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No. 5 Cedar Bluff falls to No. 8 Pickens County


Pickens County’s Devonte Simon makes a one-handed grab for an interception as Cedar Bluff’s Rickey Pendley watches during Friday’s Class 1A state high school football game in Cedar Bluff. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times)


CEDAR BLUFF — Cedar Bluff had so many opportunities early on.

A sure pick-6 was dropped, as was another interception that would have given the Tigers great field position. Dropped potential touchdown passes, horrendous tackling at times — you name it, it happened to Cedar Bluff.

And it all equaled a second-round exit in the playoffs.

No. 5 Cedar Bluff fell to the eighth-ranked Pickens County Tornadoes 34-0 Friday night at Bruce Field in the Class 1A playoffs.

Of course, the blindingly fast Tornadoes had a lot to do with the Tigers miscues.

Cedar Bluff never could get in a rhythm on offense, as Pickens County forced turnovers and bottled up any hope of a Tiger running game.

Devonte Simon picked off three passes for the Tornadoes (10-2), one he returned 80 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Levi Mintz, one of the top quarterbacks in the area, got little help from his receivers when they did get open — especially in the first half.

“We helped them out with a couple of things in the first half,” said Cedar Bluff (10-1) coach Jonathan McWhorter, whose team trailed 20-0 at the half. “We drop potentially two touchdown passes, we drop an interception that might have gone for a touchdown. … So you can always say ifs and buts and all that. Of course, they made some plays, but we felt like we left a couple on the field.”

The Tigers couldn’t afford that, either, as the Tornadoes torched them for 434 yards rushing and 489 total.

The unquestioned star of the night was Pickens County’s Jamarcus Brown. The elusive, electrifying running back went for 286 yards and a touchdown.

Brown, a junior, heaped praise on his offensive line.

“Basically I was running behind my line,” he said. “I got trust in my lineman. … Give me the ball, I do what I have to.”

His coach, Patrick Plott, agreed. “The offensive line did a great job blocking,” Plott said. “Once we get our running backs in space, we feel like we always got a chance to score. (Brown’s) been playing like this for us all year. He did a good job, but it started on the offensive line.”

While Pickens County’s offensive line was dominating, so was it’s defensive front. Cedar Bluff rushed for just 45 yards and gained 196 total — a far cry from its 440 yard per game average.

“Their defensive and offensive lines, they took the game over,” McWhorter said. “For most of the year, we were able to do that. We knew coming in it was going to be tough to run the ball.

“We hoped we could have enough success to be able to do some things in the passing game, and we ran it a little at times, but nothing consistent enough to sustain drives. We just couldn’t do it tonight.”

Pickens County set the tone early, getting touchdown runs from Darrien Latham and Brown.

Brown’s touchdown run went 93 yards down the sideline and gave the Tornadoes a 14-0 lead.

A Cedar Bluff miscue on offense in the second quarter gave Pickens County a 20-0 lead, as a pass from Mintz slipped through the hands of Devante Dixon and was intercepted by Simon, who sprinted 80 yards for the touchdown.

While things went right for Pickens County, everything went wrong for Cedar Bluff.  Mintz started the game 3 of 10 but six of his incompletions were either dropped or slipped through the intended receiver’s hands.

In the first half alone, Pickens County outgained Cedar Bluff 284-43.

The only thing positive for Cedar Bluff in the first half was Devante Dixon’s interception to end a late drive for the Tornadoes.

Dixon returned the pick to the Pickens County 25 before he was run down, but time had expired and sent both teams to locker rooms.

Neither team scored in the third quarter and Cedar Bluff had multiple chances to drive the field but couldn’t.

Pickens County’s William Stewart, who gained 96 yards on the ground, scored twice in the final quarter to make what would be the final margin.

One of his touchdowns was set up by Simon’s third interception.

“We went over what they did in practice and it just worked out perfect,” Simon said. “Coach put us in the right spot and I made the play.”

Mintz finished 12 of 31 for 151 yards and three interceptions. Rickey Pendley caught six passes for 78 yards. Curtis Abernathy led the ground game for the Tigers with 44 yards on 10 carries.