“I thought in the first half, they did a good job of taking what we do away from us and making us do some different things to be able to move the football,” Sylacauga head coach Matt Griffith said. “By the third quarter, people get tired and then we can do what we need to do. They did a good job there. I thought Hunter (Johns) played well. We got a lot of good spots and it’s enough to come back in on Saturday and let’s watch film and let’s correct the mistakes.”
Hayden started the game with a long, plodding offensive drive, but Montel McGhee scored a momentum-shifting field goal block. After a holding penalty, the Aggies started their drive at their own 5-yard line. Quarterback Hunter Johns completed a pass of 55 yards to get thing going on the drive. Johns finished off the drive with a 10-yard quarterback keeper for a touchdown and the PAT was good to make it 7-0.
A Hayden fumble put the ball back in Sylacauga’s hands. Hunter Johns went to the air this time, finding Matt Griffitt who managed to outrun multiple Hayden defenders for a 51-yard touchdown reception. The PAT failed to make it 13-0.
On the team’s next offensive possession, the Aggies again struck through the air as Johns connected on a short pass out to the right to receiver Brooks Jackson. Jackson cut back to the middle and was able to find enough space to get past multiple Hayden defenders for a 17-yard touchdown reception. The two-point conversion failed to make it 19-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, McGhee made a heads-up play when Hayden didn’t field the ball cleanly and McGhee was there to snatch it up and score a touchdown. The PAT was good to make it 26-0, the last bit of scoring before halftime.
Sylacauga was slowed by holding penalties in the second quarter. Hunter Johns threw a perfect pass over the middle to Keith Pitts who ran the ball into the end zone for what would have been a touchdown, but the play was negated by a holding penalty.
“I thought we came out offensively really well,” Griffith said. “I’m a little disappointed; we got sloppy at the end of the second quarter. We had a lot of mistakes; we had a lot of holding penalties. There’s a lot to correct right there, but on the whole, I think we played decent. I think we threw the ball well in spots. It’s just something to build on. We’ve got a lot to correct this week before we beat a team like Briarwood.”
In the second half, Ian Floyd seemed to be doing well before he fumbled the football at the 2-yard line. Prior to that, Floyd had a 20-yard run to put the Aggies in scoring position.
Hayden took over on their own 2, but Dylan Putnam set the team up nicely with a 71-yard run. Zach Pearson made a touchdown-saving tackle at the Sylacauga 26-yard line.
But just when Hayden seemed to finally gain some kind of momentum, they were done in by costly mistakes. First, Stephen Strickland got into the backfield for a quarterback sack. Then, the ball was moved back for a false start penalty. As their drive was beginning to falter, it crumbled altogether following a fumble recovered by Tristan Foster.
Floyd was able to redeem himself as he managed to break roughly four tackles to get into the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown run to make it 32-0. The PAT was wide left.
By the fourth quarter, Sylacauga had mostly reserve players in the game but still managed a Bailey Frost field goal after marching to the 2-yard line.
Hayden was able to get on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, as Putnam made a successful field goal attempt at the 14-yard line to put the score where it finished at, 35-3.
Griffith was pleased with his defense’s overall performance, but feels the unit still needs to make improvements.
“I thought our defense played hard and got after it,” Griffith said. “We had some breakdowns and they had a couple of long runs. We have some breakdowns that we need to get correct defensively, but the effort is there. It’s the first game, first game jitters. We’ll hopefully get that worked out.”