The victory sends Piedmont (10-2) to the quarterfinals once again. The Bulldogs will host Hamilton (11-1) next Friday. The Aggies claimed a 33-14 win over Elkmont in other Class 3A playoff action on Friday.
Childers had his typical standout night — he completed 14-of-16 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 143 yards — but the real story was a Piedmont defense that refused to allow Susan Moore any momentum.
Susan Moore (9-3) was successful on two on-side kick attempts and also recovered a fumble in the Piedmont red zone, but Piedmont’s defense did not allow a single first down on the resulting three possessions.
Still, Susan Moore controlled the ball for most of the first half, and it led to Piedmont coach Steve Smith taking a huge gamble with four minutes left in the second quarter.
After Christian Cantrell put Piedmont up 7-0 on a 7-yard run, Susan Moore tied the game at 7 on Justin Hawkins’ 5-yard touchdown pass to Cody Sanders.
On the ensuing possession, Piedmont received the ball at its own 1 with 5:41 left in the quarter. Three plays netted just less than ten yards and set up what is generally considered an automatic punting situation.
But Smith left the offense on the field, and Childers’ sneak was successful.
“We’ve got seniors across the front, senior guard, senior left tackle, senior center, a senior quarterback who’s built like a fullback,” Smith said. “If we can’t get an inch — I don’t care if it’s on our ten or their ten — if we can’t get an inch, we don’t deserve to win.”
Smith said he understood that he would be the “goat” if the play was unsuccessful, but felt his defense was wearing down.
“That ain’t the right call to make,” he said. “But they play 22 guys — they play nobody both ways — and our defense had been on the field the whole first half. We felt like if we could make the first down, we could get some momentum, and it happened to work out for us.”
It did give Piedmont some momentum, and the Bulldogs were able to capitalize with a 17-play, 99-yard drive that ended with a spectacular 12-yard touchdown pass.
Childers — who completed all five of his pass attempts for 48 yards on the drive — threw a fade to the end zone in the direction of Jamal Johnson. The Susan Moore defender appeared to have perfect position on the play, but Johnson jumped over him from behind and wrestled the ball away for a 12-yard touchdown with seven seconds left in the half.
“(The fade route) is something we kind of save for when we need it,” Johnson said, who also had seven tackles on defense. “We needed a touchdown there, and Chase threw a good ball and I just made a play on the ball while it was in the air.”
Still, the 14-7 lead at halftime was a precarious one, and Susan Moore had plenty of chances to tie the game. But Piedmont’s defense refused to concede.
“Our defensive line was getting pressure on the quarterback and our defensive backs were able to lock their receivers down,“ said Johnson, who also plays safety.
Indeed, Piedmont was able to completely stifle the running game. Susan Moore had a total of 62 rushing yards in the game, over half of which came on the last play.
That allowed Piedmont to tee off on Hawkins. Hawkins threw for 119 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 61 more, but he was sacked four times.
“No doubt our defense stepped up and played great tonight,” Smith said. “We put our defense in some bad positions and they sure did step up and play well tonight.”
When the Piedmont offense finally saw the field, the Bulldogs were able to pull away.
Christian Cantrell scored his second touchdown of the night with 38 seconds left in the third quarter, and then Johnson — with Cantrell on the sideline due to a minor injury — scored the final touchdown of the night on a 6-yard run.
Cantrell finished the game with 16 carries for 105 yards and three scores.