Wadley Beats Pickens County in 1A Semifinals 41-36
On a frigid, fall evening in Reform, Ala., fans filled the Pickens County High School football stadium to watch the Pickens County Tornadoes take on the Wadley Bulldogs, for a chance at a trip to the state championship.
Wadley’s damage started early, with safety Jacob Marable returning the game’s starting kickoff for a touchdown, putting the Bulldogs up early after a blocked extra point (6-0).
Both teams exchanged three-and-outs; unfortunately for the Tornadoes, they could not find a rhythm offensively on their next possession and were forced to punt once again, but this time, with more damage. The Bulldogs blocked the 4th-and-14 punt at the Tornadoes 16-yard line and returned it for a touchdown, extending its lead after a successful 2-point conversion (14-0).
A hat trick of mishaps occurred for Pickens County as the Tornadoes continued to show their struggles: two sacks and a false start flag lost the team 16 yards and gave Wadley the ball back.
The Bulldogs ran through the cold, depleted Pickens County defense, scoring on a one yard rush by RB Jacob Marable to increase the lead (21-0).
The multi-threat Tornadoes offense started to take form, using RB Adonta Warner, WR Korbit Somerville and WR Zach Boone to get into the red zone; however, Pickens County turned the ball over on downs after two incompletions and a sack after QB Javion Belle slipped on the turf.
When all seemed lost, the Pickens County team started to show signs of life: forcing a 3-and-out defensively. Then, the Tornadoes drove down the field, scoring on a 2-yard run by RB Adonta Warner, putting Pickens on the board with a 2-point conversion (21-8).
Wadley’s run game; however, could not be stopped. The Bulldogs utilized the rush, bringing the ball down to the 3-yard line and finally scoring on a pass to WR Isacc Minnifield to extend the lead going into halftime (27-8).
Momentum shifted towards the Tornadoes out of halftime as its defense forced a 3-and-out, interception and turnover on downs, while the offense scored 20 unanswered points to take its first lead of the night (28-27).
The run game was explosive for both teams as each shared rushing touchdowns. Wadley scored on a 13-yard rush by QB Lakevion O'Neal, and Pickens County on a 69-yard run by QB Javion Belle. The Bulldogs missed its 2-point conversion, but the Tornadoes converted, giving a three point lead to Pickens County (36-33).
"Put ourselves in a hole, took everything to get out of it. Proud of the way we played in the second half. We had to be perfect, and we were close to it," said Pickens County head coach Michael Williams.
Drained and depleted, the defense of Pickens County ran out of gas, and could not halt the Bulldogs. Wadley scored on a 4-yard touchdown run by RB Jacob Marable and a 2-point conversion miss for Wadley to take the late lead (39-36).
The winner of the game; however, was the Wadley special teams/defense duo, pinning Pickens County deep in its territory and forcing a safety to seal the 41-36 win.
"I'm proud of them, never not proud of them. We have a lot of fighters on our team. We just came out flat and can't do that in the semifinals. It was a learning experience, a lot of guys will learn from it and we will be back next year," said Pickens County head coach Michael Williams.
The Wadley Bulldogs travel to Protective Field in Birmingham, Ala., to take on the Sweet Water Bulldogs in the 1A State Championship. Kickoff is Friday, December 3rd at 3 PM CST.