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The Pickens County Tornados (10-3, 7-1) stifled region-foe Marion County Red Raiders (9-4, 6-2) to advance to the AHSAA Class 1A semifinals. The Tornados did not allow an offensive touchdown and came away with a 40-14 victory. Pickens County was able to lean on experience, having defeated the Red Raiders in region play just three weeks earlier.

"Despite the turnovers that we had, I feel like we did exactly what we wanted to do. The game ended up having some ups and downs towards the third quarter. We didn't finish, we didn't come out in the second half like we wanted to but we came out in the fourth quarter and finished the game like we needed to and that was a big deal for this game and the score indicates that," said Pickens County head coach Michael Williams.

The Tornados got the first of its six turnovers on the first snap of the game. Senior Davis Lockett got the ball out of the air, starting the Pickens County defensive dominance. Six plays, 78-yards later the home team cashed in a touchdown off a DeMarkis Giles to Xzavian Hood touchdown pass.

A quick three-and-out gave the ball right back to the Tornados offense Giles and the passing game once again carried Pickens County, the quarterback found senior Zackary Boone in the endzone for a 12-yard touchdown pass that doubled the lead at 14-0.

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A pass interference helped the Red Raiders gain 23 yards on its next possession but unfortunately Marion County had to line up for its second consecutive punt.

A three-play sequence covered 130 yards and got the Red Raiders on the board despite being on defense. First, running back Elijah Merriweather took handoff for 45 years, next running back Caleb Hill gained 8-yards and finally Giles was intercepted by Dalyce Floyd who outraced everyone down the sidelines for a pick-six.

Pickens County responded with a 12-play 55-yard drive that included hard running by Korbit Summerville and Merriweather. It was Merriweather who broke free on a 19-yard run to take control of the game.

The second quarter onslaught continued due to turnovers. Pickens County set up the offense with a short field after recovering a fumbled snap. Marion County made the Tornados work for it but on 4th-and-goal Giles found wide receiver Santonio Jones for an 11-yard touchdown pass.

A second first half interception, this one hauled in by Jones, gave the Tornados another opportunity before halftime, however they couldn't convert, therefore taking a 19-point lead into the locker room.

The sides traded interceptions and punt in the third quarter until Marion County struck lightning on a 56-yard fake punt. Sophomore quarterback and up-man Jacob Madison found senior Zach Lamourex for a touchdown streaking down the sidelines to cut the lead to 26-14 late in the third quarter.

The trimmed deficit didn't last long, however, as Sommerville took the opening handoff on the next drive for a 64-yard touchdown run.

Strong defense followed by tough running from the Tornados trio of backs put the game to bed. Hill got the final score off a 16-yard touchdown run.

Merriweather led the physical effort for Pickens County on Friday night, taking 26 carries for 140 yards with one score and one fumble. Giles finished 14-of-20 passing for 185 yards and three touchdowns to go with three interceptions. Sommerville helped the running game rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown while Hill had 60 yards and the score.

Marion County's offense was stifled throughout the evening as the Red Raiders were only able to manage four first downs without the aid of penalty. Pickens County managed four sacks in the game to go along with its six forced turnovers.

"We do a lot of things and we're a blitzing team but they got some guys on the outside that can hurt us, No. 6 and No. 7 and we had to be able to play coverage today and our front four had to be able to be able to get after it and it was good to see them be able to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback, something they haven't had to do very much this year but to see that when we need them to do it is very gratifying going into the next week," said Williams.

Pickens County will host the Coosa Christian Conquerors (9-4, 5-1) with the right to go to the AHSAA state championship in Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn. Millry will host Leroy in the other state semi-final matchup.

"We're getting ready to go to another semifinal and it's a good feeling right now," said Williams.


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