SARDIS CITY — Class 5A Sardis led 6A Albertville 14-13 at halftime in Thursday night’s nonregion football game, but the Aggies outscored the Lions 32-6 in the second half to pull away for a 45-20 victory at Sardis Stadium.
Albertville (5-4) forced six turnovers, including two fumble recoveries by Caleb Champion. Chi Jordan grabbed 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.
“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.
“We had a few guys who were dinged up, but we kept fighting. Great pick-six by Chi. Trinity [Bell] spikes the ball and Cade [Boman] catches it and goes and almost scores.
“I’m really proud of our offense. Ben [Allen] did a really good job. Even though his shoulder was banged up early on, he still kept playing.
“It was a great ballgame between two local schools, and hats off to Sardis. Those guys are coached up, and good luck to them.”
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 started the drive with a 25-yard completion to Taylor Minyard, and he converted a third-and-10 with a 13-yard completion to Jacob Hopper, who made a great catch.
Owens ran 17 yards for a first-and-goal at the 8, but Albertville’s 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, 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, 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 then punted for only 22 yards to their 26.
Kelly dashed 16 yards and then raced 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 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 didn’t 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 recovered his second Sardis fumble, this time 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.
“We left a touchdown there before halftime,” Sardis head coach Gene Hill said. “We catch it in our hands and they knock it away from us, and then the fourth-down play, fourth-and-one [in the fourth quarter], we go and don’t get it.
“Defensive-wise, we didn’t tackle very well, and they may have had something to do with that.
“They had us reeling, and we’re a little bit shorthanded. Our No. 1 and No. 2 [running] backs are 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.”