PIEDMONT – Emotion was high tonight in Piedmont as Holly Pond went up against the Bulldogs in the first round of the playoffs. This was the first time the Broncos made it to the postseason since 2011, and many of the seniors were hoping that tonight’s game would not be their last. But the undefeated Bulldogs dominated the game, besting the Broncos 55-26.
Holly Pond received the first kickoff and lost the ball to Piedmont due to an interception. The Bulldogs failed to get a first down, and afterward the Broncos were unable to gain yards. Piedmont was eventually the first to score, putting seven points on the board with a touchdown and extra point. They quickly followed this with another TD from Taylor Hayes, just before Holly Pond's Mason May was injured. May was down for quite a while before being able to get up and make it to the sidelines.
Despite the efforts of Caleb Jones and a pass to Matt Cahoon, the Broncos were unable to gain many first downs, so Piedmont got the ball back. Multiple runs and passes led to another touchdown for the Bulldogs, but a penalty against them took the points away. This left the score at 14-0 for the first quarter.
The Bulldogs started out on a third down in the second quarter and were unable to gain a first. Holly Pond’s Jones ran and passed for yards, and two penalties against Piedmont gave the Broncos two first downs. Unfortunately, two players for Holly Pond – Michael Lambert and Jose Casimiro – were injured before the Bulldogs recovered the Broncos' fumble.
TJ Fairs ran for two first downs, and Hayes rushed for a Bulldog touchdown. Another touchdown – this one without an extra point – put the scoreboard at 27-0, and a failed field goal left this as the score at the end of the first half.
The first part of the third quarter belonged to the Bulldogs, who scored two more touchdowns and put the score at 41-0. However, the Broncos managed to get on the board later in the quarter, as Jones, Cahoon, and Dylan Morton all gained first downs before Jones scored Holly Pond's first TD of the game. An extra point from Savannah Fortner gave the Broncos seven points, and the score remained at 41-7 for the rest of the quarter, as Holly Pond defense stopped Piedmont.
The Broncos made quite the comeback in the final quarter with an almost immediate touchdown from Morton and an extra point from Fortner. An interception during Piedmont's third down gave the Broncos the ball back, and Holly Pond quickly gained yards with first downs from Trey Hill and Morton. A pass to Cahoon gave the Broncos six more points, and a recovery of Piedmont's fumble after the kickoff displayed Holly Pond's fierce determination to close the gap. Despite an incomplete pass to Jarrett Miller, the Broncos still gained a first down after a penalty set the Bulldogs back 15 yards.
In a spectacular play, Morton caught a pass and then passed it to Hill, giving Holly Pond another touchdown and putting the score at 41-26. Piedmont started scoring again soon after the kickoff, but a penalty called against them took the points away again. However, they did manage to score again and keep the points a few plays later, adding a 2-point conversion to their score.
Many fans thought the game would end at 49-26, but the Bulldogs weren't done just yet. With twelve seconds left, Piedmont squeezed in one last touchdown and ended the game with a score of 55-26.
The site was thick with emotion and pride on the visitors’ side, as Bronco fans, including seniors from various sports and activities, celebrated the fact that after a 29-game losing streak, the state's most active losing streak for a three-year period, the Broncos turned it around in 2016, with a 6-4 regular season, 3-3 in 3A, Region 6 to get them to the playoffs for the first time under current coach Mike Bates.
The Broncos end the 2016 season at 6-5, the most wins in a single season since 2007.
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