PIKE ROAD – The excitement of homecoming and a new football stadium wasn’t enough to distract the Pike Road Patriots, who rolled to a comfortable 35-point lead at home to remain unbeaten with a 42-0 romp over Dadeville on Friday night.
It wasn’t easy in the beginning, however. Players who had worked out nearby on the old Georgia Washington Junior High field, toiling in obscurity as a junior varsity team two years ago, were having trouble adjusting to a new artificial surface and a community who had turned out in support of their Patriots.
“This is like a dream come true,” senior lineman Corbin Grant said. “It’s nice, but it’s not only for us, it’s for the supporters in the community have done so much for us and been there through the ups and downs. To see all this come to fruition after the eighth grade, when they started planning this, is a dream come true. It felt so nice having our own (field), after all this time. We plan to show up and show out on every night we can and have fun.”
The grandstands were filled an hour before kickoff, along with the parking lots of two neighboring churches. Homecoming may have added a little to the festive atmosphere, but the football game was almost an afterthought to those who had put in so much effort to transition the $3 million athletic complex from blueprints to reality.
“It was amazing,” Pike Road coach Patrick Browning said. “You start to get a little emotional there at the beginning, when you think about how far we’ve come over the last four years. It really hits you before the game, but then when the ball is kicked off, that all kind of goes away and it’s another football game. We played a little sloppy in the beginning and that wasn’t from lack of preparation, it was nerves. Once we settled in, we took care of business.”
The opening moments were a little shaky for the Patriots, but it was the Tigers who appeared star-struck, failing to cover a kickoff early in the game and throwing an interception that CJ Paymon returned for a touchdown as Pike Road scored on its first four possessions and used a running clock to shorten the contest in the second half.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for (Dadeville) Coach (Richard) White,” Browning said. “Coach White gave me my first job. He was one of the main reasons I got this opportunity. They have a young team and they’re going to be really good in a year or two. Dadeville, historically, has always gone through cycles and I’m confident within a year or two they’ll be right back on top of the region like they always have.”
The Patriots took more than eight minutes off the clock on their initial possession, overcoming a 21-yard sack of Baron Brack and a missed field goal attempt by Aubrey Grace with the help of Dadeville penalties, finally scoring on a 2-yard run by Paymon and Grace’s extra point for a 7-0 lead.
“I think everybody was still focused on the new field and not just playing the game,” Paymon said. “It took us a little time to get into it.”
On the ensuing kickoff, Dadeville failed to cover the kick and TJ Lewis recovered on the Dadeville 12, leading to a 6-yard run by Quinshon Judkins two plays later for a 14-0 lead.
An interception by Eli Clark on Dadeville’s next play from scrimmage put the Pike Road offense back on the field and Brack threw 13 yards to Harrison Wallace on the first play of the second quarter for a 21-0 lead. Three plays later, Lane Smith’s pass toward the left hash was snared by Paymon on the 25 and the senior returned it to the end zone.
“We had practiced the whole week on opening and going to the flats and the hitch routes,” Paymon said. “It was just right there and I caught it. The only thing left to do was score.”
Rushing touchdowns by Judkins and freshman Gabe Spencer rounded out the scoring as Dadeville managed just three first downs, 11 rushing yards and 69 total yards.
Judkins led the Patriots with 81 yards on 11 carries, while Spencer added 77 on 13 carries. Pike Road was limited to 14 offensive plays in the second half by the running clock, but the reserves entered the game with 3:50 left in the first half, so the starters had plenty of time to enjoy the experience.
“I think it was very special, not just for us but for the community as a whole,” Paymon said. “It was not just us getting to enjoy it, it was the whole community and everybody getting to enjoy it.”
Pike Road (8-0) improved to 5-0 in 3A Region 3 play and will play host to Montgomery Academy next week. Dadeville (1-7, 0-5) travels to Beulah.