By Johnny Sanders, Sports Editor
SYLACAUGA – Moody traveled for the first time of the 2023 season on Friday night as they headed down 280 to take on the Sylacauga and Chris Smelley’s Aggies in a game that started out in a downpour, which caused slow starts for both teams. The scoring picked up later in the game with Moody’s running game and opportunistic defense taking over and out-dueling the home team 31-17 in the end to make the Blue Devils 2-0 on the season heading into regional play next week.
Moody didn’t take much time to open the scoring in this one as they drove the ball down the field on a long drive that ended with Blaine Burke punching one in from four yards out. Burke would finish the score with a two-point run to put Moody up 8-0 with 9:13 to play in the first.
The Aggies would answer Moody later in the quarter, scoring on a short run with 5:46 to go in the first. The extra point would make it 8-7 and that would be the extent of the scoring in the first quarter and in the first half as well. The most excitement in the remainder of the half would come when Brady Dodd would pick up an Aggie fumble at the 2:28 mark in the second to stop a drive that had made its way beyond the 10-yard line.
The second half started with the Aggies taking the ball once again, but quickly turning it over as Moody recovered a fumble that set them up at the Sylacauga 10-yard line. On second down, Burke would find a wide-open lane to find paydirt. Charlie Johnston would find Burke for the two-point conversion to make it 16-7 Blue Devils.
Sylacauga would answer on a long touchdown pass at the 9:38 mark of the third to close the gap, making it 16-14 Moody.
The Blue Devils answered with a long drive that saw Johnston find Aiden Robinson for what looked to be a touchdown, but he was called down at the one-yard line. Burke would get his third touchdown of the night on the next play and Junior Moreno’s pat would put Moody up 23-14 with 5:26 to go in the third. Sylacauga would get the ball down to the six-yard line but settle for a field goal to make it 23-17.
Moody would ice the game in the fourth quarter after Abram Jackson blasted a long run to the three-yard line followed by a quarterback sneak by Bryton Usrey, the backup quarterback. Johnston would find KD Barnes for the two-point conversion to make it 31-17, the final score.
“I thought we executed better in the second half,” said Moody coach Jake Ganus. “We protected the football. We took the ball from them on some plays. Got some big stops on fourth down out there. I’m proud of these guys. We’ve got to be more physical and win the turnover battle. This is two games in a row that haven’t been easy. These wins are going to pay off in November. We have a lot to fix. We are better than that score. Hats off to coach Smelley. They are good and they will get better. The weather tonight caused us to dig deep.”
After being ejected from last week’s game, Burke had the following to say about his first complete game of the year, “I feel like I played well. I could have played better but was grateful to be back on the field with my team. Next week we just have to get better and play hard.”
Cam Mallory, sophomore defensive lineman, said the following about the defensive performance, “We are built for moments like this. Our goal is to start fast and we have to work on that. I have one of the best coaching staffs and they prepare us and make it easy for us to play fast. We just going to play our style of defense next week and I like our chances against anyone.”
The Blue Devils, now 2-0, travel to region foe Alexandria next week. The Valley Cubs find themselves in unfamiliar territory needing a big win after starting 0-2. Coach Ganus said of the upcoming road trip to Alexandria, “I’m excited about it and I want to experience it for myself. I’ve heard all about it.”