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Sardis hosts Guntersville

Sardis quarterback Will Scott and the Lions host Guntersville on Friday night in a Class 4A, Region 6 battle. (Photo by Nick Johnston | Gadsden Times)

Sardis brings its red-hot offense and four-game winning streak into a Class 4A, Region 6 game tonight against Guntersville.

The matchup is The Gadsden Times’ Game of the Week and features a Lions’ squad that is among the hottest teams in 4A, if not the state. The game is just the second home contest of the year for Sardis.

After a narrow season-opening 35-28 loss at 3A, Sylvania, a team currently ranked sixth in the state, Sardis reeled off four straight victories. It’s not just the wins that have Sardis on such a roll, though. It’s how the Lions got them.

Since Week 2, Sardis has averaged nearly 48 points per game. One of those victories was a 68-48 romp over Locust Fork a week after losing to the Rams.

During the winning streak, the Lions have leaned on a number of offensive weapons, including running back Toby Pee and quarterback Will Scott.

“Will has done a good job of throwing the ball and our receivers have caught the ball,” Sardis coach Gene Hill said. “That’s opened up the game for Toby.”

Pee has put himself into the conversation for the state’s 4A Back of the Year with his blazing start. Halfway through the regular season, Pee has rushed for 946 yards and 17 touchdowns and caught 15 passes for 299 yards and three scores. 

With the high likelihood of a Sardis playoff berth, Pee is on pace to eclipse 2,000 yards rushing on the season. Jesse Hubbard also has been very productive in limited touches, averaging more than 7 yards per carry on just 27 attempts.

Scott is having a big season himself, especially for a player who wasn’t going to start until an unfortunate injury robbed Tyler Dixon of his senior season. Scott has thrown for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns, also putting him on pace for more than 2,000 yards.

“I think a big key to our offense is balance,” Hill said. “It keeps defenses off-balance. Last year, we kind of got one-dimensional running, and a lot of that was my fault. This year we’ve really concentrated on that since spring ball, about throwing the ball and mixing it in and not just being a running team.”

Wide receiver Kailon Roberson has emerged as a big-time receiver to complement Pee’s pass-catching abilities. He had seven catches for 160 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 36-21 win over Geraldine, a likely playoff team out of 3A, Region 6, where the Bulldogs are 3-0. Jared Shirley, who has three touchdown catches, is yet another talented target for Scott.

Guntersville brings a winning tradition into the region game, with the Wildcats having gained the postseason seven consecutive years, including 2006 when the Wildcats won a state championship.

Still, Guntersville is just 1-4 overall and 1-2 in region play, with the lone win being a 21-14 win over Fairview in Week 3.

For the year, the Wildcats are averaging 14 points per game, while allowing nearly 25 points per contest.

Despite the uphill battle the Wildcats face in the second half of region play, Hill expects Guntersville to bring its ‘A’ game to Sardis City.

“Their record is definitely not indicative of how good a football team they are,” Hill explained. “The schedule they’ve played has been brutal. This is a region game and they’re going to come in here and play the best ballgame they can play. We’re going to have to stay away from giving up big plays.”

Clayton Daniel, Guntersville’s quarterback, might be the Wildcats most dangerous weapon .

“Their quarterback is a really good athlete,” Hill said. “He runs their offense well. He scrambles really well and throws the football well. We have to contain him.”

Coach Lance Reese favors the run, though, so Daniel and running back Bradley Hampton could have the ball in their hands a lot.

Sardis is undefeated in region play, meaning both the region title and a home playoff game still remain very much in play. 

St. Clair County and top-ranked Oneonta also are undefeated in the region and likely will be the teams Sardis has to beat for region supremacy. The Lions travel to the Fighting Saints but get the Redskins at home.

“My thing is, I always preach that region games count one,” Hill said. “It doesn’t matter which team you are playing. This is the biggest game we play all year because it is the next one. This game could set the tone for the second half, but we’re gonna take them one at a time. 

“That’s how we did it in the first half (of the season). We’re gonna do the best we can and hopefully play as good as we can.”