THURSDAY PREPS: Lanier advances with comeback win over Paul Bryant
By Tim Gayle
Sidney Lanier’s Noah Hart caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from James Foster with just under five minutes left to give the Poets a 21-20 victory over Paul Bryant in the opening round of the Class 6A state playoffs at Cramton Bowl on Thursday night.
“I checked to a slant but I saw (the defender) sitting inside so I just broke it to the fade and my quarterback got me the ball,” said Hart, who caught three passes for 46 yards but had another apparent touchdown reception ruled out of bounds on the final play of the first half. “This is my first time winning a playoff game so it’s a big win for us.”
Lanier (10-1) will play host to Pelham or travel to Spanish Fort for the second round of the playoffs next week. It was the Poets’ first playoff victory since 2006 and they looked the part, putting together a shaky performance on Thursday.
“I think the guys just found some character and resolve and we just stuck together,” Lanier coach Marvin Cunningham said. “The coaching staff and I talked about just keeping them focused on playing football and not the winning or losing side of it. We just wanted to play football and not worry about the scoreboard.”
The Stampede, aiming for the program’s first playoff victory, took a 19-14 lead with 8:16 left on a quick slant-in pass from Ty’Javian Edwards to Seth Williams that turned into a 69-yard scoring play, but opted to kick the extra point and Jack Leach’s kick made it a six-point game.
Lanier then used a 35-yard kickoff return by Adjante Oliver to start an eight-play drive at midfield. Five runs by Jacory Merritt set the stage for Foster’s pass to Hart in the left corner of the end zone.
Foster gave the Poets a 7-0 lead on a 2-yard quarterback sneak in the first quarter before the Stampede (6-5) rallied with a 29-yard field goal by Leach and a 12-yard pass from Edwards to Lionel Grant for a 10-7 lead.
Leach added another field goal, this one from 30 yards, to give Paul Bryant a six-point lead at the half as Lanier’s final play of the first half, a 28-yard pass from Foster to Hart, was ruled out of the back of the end zone.
Lanier would take a 14-13 lead on another Foster quarterback sneak before the Stampede rallied in the fourth quarter with Williams’ touchdown reception.
Paul Bryant would have one last shot after Hart’s touchdown catch, driving as deep as the Lanier 29 with six seconds left, but Williams got under his 46-yard field goal attempt, sending the ball straight up into the air as time ran out.
“It means a lot to us,” said Merritt, who finished with 79 yards on 21 carries. “Our goal is to proceed into the playoffs one game at a time and that’s one mindset. We came out with the win.”
Gary Quarles led the Stampede with 174 yards on 28 carries, while Edwards was 6 of 9 for 120 yards, all of it coming in the second and fourth quarters.
Foster was 16 of 24 for 217 yards and a touchdown for the Poets.
Defensively, Dezuro Hewitt led Paul Bryant with 10 tackles, followed by Jemarcus Burrell with eight. Glenn Adams led Lanier with 11 tackles, followed by L’Dontay Garrison and Oliver with eight tackles each.