By Kim West
On a nearly-freezing and clear Friday night, Athens and Tanner advanced to the second round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s state football playoffs, while Top 10 teams eliminated Ardmore and West Limestone in Class 4A action.
Unranked Athens (8-3), the fourth seed in 5A, took down the No. 6 Center Point Eagles, 24-22, at Bowman Field, on a 45-yard field goal by Bram McGrady with 13 seconds left in the game.
Despite Center Point (9-2) entering the game heavily favored, Athens jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead.
Center Point outscored the Golden Eagles 22-3 in the second half, but Athens hung on to win its first playoff game since 2010.
No. 1 Tanner (9-1), the defending 2A state champions, led only 21-16 at halftime against unranked Woodland (6-5), but kept the Bobcats off the scoreboard until late in the second half to advance to the second round.
Tanner’s Hayden Stephens eclipsed the 100-yard mark and galloped for four touchdowns and JonJon Fletcher tossed two scoring passes to Blake Whitt.
The Rattlers trailed for the first time since Week 1 after Woodland took an 8-0 lead in the first quarter, but they used a relentless rushing attack on offense and a fierce pass rush on defense to stifle the Bobcats’ upset bid.
Athens will host Pleasant Grove next Friday in the second round. Tanner also will play at home on Friday against North Sand Mountain, which took down Reeltown.
West Limestone ran into a buzz-saw at second-ranked Oneonta (10-1), as the Redskins held the Wildcats to 149 yards on offense and raced out to a 35-0 halftime lead in the 56-0 win.
West finishes the season 7-4, with three playoff trips in the past four seasons for seniors Stevie Romero, Dillon Miller, Matthew Reyer, Tucker McCormick, Austin Province, Tyler Mewbourn, Logan Pugh, Junior Fierro, Hunter Rouse and Tyler Widner.
Oneonta, led by former Elkmont coach Don Jacobs, has advanced to the 4A state championship game the past two years.
Ardmore (6-5), which was hit by the injury bug in the past few weeks after starting 5-0 under first-year coach Clint Legg, fell 48-14 at No. 9 Munford (10-1).
Ardmore quarterback Garrett Miller connected with Braydon Edwards for a 34-yard touchdown in the second quarter and threw a 12-yard scoring strike to Chris Weilling in the fourth.
Josh Meloon added a two-point run after Weilling’s TD to round out the Tigers’ scoring. Hayden Durrett led Ardmore, which returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, with three receptions for 64 yards.