By Kim West
Dillon Miller topped 200 yards and rushed for five touchdowns as West Limestone clinched its third playoff berth in four seasons by beating Priceville in a crucial Class 4A, Region 8 matchup.
On a damp and chilly night at Bulldog Stadium, West Limestone (6-2, 4-2) held off a pesky Priceville squad, 47-33, and spoiled homecoming. The loss prevented the Bulldogs from contending for the fourth and final playoff spot in the region.
In a wild and sometimes sloppy game with five turnovers, 12 touchdowns and 16 penalties, the Wildcats wielded an overpowering running game led by Miller’s 215 yards on 22 carries and Tucker McCormick’s two scores and 186 yards on 23 carries.
Miller’s blockers consistently opened up gaping holes at the line of scrimmage that allowed the bruising back plenty of steam to bulldoze into the Bullodogs’ secondary. He proved to be an unstoppable force in the red zone by breaking tackles on a pair of 5-yard runs and an 8-yarder in the first half, and dashing 16 and 20 yards in the second half.
Tyler Mewbourn and Logan Pugh, who had two rushing scores called back due to penalties, also helped propel West’s 497-yard, Wing-T rushing offense.
“Running the ball is what we’re best at, and we just powered the ball downfield,” said a jubilant Pugh, moments after he and his teammates sprinted to the visitor’s bleachers for a raucous celebration with the marching band and a large contingent of ‘Cats fans.
Priceville (4-4, 2-4), which intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble on defense, went to the air frequently to fuel its quick-strike offense, with quarterback Kaleb Barker and receiver Ben Patterson teaming up on touchdown connections of 71, 30 and 16 yards.
Patterson, who filled in at quarterback after Barker was shaken up on a drive midway through the third quarter, also had a 70-yard keeper by scooting around right end and picking up a downfield escort from offensive lineman Jaycee May.
Barker’s ability to throw on the run, move around in the pocket and locate downfield receivers kept the Bulldogs within striking distance, despite trailing 25-14 at halftime and by 25 points late in the third.
Barker threw for 301 yards and four TDs, including an 18-yard scoring toss to Luke Mason. He completed 19 of 30 passes, with three interceptions corralled by West’s Stevie Romero, McCormick and Pugh.
The Wildcats, which have won five straight, improved to 4-2 all-time against Priceville. West is the third team in Limestone County to qualify for the postseason. They joined Class 2A, Region 8 champion Tanner and 4A Ardmore, with Athens in the hunt for a No. 3 or No. 4 playoff seed in 5A, Region 8.
“Making the playoffs was our No. 1 goal, and it means everything to win tonight,” said Pugh, one of 10 West seniors. “We believe in what we’re doing, and we fought hard to make it back to the playoffs.”
West hosts Haleyville (7-1, 5-1) on Friday in a game that will help determine how the region’s four playoff teams — Brooks, Central-Florence, Haleyville and West — will be seeded in the playoffs.
Priceville plays at Central-Florence (6-2, 5-1) next Friday. Central, Brooks and Haleyville each have one region loss heading into Week 9.
5:15 — Tucker McCormick shed several tacklers en route to a 35-yard rushing TD, capping a 5-yard, 68-yard drive. Matthew Sanders converted the extra point for 7-0 West lead.
3:43 — Kaleb Barker rolls right and finds Luke Mason at the right pylon for an 18-yard TD. The Bulldogs cover 66 yards in five plays, with completions of 24 and 18 yards to set up score. Lamar Burch hits PAT to tie game at 7-7.
1:17 — On ensuing drive, West marches 61 yards in seven plays as Miller scores on a 5-yard run. Quarterback Drew Blakely kept the chains moving with a 30-yard pass to Stevie Romero and a 10-yard toss to Logan Pugh. West leads 13-7 after PAT sailed wide right.
9:06 — West marches 62 yards in 10 plays, with Romero snagging an 18-yard catch on third-and-19 at the Wildcats’ 44-yard line to keep the drive alive. Miller slams into a wall of tacklers near the goal line and pushes into the end zone for another 5-yard TD. The 2-point pass play failed, and West leads 19-7.
8:44 — On the first play of the ensuing drive, Barker fires a 71-yard bomb to Patterson, who got behind the secondary and sped down the left sideline. Burch’s PAT cuts lead to 19-14.
:33 — After Pugh dodges and weaves for a 17-yard romp on second-and-8 at the Priceville 29, Miller rumbles in from 8 yards out. Following an incomplete 2-point pass, and West leads 25-14 after the six-play, 62-yard drive.
10:07 — McCormick scores on a 7-yard run after Miller gives West good field position on a kickoff return to the Priceville 49. McCormick opens the drive with a 14-yard dash, with Blakely setting up the scoring play on second-and-6 by rolling right and finding McCormick for a 24-yard completion. The 2-point run fails, and West leads 31-14 after going 51 yards in four plays.
3:20 — Reed Blankenship’s punt return gives West the ball at the Priceville 49. After Miller converts a fourth-and-1 at the Bulldogs’ 35, he scores on third-and-4 at the 16. Tyler Mewbourn’s 2-point run increases lead to 39-14 after seven-play, 49-yard drive.
2:55 — Priceville’s Ben Patterson responds on the first play of ensuing drive with 70-yard keeper while standing in for Barker at quarterback. West blocks PAT, and Bulldogs trail 39-20.
:54 — Miller rings up 51 yards on first play of West’s four-play, 80-yard drive, as Burch tracks down Miller and makes TD-saving tackle. But Miller finds pay dirt from 20 yards out on third-and-1, and McCormick converts 2-point run to lead 47-20.
:00 — Bulldogs answer with four-play, 59-yard drive as Barker goes 3 of 4 for 50 yards, including 30-yarder to Patterson. The 2-point run fails and Priceville trims deficit to 47-26.
10:51 — After Kyle Haynes grabs an interception, Priceville goes 50 yards in six plays to record the only score in the quarter. Barker runs for a first down and hits 3 of 5 passes for 39 yards, including 15-yard TD to Patterson. Burch’s PAT makes it 47-33, but the Bulldogs are denied in their comeback attempt. West embarks on an 18-play drive that stalls at the Priceville 26, but takes nearly 10 minutes off the clock in the final frame.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
1 2 3 4 Final
West 13 12 35 0 47
Priceville 7 7 12 7 33