October 11, 2009 3:24:00 PM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
REFORM, Ala. -- No one wanted Dominique Jones to go down.
But a hush came over G.S. Spruill Stadium when the Pickens County High School senior running back/wide receiver went down with a hip pointer in the second quarter against American Christian Academy on Friday night.
The Tornadoes still might have been dazed from losing their do-it-all performer because they failed to punch the ball in for a touchdown after Jones helped get the ball as close as the Patriots'' 1.
That missed opportunity loomed even larger later in the quarter when American Christian capitalized on a miscommunication on the snap of a punt and took over at the Tornadoes 18 with 40.3 seconds to go before halftime.
Someone had to emerge for Pickens County.
Thanks to some great vision from Jamal Giles, the Tornadoes held their ground.
Giles'' interception in the end zone helped Pickens County preserve a six-point lead going into halftime. He then teamed with quarterback Deion Curry on a 78-yard pass play on the third play of the second half to propel the Tornadoes to a 26-0 victory in an Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 2A, Region 4 game.
Pickens County (7-0, 5-0 region), ranked No. 1 in Class 2A in this week''s Alabama Sports Writers Association rankings, took over sole possession of first place in the region.
ACA slipped to 4-3 and 4-1.
"I was keeping my eyes on the quarterback (Austin Grammer) the whole time," said Curry, who was honored with his senior classmates before the game. "He could roll to whatever side he wanted to and when he let it go I was going to go for the ball and try to knock it down or make an interception. They weren''t getting in."
Grammer scrambled for 16 yards on second down to give the Patriots a first-and-goal from the 2 with 18 seconds left. With no timeouts remaining, the Patriots spiked the ball on first down and then opted to throw instead of trying a running play that might have limited them to one final play.
On second down, Tony Easterwood and Mark Sterling pressured Grammer and forced an incompletion that left 12.4 seconds in the first half.
That play set the stage for Giles, who had two interceptions. He said Grammer (10 of 27, 81 yards, three interceptions) stared down his intended receiver in the middle of the end zone and all he tried to do was to sneak around and not be seen and then make a timely break on the ball.
The interception was part of a defensive effort that limited the Patriots to 67 yards rushing and 148 total yards on a soggy turf still wet from a week''s worth of rain.
"The defense stepped up big time," Giles said. "When one goes out, somebody else steps in. We''re a family."
Giles'' time in the spotlight wasn''t done.
The senior wide receiver was wide open on a first-and-10 play from the Tornadoes 20. Curry (8 of 14, 127 yards) didn''t see him and threw an incompletion to a receiver in the middle of the field.
After the play, Curry motioned that he realized too late that Giles was open. Pickens County coach Scott Marchant told his quarterback to go back to Giles after a running play on second down netted 2 yards.
The result was electrifying.
Curry delivered a laser-like pass to Giles just inside the right sideline that Giles snared in between three defenders and then raced 78 yards for the score.
"I was patient and knew he was going to come to me," Giles said. "I thought I was going to lay out for it, but it came straight to me. It was a perfect pass."
Curry said he didn''t want to put too much air under the throw because he knew Giles was going to attract plenty of attention.
"He''s a playmaker and he made a play," Curry said. "I tried to put just enough air under it so he could make a play on his own."
Curry gave Pickens County a 6-0 lead in the first quarter when he scooped up a loose ball out of rugby-like scrum and raced 55 yards for a touchdown. The extra point failed.
Curry helped ice the game in the fourth quarter when he sprinted out to the left and reached the football just inside the pylon for a 10-yard touchdown run that pushed the lead to 18-0 with 11 minutes, 49 seconds to play in the game.
A 46-yard return by James Adams, which was partially negated by a block in the back penalty, helped set up the Tornadoes'' final score, a 22-yard run by Keith Hall.
But Curry credited Giles for stepping in to make a key interception that helped the Tornadoes keep the lead.
"Our coach loves defense, and if we let somebody in he probably wouldn''t like that to much," said Curry, who plays in the secondary. "We just held our ground and prayed for the best. (Jamal) kept his head on the quarterback. That is one thing you have to do, and he made the big play when we needed it."
The score gave the Tornadoes a two-score lead and changed the momentum of the game. It was a fitting sendoff for a senior group that has helped Pickens County solidify its place as one of the top teams in Class 2A in the state of Alabama.
"I tried to play all out in my last home game of the season," Giles said.
Marchant said the victory was an effort that made the entire team better. He said Jones will get better, although he didn''t know if his senior would miss any game action, and that losing him for the rest of the game provided a test that the rest of the Tornadoes, especially the defense, passed with a stellar grade.
"That is the second time we have been put in a short-yardage situation in a close football game, and both times our defense has embraced the situation as an opportunity to shine," said Marchant of Giles'' interception. "They did it again. They understand that is their opportunity to do what they do. You either get it done or you don''t."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.