By Ronnie Hagood, for The Tribune
SPRINGVILLE — On Friday night the Springville Tigers closed out the 2020 football season the way they opened it up. A 35-34 win over the Arab Knights gave the Tigers their fourth win of the season and second in region play.
The win would have been enough to keep Springville in the playoff hunt, but earlier in the week, Scottsboro had to forfeit to Pell City due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the Wildcats football team.
The Tigers opened the game up with an onside kick. Senior kicker Hunter Ambrose executed a beautiful kick and then recovered it, giving Springville the ball to open the game. Unfortunately the offense couldn’t do anything with the good field position and turned the ball over to Arab.
The Knights quickly capitalized on the exchange of possession, as Aiden Cox found John Johnson for a 30-yard touchdown pass, giving Arab a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
Pearson Baldwin would do what he’s done all season for the Tigers. Baldwin bulldozed his way into the end zone, running over a couple of Knights, tying the game at 7-7.
Springville opened up the second quarter with another Baldwin touchdown run. This one a 4-yard run in which Baldwin would drag the Arab defense with him into the end zone for the score, giving the Tigers a 14-7 lead.
The Knights elusive running back, Matthew Turnage, tied the game back up late in the quarter, scoring one of his three rushing touchdowns on the night, making it 14-14 going into halftime.
Thanks to the onside kick, Springville started the second half with the ball as well. Unlike the first half though, the Tigers would not fail to capitalize on the opening possession. As he had done twice before in the game, it was Baldwin capping off the scoring drive with his third touchdown of the night. This one was a 25-yard scamper, the extra point was missed, but the Tigers had the lead 20-14.
Arab would retake the lead on the next possession. Aiden Cox connected with Spencer Strickland on an incredible 25-yard touchdown pass. Strickland was covered like a glove by the Tigers defensive back, but somehow was able to reel the pass in. The Knights made the extra point, taking a 21-20 lead into the final quarter.
Arab extended their lead to start the fourth quarter. Turnage went up the middle almost untouched from 2 yards out for the score, putting the Knights up 28-20.
Like a man who was determined his team was not going out with a loss, Baldwin took over the next Springville drive. A 32-yard touchdown run from Baldwin made it a 28-26 game. A penalty after the touchdown moved the ball back to the 17-yard line for the Tigers extra point attempt, no problem for Baldwin. Baldwin took off running and lowered his shoulder at the goal line to reach paydirt.
Not to be out done, the Knights running back Turnage broke free and went 35 yards for his final touchdown of the night, but the extra point was missed, making it 34-28 with 4:38 remaining in the game.
The Tigers moved the ball down the field, and on third down from the Knights 16-yard line, Baldwin did it, one more time for Springville. He connected with tight end Ben Bianchi in the end zone for the touchdown with just 1:16 remaining in the game, the Ambrose extra point was good, giving the Tigers a 35-34 lead.
Arab made one last effort to drive down the field, but the Tigers Landon Ho intercepted an Aiden Cox pass with just 11 seconds remaining in the game to preserve the Springville win.
Pearson Baldwin finished his final game at Tiger Stadium putting on a show, Baldwin was 20-31 for 204 yards and a touchdown through the air. He added another 139 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. After the game, Baldwin had this to say: “We were just trying to find things that worked, it just seemed like every time I was able to get loose, I was able to score.”
“Then I was able to find my big tight end who I can rely on every single time, he just went up and caught that thing.”
Baldwin wasn’t the only one singing the praises of Bianchi.
“He’s been so special, he’s such a good kid, he’s a great kid,” said Springville head coach Michael Graben. “He’s the kind of kid that every momma and daddy in the stands wants their daughter to marry. If somebody doesn’t give him an opportunity to play college football, they’re missing out.”
Bianchi finished the game with five catches for 87 yards and the one huge touchdown catch.