Late safety keeps Montevallo perfect, sets up showdown

By CHRIS MEGGINSON / For the Reporter

MONTEVALLO – A safety on a bad punt snap in the end zone proved to be the difference on Oct. 7 as Montevallo edged Oakman, 23-21, on homecoming.

“It was definitely an exciting game. The fans got their $7 worth tonight,” said Montevallo head coach Brandon Wilcox.

Tied 21-21 with less than a minute to play, Montevallo was preparing for one last try at a win to avoid overtime when the snap sailed over the head of Oakman punter Brayden Hall for a safety. The Wildcats were pushed back inside the five after back-to-back sacks from Montevallo’s Demetrius Smith, who was also credited for the safety and then fielded the onside free kick to seal the victory.

“Demetrius really had a coming out party tonight. He has a really high motor and plays hard. He’s a real quick kid with some explosiveness to him,” Wilcox said. “I thought he did a great job setting the edge for us, getting the pressure on their quarterback and just disturbing their backfield flow all night.”

The Class 3A, Region 4 battle was scoreless through the first 21 minutes of the game, but Montevallo put together scoring drives on its last two possessions of the opening half.

Jay Sullens sparked the first scoring drive with a 26-yard run to push MHS toward midfield. After the drive looked to stall out at the Oakman 46, Montevallo quarterback Zac Oden converted a fourth-and-3 run to give Montevallo a new set of downs. A personal foul backed up the Bulldogs, but Oden hit Daqwan Bryant, who tipped and caught the pass for a 58-yard touchdown reception with 2:16 to play. Diego Martinez converted the PAT for a 7-0 lead.

Oakman’s Connor Woods returned the kickoff 67 yards to put the Wildcats in scoring territory. A few plays later, on second-and-long, Malcom Hogue scored on a 31-yard touchdown run, followed by a Hall PAT to even the score, 7-7, with 1:11 to play.

Oden quickly led Montevallo back downfield, hitting Tre’Shawn Brown on a deep pass over two defenders to give the home team first-and-10 at the Oakman 18. He later found Bryant for a first-and-goal TD pass from the five. Martinez’s PAT made it 14-7 with three seconds to play in the half.

Oakman evened the score, 14-14, to start the second half and later looked to go up 21-14, but Smith dropped Oakman QB Jon Avery to the 17 for his first of three sacks in the game. Avery then found Nick Moody in the end zone but Brown knocked him out of bounds to force a turnover on downs.

Montevallo later turned the ball over on downs back to the Wildcats at the Bulldogs’ 25, but the defense held, with Brown once again delivering the blow, dropping Avery 2 yards shy of the first down on fourth-and-6.

“Coach Jones had the defense playing spectacular tonight. We’ve got some guys missing and had to put some people in tough positions, but the kids gutted it out and kept fighting and they found a way to make some big stops throughout the game that kept the game manageable to where we could make a play there at the end,” Wilcox said.

Once again Oakman gained good field position after Oden fumbled an option pitch at the Montevallo 46. The Wildcats went on to take the lead 21-14, on a 2-yard keeper by Avery with 2:42 to play.

Oden answered though, hitting Bryant for the tying touchdown pass. Oden finished the night with 341 yards on 17-of-32 passing, while Bryant had 163 yards on six catches. Sullens had 94 yards receiving and Brown had 68.

Smith, who had three sacks, was credited for the winning safety and had 13 tackles. Jackson Hughes led the defense with 14 stops. Brown and Bryant had 12 and 11, respectively.

Montevallo (7-0, 4-0 Region 4) will travel to Gordo (7-0) next week to decide the region championship.