By Johnny Sanders, Sports Editor
MOODY – Let the playoff chaos begin. If you like drama, you need to pay attention to the 2023 5A Region 6 playoff picture.
On Friday night, the Moody Blue Devils welcomed Southside Gadsden to The Bill for a game that would (sort of) decide the region championship. With a win, Southside would wrap up the region championship and render Leeds second and Moody third. However, a Moody win would cause a three-way tie for the championship that would depend on next week’s games (Leeds vs Center Point and Southside vs Etowah) to determine a champion. Moody played the spoiler for Southside and whipped them 34-21 on Friday night to make things a bit complicated.
With so much on the line, Moody knew they needed to come out swinging to take down the talented Panthers from Gadsden. The defense held serve early on, holding Southside scoreless. Moody then took the ball down the field and Charlie Johnston would find KD Barnes on a back shoulder throw from inside the ten for the first touchdown of the game with 3:16 to go in the first. A fumbled snap would cause the PAT to be missed, but Moody would get first blood. On Southside’s next drive, Chase Jackson would climb the ladder and, with one hand, pick the ball off and take it 25 yards to paydirt to put Moody up by two scores at 13-0 and that is how the first period would end.
In the second quarter, Moody would take a long drive down inside Southside’s ten-yard line. From there, Johnston would feel some pressure and see a seam and run it into the end zone to put Moody up 21-0 after a two-point play by Blaine Burke at the 9:10 mark of the second quarter. Moody would let Southside score a touchdown before halftime and go into the locker room with a 21-7 lead.
“We executed some things well. I’m proud of the guys. They’re a really good football team. We’ve got to adjust at half and fix some things. We have to do a good job in the second half,” said Moody Head Coach Jake Ganus.
The third quarter went back and forth between the teams before Southside put together a drive that set them up inside the Moody five-yard line. From the three, Southside would punch it in to make it 21-14 Moody with the Panthers now swinging the momentum in their direction.
Moody would start the fourth quarter with a Blaine Burke touchdown from 38 yards out to put Moody up 28-14 with 11:21 to play after a Junior Moreno PAT. Moody’s defense would hold Southside on the next drive and get the ball back, promptly taking the ball down the field and setting up shop on 22. From there, on a third and four, Johnston would find Aidan Robinson for the score to make it 34-14 Blue Devils. Southside would add a late touchdown to make it look a bit better on the scoreboard, but the game was well in hand by that time. The final would be 34-21 Moody.
Blaine Burke would finish the night with 73 yards on 15 carries for a touchdown. Charlie Johnston went 13 of 17 for 189 yards and two touchdowns. KD Barnes would lead receivers with five catches for 64 yards and a touchdown to go with Aidan Robinson’s two catches for 69 yards and a score.
Coach Ganus said, “We let down and let them score right there. We’ve got to get off of the field. They took ten minutes off the clock. Little yards add up. The second half felt just…ugh. Giving up a ten-minute drive is bad for a defensive coach. I was proud of our effort. We need the off time. We’ve played ten straight games and a lot of teams don’t do that. We just need to know where to be the next two weeks and we will be there.”
Chase Jackson talked about his interception and the game, “I undercut it and I just jumped up. I didn’t think I was going to one-hand it, but I did. It was just instinct, I guess. It’s a one-game season now. We just have to put our heads down and work.”
The Blue Devils make the playoffs for the second year straight and they have the chance to be the top seed in the region and host a game. It is also possible that they will travel. We will keep you posted as to where they will be playing. The most likely scenario would see Moody as the three seed, traveling to Guntersville.