RCHS had an explosive start interrupted by lightning, and once play resumed the Tigers never recaptured the magic as they fell to Piedmont 27-15 in a battle of top-5 teams in Class 3A Friday.
The game could not have started any better for RCHS, and Johnathan Prothro was right in the middle of the early good vibes.
Prothro returned the opening kickoff 52 yards to the Piedmont 20-yard line to set up a 20-yard touchdown run by Dante Jordan on the game's first play from scrimmage. As a result the Tigers held a 7-0 lead just 15 seconds into the contest.
Prothro came up big again minutes later when he blocked a Piedmont punt, which Hagan Bailey picked up off the turf and returned 28 yards for a touchdown and 15-0 RCHS lead with 8:47 left in the first quarter.
With Piedmont once again struggling to generate offense, the game was halted for roughly an hour due to nearby lightning.
After play resumed things slowly began to go downhill for RCHS before the game completely fell apart on the Tigers in the second half.
The RCHS lead was still 15-6 at halftime, with Piedmont's only points coming on a long catch and run from Aaron Hayes to Ethan Swinford for a 79-yard touchdown.
But Piedmont clearly seized the momentum in an error-filled third quarter for both teams, as exemplified by a 9-play snapshot from that frame.
RCHS started the ineptitude with a lost fumble, but regained possession when Hayes was picked off by Jordan on the very next play. RCHS immediately returned the favor on a fumbled backward pass that Piedmont recovered. The Bulldogs could do nothing with their good fortune, however, as they committed a procedure penalty and then threw four straight incomplete passes to turn the ball back over on downs.
The teams swapped turnovers on consecutive plays again later in the quarter when Jordan got his second interception of the game, only to cough up a fumble on the first offensive play of the ensuing RCHS possession.
That game of hot potato finally ended when Hayes completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Swinford to cut the lead to 15-13. As bad as that third quarter had been RCHS still came out of it in the lead in the game.
That didn't last, however, as Piedmont scored on a 34-yard pass from Hayes to Silas Thompson on its opening possession of the fourth quarter, and a gassed RCHS squad was unable to muster a counter punch.
For the second half the RCHS offense was held to minus-6 total yards and fumbled the ball six times, losing four, on 17 snaps.
Piedmont iced the game with a blocked punt deep in RCHS territory, followed by a 12-yard touchdown run by Swinford with 9:16 left in the game.
Davis led RCHS with 52 yards on 10 carries.
Hayes led Piedmont's pass-heavy attack, going 14-for-33 through the air for 213 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions.
Piedmont remains unbeaten with the win and stays in first place in the region, while RCHS takes its first loss of the season and falls to 1-1 in region play.
Clay Central 42, Springville 7
Handley 62, Booker T. Washington 36
Ranburne 57, Woodland 7
Wadley 34, Loachapoka 18
Look for complete coverage of all of these games in Wednesday's print edition of the Randolph Leader.