Will Heath for the Tribune
LEEDS — Friday night was everything a Leeds High football fan could want from a Homecoming celebration.
Most notably, the home team prevailed in style. The sixth-ranked Green Wave smothered Sylacauga for a 48-14 win at Homer Smiles Field.
“Come out mentally prepared, and execute at a high level,” said Leeds head coach Jerry Hood. “That’s what a non-region game like this is all about.”
Leeds (4-1) scored on all first five possessions of the first half. Three of those came from junior quarterback Conner Nelson, who returned to his position after sitting out the previous game against St. Clair County. Nelson tossed TD passes to Grayson Ford and Jaelyn Felder, and scored on a 26-yard QB scramble as well.
Tailback ZJ Dale played a starring role in the game, with 137 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He opened the second half with a 63-yard touchdown run, to make the score 41-0.
“He’s a good football player, man,” said Hood. “He’s kind of deceptive. He doesn’t look like a burner, then all of a sudden he’s gaining yards. I’m proud of him.”
Meanwhile, the Leeds defense was its usual impregnable self. The Aggies did not cross their own 40-yard line until the third quarter, following Dale’s TD run.
“I feel like we have matured as one,” said Leeds defensive end Chris Burge. “We stopped underestimating teams.”
Sylacauga (0-6) did get touchdowns from Jamaury Thomas and Ashton Machen.
“They’ve (Leeds) got a great football team,” Sylacauga head coach Chris Smelley said. “Just outmatched in a lot of ways. We’re still trying to find ways to improve as a team.”
Leeds spent almost the entire first half in Aggie territory. The Aggies fumbled a punt snap, and failed twice on fourth down in their own territory, to give Leeds short fields.
“Nothing about it that was fun,” Smelley said. “You got a choice to quit in that situation or continue to compete.”
The final Green Wave touchdown of the first half came from senior defensive end Kavion Henderson, who lined up at quarterback and snuck it in from a yard out.
Both teams now turn their attention back to region play. Sylacauga will return home to face Beauregard. Leeds will travel to Gadsden, to face Southside High.
“They’re (Southside) highly motivated,” Hood said. “I got word today, they’ve been working on us for a couple of weeks. They’ve got a head start on us.
“We expect quite a battle. We’ll have to play great to get a win up there.”