For the first time in four years, Cordova will not make its way to the Super Six.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with no practice during Thanksgiving,” said an emotional head coach Pete Bush.
The game was billed as two of the top offenses facing off in a slugfest, however, the contest was anything but. Both defenses were steady on the night.
On the opening drive Piedmont marched down field 80 yards, using 17 plays and 9:20 of the clock to find the end zone.
Cordova’s defense was stifling on first and second downs, but the Bulldogs converted four third-down conversions on the drive, ending with a Chris Strott pass to Jamaal Johnson on third-and-goal for a 7-0 lead.
Cordova was unable to answer the score, but running back Cody Staten was able to gain 28 yards on the ensuing drive before the Blue Devils turned the ball over on a bad pitch between quarterback Jake Howton and Staten.
Cordova’s defense held strong on the Bulldogs next possession, forcing a punt.
Staten and Howton combined for all 84 yards on the next drive, capped by Staten’s 45-yard scamper to the end zone with 5:37 left in the first half for a 7-7 tie.
The tie was short lived because just two minutes later, Strott and Johnson hooked up again for a touchdown pass and a 14-7 Piedmont lead. Strott was nearly flawless in the half, completing 12-of-13 passes.
Not only did the Blue Devils go down a touchdown on the drive, Cordova was also down a player.
Howton was injured on Strott’s lone incomplete pass in the half and was unable to return due to a broken ankle.
Howton finished the night with 38 rushing yards and 9 yards through the air.
Cordova, not to be outdone, took control of the ball and made its way to pay dirt with Chris Kilpatrick under center. He nailed Maleki Harris on a 46-yard pass play and found Harris again for a four-yard touchdown pass.
Once it was learned Howton would not re-enter the game, Cordova rallied around its quarterback and work horse Staten.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs were keying on Staten, and despite rushing for 35 yards on the first drive of the second half, Cordova failed to convert on fourth-and-six, turning the ball over to Piedmont.
Harris then made his presence felt on the defensive side of the ball.
A leaping interception saved a would-be touchdown, and the Blue Devils were back in business.
However, another missed opportunity on fourth down left Cordova in a downtrodden state.
The Bulldogs were able to capitalize, and Johnson scored his third touchdown on the night, a five-yard run that put the Bulldogs back ahead 21-14 with 2:44 left in the third quarter.
But Staten was on a mission to keep Cordova alive. On his first touch from scrimmage, Staten raced 62 yards to the Piedmont 2-yard line.
Kilpatrick then found Harris for another touchdown pass after Staten lost five yards on first and second down.
Harris and Kilpatrick combined for 107 yards on five hook-ups between the tandem.
Staten still finished his night with 205 yards rushing on 26 carries.
With the game tied, Piedmont turned to its unsung hero, fullback Jamie Major. Major took the next play 75 yards for a touchdown, leaving the Blue Devils faithful stunned.
Cordova then saw its offense crumble. A fourth-down conversion attempt failed once again, and Kilpatrick threw two interceptions in desperation attempts, and Piedmont held on for the win.
“Our guys could’ve folded when (Howton) went out, but they came together and fought. We made it a game,” Bush said. “We had our chances to win it at the end, and our guys stepped up. Jake was 90 percent of our offense, and we played hard. I’m proud of them.”