin the second half at its own 45-yard line. The Pirates drove to the Lions 5 to set up a first and goal. Boaz soon found itself in a fourth-and-goal situation at the 2-yard line. Rather than attempting a field goal to tie the game, Boaz went for it behind the legs of Bennefield. Just as Bennefield reached the 1-yard line, Hopper stripped the football away and returned it 99 yards for a Lions touchdown. Hopper’s big play gave Sardis a 24-14 advantage with 5:37 left in the third quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Benefield avenged the turnover with a 67-yard kick return for a touchdown to the cut the Lion lead down to 24-21. Gerardo Baeza’s extra point kick was successful.
Boaz’s Jaquez Kelly intercepted the ball with under two minutes remaining in the third quarter, but the Pirates had to punt, and Sardis took over at its own 47 with 56 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Nearly four minutes into the final quarter, the Lion offense found its way to the end zone to take a 31-21 lead. Owens scored on a 1-yard keeper with 9:36 remaining.
Boaz cut the Sardis lead to 31-28 when Hardin connected with Logan Walls for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 5:02 remaining in the game.
Sardis eventually sealed the victory when Boaz failed to stop the Lions on a fourth down conversion attempt.
For the Lions, Hopper finished with 79 yards and one touchdown on four receptions. Owens was 17-of-24 in passing with 253 yards and one touchdown. Luke Morris carried the football 24 times for 98 yards and a touchdown.
Bennefield finished with 22 carries for 169 yards and two touchdowns.