Boaz takes 27-13 win over Southside in Times' Game of Week

Boaz’s Kennedy Nicholson tackles Southside’s Dantley Coker during Friday night’s game at Barney Hood Stadium in Southside. (Photo by Nick Johnston | Gadsden Times)

SOUTHSIDE — It was all about composure.

Boaz had it. Southside did not.

The Boaz Pirates defeated the Southside Panthers 27-13 Friday night in The Gadsden Times’ Game of the Week.

It was a game marred by penalties — especially for Southside (4-3, 2-3) — that improved the Pirates to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in Class 5A, Region 7 play.

“Penalties cost us tonight,” said Southside coach Marty Smith, whose team was flagged 13 times for 150 yards.

Boaz had five penalties for 35 yards.

“We didn’t keep our composure at crucial times when we needed to make sure we were playing fundamentally sound football,” Smith said. “It’s been a problem all year and it’s jut being disciplined and having more self-control.”

Despite all the penalties, Southside actually led 13-0 at halftime. It was in the locker room at halftime that Boaz’s composure paid off.

“It was very, very calm,” Boaz coach Drew Noles said. “We have tremendous respect for our kids. We talked about things we weren’t doing right, and they understood that.

“I’m very proud of our coaches keeping their composure. I’m very proud of our players keeping their composure. They showed a lot of character tonight.”

Boaz chipped away at the Southside advantage in the second half and eventually tied the game at 13 on Casey Wood’s 1-yard touchdown run with 8:43 remaining in the game.

Southside’s Cody Pylant took the ensuing kickoff back to Pirate 35-yard line, but a block in the back during the play and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following backed the Panthers up to their own 34.

After forcing Southside to punt, Boaz reached the Panther 20-yard line before a fumble gave the home team a chance to score the go-ahead touchdown.

But three plays into Southside’s drive, Ryan Smith intercepted a Patrick Lister pass and returned 55 yards for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

Smith celebrated in the end zone with his teammates while Lister, who was the Panthers’ last chance to stop him short of the goal line, sat with his head down near the 5-yard line.

“I was just reading the quarterback’s eyes and I knew we needed a defensive score,” Smith said. “That’s what the coaches were saying all game, ‘we need a defensive score.’

Boaz added another touchdown on its ensuing possession after Southside failed to cover the kickoff. Peyton Gilliland ran in for the 33-yard touchdown to make what would be the final score with 2:26 remaining. Gilliland also scored the Pirates’ first touchdown of the night, a 37-yard scoring reception from Wood on the team’s opening drive of the second half to cut their deficit to 13-6.

“In 13 years, I don’t know if we’ve had as sweet of a win as this one,” Noles said. “It’s a tough place to play. We’re coming off a loss last week and five or six guys couldn’t play tonight.

“It would have been easy to fold up, and they didn’t. They took the coaching we were able to give them and we had some people step up.”

Barney Hood Stadium was rocking in the first half, though, as the Panthers took a two-touchdown lead.

Southside received the opening kickoff and marched 82 yards in 12 plays for a score, capped off by Hunter Armstrong’s 1-yard plunge. The touchdown was set up by Lister’s 31-yard pass to Holt Keeling.

Three possessions later, Dantley Coker — who rushed for 102 yards on 20 carries — found the end zone from the 7-yard line with 5:50 remaining in the first half.

But it was all Pirates from there, as they took advantage of Southside penalties and scored four unanswered touchdowns. The Panthers had just four yards on the ground in the second half as Boaz’s defense stiffened up in the final two quarters.

Wood finished the night 7 of 17 passing for 81 yards, while Lister went 9 of 17 for 144 yards and three interceptions.