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.
Sardis opened the football game with a 12-play, 65-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead. Lions running back Luke Morris had carries of 3, 9, 8, 5, 4, 10 and 0 before finishing 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.
On Boaz’s opening offensive drive, Pirates quarterback Easton Hardin threw three straight incompletions, and the team was forced to punt. On the Lion’s next possession, the offense also stalled after three plays and was forced to punt.
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 Lions’ lead to 7-6. The extra point attempt was blocked.
On the Lion’s ensuing possession, on the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Jay Owens threw an interception into the hands of Boaz’s Carson Chamblee with under two minutes remaining in the quarter, but the Pirates failed to capitalize on the turnover.
In the second quarter, with 9:38 left to play in the half, Owens tossed a pass to Jacob Hopper for a 32-yard touchdown to increase the Lions’ lead 14-6.
On the next possession, with 7:33 remaining in the second quarter, Boaz answered back and eventually tied the game 14-14 after Bennefield raced 14 yards to the end zone and a 2-point conversion was successful.
On the Lions’ next offensive drive, Owens threw his second interception of the night with under six minutes remaining in the half. Pirates defender Lorenzo Goss snatched the ball away at the Boaz 39-yard line. But for the second time, the Pirates’ offense was unable to capitalize on the turnover.
After forcing Boaz to punt, Sardis took possession at the Lions 37-yard line with 4:37 remaining in the half and was able to drive down to the 2-yard line. With 1.3 seconds on the clock, Gomez nailed a 19-yard field goal to lift the Lions to a 17-14 lead at intermission.
Boaz started with the football to begin the second half at its own 45-yard line. In about six minutes, the offense drove down to the Lions 5-yard line to setup a first and goal. After a series of penalties from both teams and a couple runs from Bennefield, the Pirates found themselves 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 defensive play gave Sardis a 24-14 advantage with 5:37 left in the third quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Bennefield avenged the turnover with a 67-yard kick return for a touchdown to the cut the Lions’ lead down to 24-21. Gerardo Baeza’s extra point kick was successful. Baeza finished the night 2-of-3 on PATs.
When the Sardis offense regained possession, Owens threw his third interception of the game, this time into the hands of Boaz’s Jaquez Kelly, with under two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
But again, Boaz failed to take advantage of the interception.
After the Pirates punted, Sardis took over at its own 47-yard line with 56 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Nearly four minutes into the final quarter, the Lions 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.
To overcome the 10-point lead, Boaz drove down the field in 10 plays and scored to cut the Lions lead to 31-28. Hardin connected with Logan Walls for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 5:02 remaining in the game.
Choosing to rely on the defense, Boaz kicked it deep, and after a penalty against the Lions, Sardis started its offensive drive backed up against its own end zone at the 5-yard line.
Sardis eventually sealed the victory as Boaz failed to stop the Lions on fourth down, and then gave up a 25-yard completion from Owens to Hopper on the following third down.
For the Lions, Hopper finished with 79 yards and one touchdown on 4 receptions. Owens finished 17-of-24 passing with 253 yards and one touchdown. He also had 3 carries for 5 yards and a touchdown. Luke Morris carried the football 24 times for 98 yards and a touchdown.
For Boaz, Bennefield finished with 22 carries for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Hardin finished 3-of-10 passing with 31 yards and one touchdown. He also had 29 rushing yards.
With the victory, the Lions improve to 4-3 (3-2 in region play). The Pirates fall to 3-5 (2-3) on the season.
Dating back to 2013, Sardis has won five of the last seven meetings between the neighboring schools.