Montevallo gets first round playoff win

Published 11:19 pm Thursday, November 5, 2015

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

MONTEVALLO – Montevallo head coach Andrew Zow fended off elated attempts from his players to douse him with water bottles as the clock ticked down to 0:00 on the Bulldogs’ first-round 4A playoff game against Saint James on Oct. 5. Montevallo, playing in its first playoff game at home since 1995, relied on a strong defensive showing and a few explosive offensive plays to get the school’s first playoff win since 1998.

“They’re a good team, this is the playoffs, but we needed to get this victory,” Zow said after the game. “We wanted to bounce back and get the sour taste in our mouths out left over from the Billingsley game. Our guys responded. We made a couple of mistakes, didn’t do a couple of things right, but hey, the guys came out and play the way they needed to play tonight.”

From the jump, Montevallo was the superior team on both sides of the ball. The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff and marched straight down the field to put seven points on the board and take the early lead, a lead they did not relinquish. Ahmad Edwards and Jamaal Figueroa made a pair of impressive catches on the drive off of tipped balls to keep the Bulldog offense moving, and Kerry Mack strode into the end zone, untouched, from 19 yards out to give the Bulldogs the 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.

After such an impressive first drive, the game descended into a defensive slugfest. Neither team could do much on offense at any point throughout the rest of the first half. Undreaz Lilly, recovering from a hamstring injury suffered last week in the regular season finale, stayed primarily at middle linebacker all night and was limited on offense, but laid monster hit after monster hit on any running back or receiver who came across the middle of the field.

The Bulldogs had the ball to start the second quarter facing a third and 20 situation from the Saint James 35 after quarterback Zac Oden had been sacked the previous play. Oden got the ball to Daqwan Bryant, who scampered upfield for 14 yards, giving the Bulldogs a manageable fourth and four. Oden found Edwards on the very next play streaking into the left corner of the end zone for his first touchdown pass of the night, and the Bulldogs went up 14-0 early in the quarter.

Montevallo carried that 14-0 lead into halftime. The two games the Bulldogs have dropped this season have come after they have pulled ahead, and Zow wanted to make sure that did not happen this time around.

“I just told them to stay with it,” Zow said. “Last week, going up 21-10, and losing, coming out 14-0 right here, (I told them at half) let’s go back out with the same mentality we went in at the beginning of the game and finish. We’ve been up on teams all year, and the two losses that we did have we let them come back and beat us. The biggest thing for us it to finish and play with passion.”

There was not a noticeable difference in the way Montevallo came out in the second half compared to the first, as the defense continued to hold the Trojans offense in check. The third quarter was another scoreless slog, as penalties by both sides negated big offensive plays. In the fourth quarter Oden found Blake Smith on a flag route to the front left corner of the end zone on a beautiful pitch and catch to put the game essentially out of reach at 21-0.

Saint James added a touchdown late in the quarter after a questionable pass interference call gave the Trojans good field position, moving the score to 21-7. The Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs on the ensuing drive, and for a moment the crowd began to get a little anxious that they were about to watch another win slip away. But Adam Dowdell came up with the third interception of the night for the Montevallo defense on the three-yard line, and the Bulldogs were able to subsequently run the clock out to preserve the 21-7 win.

Montevallo will travel to Leeds next week in the second round of the 4A playoffs to take on one of the state juggernauts.

“Everyone knows the dominant team in our classification has been those guys for a while,” Zow said. “They have the dogs to do whatever they need to do and can do it well. I’m just proud of our guys right now, hopefully we can go up there next week and make a show of it.”

Montevallo moved to 9-2 on the season with the win, and secured the school’s first home playoff victory in over 30 years.