Pass defense

Wadley and linebacker Isacc Minnifield (14) played smothering defense all night against Woodland and quarterback Jackson Lovvorn (3) as the Bulldogs won 27-0 to advance to the state semifinals.

For something that had never happened before, Wadley's win over Woodland in the third round of the state playoffs Friday sure seemed familiar.

The two county teams were meeting for the first time ever in the playoffs, but Wadley's 27-0 victory over the Bobcats was eerily reminiscent of the teams' 29-0 regular season meeting back on October 1.

Consider the following:

In October – Wadley led 8-0 at halftime

Friday night – Wadley led 7-0 at halftime

In October – Wadley lead 15-0 going into the fourth quarter and scored twice in the final frame to ice it.

Friday night – Wadley led 14-0 going into the fourth quarter and scored twice in the final frame to ice it.

In both games the Wadley defense held Woodland star running back Parker Woodham under 100 yards and limited the Bobcats to 120 or fewer total yards.

The stakes were much higher Friday night however, as Wadley now returns to the state semifinals for the first time since 2017. The Bulldogs will travel to Pickens County next Friday with a spot in the 1A state championship game on the line.

Wadley will be there thanks to its signature run game that saw four players rush for over 50 yards, and three of those four found the end zone.

Jumall Buchanan was the lead 'Dog with 115 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.

His 45-yard run on a 3rd-and-10 play in the second quarter broke a scoreless stalemate and gave Wadley an early 7-0 advantage.

That's how things stayed until Wadley's second possession of the third quarter. The Bulldogs went 73 yards on five plays, capped by quarterback Lakevion O'Neal's 40-yard touchdown run that put Wadley up 14-0.

Buchanan added an 11-yard scoring run with 6:30 left to play in the game, all but sealing the outcome. And Jaquez Wilkes put the finishing touches on the win with a 4-yard score with 1:24 left.

O'Neal ran for 71 yards on seven carries, Wilkes finished with 57 yards on eight runs, and Jacob Marable, who came into the game as Wadley's leading rusher on the season, tallied 51 hard yards on 12 carries.

Buchanan also caught the only completed pass of the game by either team for a 25-yard gain.

For just the second time this season (both against Wadley) Woodham finished under 100 yards rushing with 19 carries for 61 yards. The Bobcats did not complete a pass and managed an even 100 net yards from scrimmage in the game.

The deepest Woodland got into Wadley territory was the 39-yard line, and the Bobcats never put together a sustained drive that turned into a legitimate scoring threat.

The loss ends a memorable run for Woodland, which went on the road in each of the first two rounds and knocked off higher seeded opponents in Cedar Bluff and Meek. The Bobcats went 3-7 in the regular season but finish with a record of 5-8 and the school's first appearance in the third round since 2014.

As for Wadley, the Bulldogs will have another opportunity to break the curse of the state semifinals. On six previous occasions Wadley has found itself one win away from a spot in the state championship game, and on all six of those occasions they lost that game.

They'll have to break that skid with their first road playoff game of this season, against perennial power Pickens County, which knocked off Decatur Heritage 60-46 in the other north quarterfinal Friday.

Jackson 24, Handley 23

Handley held a 23-17 advantage with less than a minute remaining in the game, but Jackson was able to score a dramatic go ahead touchdown with just seconds left on the clock to take the lead and hand Handley a heartbreaking 24-23 defeat.

The loss ends Handley's hopes of repeating as 4A state champions and completes the Tigers' season with a 9-3 record.

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