October 30, 2009 9:11:00 AM
GORDO, Ala. -- Thursday night was proof that when county rivals get together you can disregard records.
The Pickens County High School football team entered its game Thursday night against Gordon 9-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, while Gordo came in at 5-4.
Led by a stellar night of punt returns by Demario Lanier, the Green Wave snapped the Tornadoes'' winning streak with a 28-7 victory.
The victory was the fourth in a row for Gordo, which will enter the Class 3A state playoffs next week at Montgomery Academy.
"We''re a young team and have been improving all year," Gordo coach David McKinney said. "We watched them on film and felt like we had played a lot tougher schedule and it showed tonight. We''ve been playing good people all year long."
The Green Wave managed only 98 yards of offense but received a spark from Lanier, a freshman, whose older brother, Izauea, is a safety on the East Mississippi Community College football team. Demario returned three punts for 117 yards, including two for touchdowns and caught one pass for 20 yards.
"He''s a special athlete," McKinney said of Lanier. "Those (punt returns) were the game-breakers. They had a little momentum at the time. He''s a very special talent just to be a ninth-grader. We''re going to lean on him a lot in the playoffs."
Fullback Gregory Howard also provided a spark in the second half, churning out 57 yards on 12 carries and one touchdown.
"(Howard) is a great player," McKinney said. "He sucked it up and got to punishing them there at the end. I felt like they didn''t really want to hit him there at the end with him trying to get a first down and get the clock out."
Quarterback Antonio Washington was 2 of 10 for 42 yards with a rushing touchdown. Jodeci Jones led Gordo with one catch for 22 yards.
After stopping the Tornadoes on fourth-and-1 from their 37-yard line, Gordo marched the rest of the way in nine plays, scoring on a 3-yard keeper. Howard added the extra point to give the Green Wave a 7-0 lead nearing the end of the first quarter.
Gordo defense held Pickens County to three-and-out on the ensuing possession to force a punt. Lanier caught the punt at midfield and raced 51 yards down the left sideline for the score. Howard again provided the point after to push the lead to 14-0 with seven seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
Pickens County attempted to cut into the lead midway through the second quarter. Following a 60-yard completion from Deion Curry to Dominique Jones, the Green Wave turned the Tornadoes away on four chances from the 4-yard line to keep their two-touchdown lead entering halftime.
But it did not take long for Pickens County to strike back in the second half. The Tornadoes took their first play from scrimmage 75 yards into the end zone when James Adams broke loose down the left sideline. Keith Hall booted the extra point to cut the lead in half.
Later in the third quarter, Gordo pinned Pickens County deep in their territory when Howard''s 39-yard punt was downed at the 1. The Green Wave defense forced a three-and-out on the series but when Hall lined up to punt out of his own end zone, the ball slipped out of his hands. He scrambled out to the 4, but Gordo took over.
The Green Wave needed only two plays to press their advantage when Howard plowed in from 2 yards out. He kicked the extra point to help Gordo extend the lead to 21-7
The Green Wave again prevented the Tornadoes from moving the chains on the next drive, forcing another punt on the first play of the fourth quarter. Lanier hauled in the punt and raced 46 yards for his second score.
"I thought I had to step it up and make plays for my team because I''m a playmaker," Lanier said. "That''s what I did tonight. I''m just happy we are Pickens County champs."
Howard''s extra point capped the scoring.
The Tornadoes final attempt to put up points turned into disaster when Eddie Parham intercepted Curry in the end zone after the ball was batted in the air twice as the clock wound down.
"We didn''t come out with the right type of intensity and they jumped on us early," Pickens County coach Scott Marchant said. "We didn''t respond like we wanted to. When we got behind it seemed to change a lot. They just played better than us tonight."
The Tornadoes gained 243 yards on offense, including 161 yards rushing.
Adams led Pickens County with 99 yards rushing on seven carries and one touchdown.
Curry was 7 of 14 for 82 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Jones had three catches for 66 yards.
Pickens County will hope to bounce back next week when it plays host to Keith in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs.