“Our kids did a great job all week,” Sylacauga head coach Matt Griffith said. “We’ve been really focused. You’ve got to give Talladega credit for the first half. I’ll tell you something: they’ve played everybody really tough the first half. That goes to show you they’re doing things right. They’re a young football team, and they’ll get nothing but better by next year.
“I thought our kids did a great job the second half. They stayed focused. That just about puts us as a lock in the playoffs and it puts us back-to-back and that hasn’t been done here since ‘97-98, so we’re really pleased right now.”
On their first drive, Sylacauga was able to get inside the Talladega 20-yard line, but Ian Floyd fumbled the ball.
Talladega took advantage of the turnover. It appeared as though the Sylacauga defense had stopped the Talladega offense, but the Tigers were awarded an automatic first down when the Aggies were charged with roughing the kicker. Ahmad Gooden gave the offense some momentum with a 15-yard run. Quarterback Ken Wells finished off the drive with a 22-yard option keeper for a touchdown. Jack Bailey nailed the PAT to give Talladega a 7-0 lead.
Once again, the Aggies made progress yardage-wise, but came away with nothing to show for it as Bailey Frost’s field goal attempt was no good.
Talladega suffered from the same malady on their ensuing possession. They drove to the Sylacauga 9-yard line, led by a fingertip catch by Mario Echols for a 31-yard pass reception. Penalties, a quarterback sack and several incompletions left the Tigers turning over the ball on downs at the 26-yard line.
Sylacauga began to found sustained success by opening up their passing game. Hunter Johns completed two consecutive passes for a gain of 52 yards. Ian Floyd finished off the drive by walking into the end zone untouched on a four-yard run for a touchdown. Frost’s PAT was good to tie it, 7-7.
On the opening drive of the second half, Floyd scored on a nine-yard option run. The PAT was good to give Sylacauga their first lead of the game, 14-7.
On Talladega’s ensuing drive, Stephen Strickland intercepted a Ken Wells pass. The resulting Sylacauga drive culminated in an Erskin McKinney four-yard touchdown run on fourth down. With a successful PAT, the Aggies extended their lead to 21-7.
“We played as good as we could play in that first half, 7-7,” Talladega head coach Robert Herring said. “We came out in the second half, they had that drive, and then we came out and put our defense in a bad spot by throwing that interception. We gave them a short end of the field. After that, it was just downhill, but you’ve got to credit Sylacauga. They do a great job and they’re good. Our hats are off to them for making halftime adjustments. Coach Griffith and his staff do a great job. I’m hoping that’s where we’re going to be in a year or two. We’re just trying to get better every week.”
In the fourth quarter, Sylacauga made another successful gamble by turning to McKinney on fourth down from the 1 yard line. McKinney ran it in for a touchdown, Frost kicked the extra point, and Sylacauga increased their lead to 28-7.
Another Wells interception gave Sylacauga the ball at midfield, where Alex Thomason made a 48-yard run for a touchdown, cementing the win 35-7.
“We’ve got to finish up strong,” Griffith said. “We’ve got another big region game next week (Shelby County). I don’t think it affects the playoffs, but we want to make sure we’re in that third slot and just finish up strong.”
With the region loss eliminating Talladega’s remaining playoff hopes, Herring wants his team to continue to work hard as they have for the entirety of the season.
“We’ve got to keep on pushing and just build,” Herring said. “It doesn’t get any easier for us. We’ve got Homewood coming next week. Everybody knows how good they are. We just have to get better at practice this week, just keep doing the things we’re doing and let these players grow every week. We knew we weren’t going to turn this thing around in a year, but we’re proud of what our guys have accomplished this year so far. We’re going to watch film Sunday, see what we messed up on in the second half, try to correct it and get ready for Homewood next week.”