“We knew coming that we are banged up,” Sylacauga head coach Matt Griffith said.” We are hurt and it has limited us offensively. We knew Talladega was very much improved defensively. This is the biggest, fastest team that I have seen them have in a long time. We had our hands full tonight. We knew it would come down to special teams, who played really well defensively and who makes less mistakes.”
Offense was at a minimum as both teams struggled to move the ball at times.
The Tigers (3-5, 2-4) got on the board first in the first quarter.
After a short punt, Talladega took over at the Sylacauga 48-yard line. Brandon Wilson went around right end and sprinted 26-yards into the end zone for a touchdown. Sylacauga’s Dexter Averiette blocked the PAT attempt.
Both teams were able to drive into their opponents’ territory, but their drives would falter.
Sylacauga was able to get down to the Talladega 43-yard line, but TJ Smith was tackled for a loss on fourth and 2, which forced the Aggies to turn the ball over on downs.
Sylacauga welcomed back their leading rusher Ian Floyds, who saw limited action as he tries to work his way back from a high ankle sprain. The senior showed signs of getting healthy, as he was able to carry the Aggies down the field for a touchdown. Floyd rushed for 24 of the 46 yards on the drive, which included a 15-yard run down to the Talladega 5. Hunter Johns scored a few plays later on a keeper from 2 yards out. The PAT was good to give Sylacauga a 7-6 lead with 2:56 left in the half.
The Tigers looked like they were going to drive down the field and put points on the board in the second quarter. Talladega got down to the Aggies 33-yard line, but Zach Spratlin threw his second interception of the game to Andrew Robertson.
“It was a hard fought game and it is a shame that somebody had to lose,” Talladega head coach Chris Mahand said. “We fell a little short tonight. I am proud of my boys, they fought hard and it is a shame someone had to lose tonight.
Both teams’ defenses stiffened in a scoreless third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, special teams and defensive plays was the difference for the Aggies.
A penalty-plagued possession forced the Tigers to punt from the Sylacauga 9-yard line. TJ Green muffed the punt as he attempted to go toward the right, behind a blocker. The senior regained control of the ball and took down the left sideline with a wall of black jerseys leading the way for a 49-yard touchdown. The PAT was good to give the Aggies a 14-6 advantage.
“I knew after I made a mistake I had to make up for it and the best way to do that is with a touchdown,” Green said.
In addition to his punt return touchdown, Green recorded an interception and pass deflection on a halfback pass.
“This is just what my team expects me to do as a leader,” Green said.” I knew we needed a big play and I had to come out here and make them.”
On the ensuing kickoff, Wilson returned the football 35 yards down the left sideline to Sylacauga 25-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Wilson ran for 15 yards to set first and goal from the 10-yard line. On second and goal, Spratlin went back to pass, but he was hit as he rolled to his left by Austin Masters which caused him to fumble. The Aggies recovered the football.
“Thank goodness our defense continues to play well,” Griffith said. “I tell you what we played well in spots offensively. In the last three weeks we haven’t put a complete game together offensively. When you face a county rival and they always play us really hard — we will take a 20-6 win any day.”
Hunter Johns sealed the Aggies victory late in the game with a 1 yard touchdown run to give the Aggies a 20-6 lead.
The Aggies travel to take on Shelby County next Friday, while the Tigers travel to take on Homewood.