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The Gordo Greenwave won the latest installment of the “Eight-Mile War” on Thursday night, defeating county rival Pickens County 40-8 to close out its regular season.

Despite moving from Class 3A to 4A in the offseason, Gordo still won its sixth region title in the last seven years and finished the regular season 9-1 – its only loss coming to Class 6A Northridge by 4 points.

“I think our guys have responded well, and I feel like we’ve worked harder than we’ve ever worked,” Gordo coach Ryan Lolley said. “We focus more on [ourselves] than who we’re actually playing.”

The Greenwave scored from everywhere on the Tornadoes’ muddy field, finding the end zone three times by pass, twice by fumble recovery and once by punt return.

Gordo’s running game was uncharacteristically stagnant, gaining just 61 yards on 29 carries. But junior quarterback Lawson Neel, who has filled in since starter Tanner Bailey broke his collarbone against Northridge on Sept. 25, went 5 for 7 for 134 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Tornadoes.

Senior wide receiver J.T. Billups took a short Neel pass 55 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, Neel found sophomore wide receiver Decorrion Thomas wide open at the goal line in the second, and he threw a dart to senior wide receiver Hunter Oglen on the first play of the fourth.

Photo By Joe Gaither
Photo By Joe Gaither

Neel also threw a 39-yard pass down the sideline to Oglen to set up the Greenwave’s first touchdown. Four of his five completions gained 15 or more yards.

“When you look up ‘team player’ in the dictionary, you’ll see him. He wants to do what’s best for his team at all times,” Lolley said. “It wasn’t about him; he just wanted to do whatever’s best for our team and he did a great job of it.”

The other scorers for Gordo were senior offensive lineman Hunter Kimbrell, by jumping on a fumble in the end zone; senior receiver J.T. Billups on a 38-yard punt return; and sophomore linebacker J.J. O’Bryant on a Tornadoes fumble returned for a touchdown.

Entering Thursday, the Greenwave hadn’t allowed any points in 34 days, courtesy of two shutouts, a bye week and a forfeit. That ended when Neel was sacked in the end zone near the end of the first half and the ball rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

The Tornadoes’ offense didn’t get on the board until the fourth quarter, when freshman backup quarterback Xzavian Hood threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Kemuarion Plott. The 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete.

Hood was in the game because junior starter Javion Belle was being looked at by trainers on the sideline after taking a hard hit. Pickens County struggled up front, as Belle was sacked four times and Gordo’s defense racked up at least six tackles for loss.

Williams said Belle, who finished 10 for 18 for 121 yards, “played well when he had the chance,” but he was disappointed with the protection, especially because he felt they had prepared well.

“I went in at halftime and I said, ‘Did they show you anything different that we said they weren’t going to show you?’ Everybody said no.” Williams said. “I just didn’t like the way we were executing. At times we didn’t look like we were up to par, and they sensed it. They came at us real hard.”

Pickens County closed its regular season with a seventh consecutive loss to Gordo, but it finished at 7-3 overall and 6-1 in Class 1A, Region 6.

“They’re the standard that we’re trying to get to. Year in and year out they’re competing at a high level,” Pickens County coach Michael Williams said. “To have somebody in your county that shows you what it’s really supposed to look like when you play the game of football – I hope our kids understand that.”

Next week Gordo (9-1 overall, 6-0 in Class 4A, Region 5) is scheduled to host Brooks in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs. Pickens County is scheduled to host Woodville. Since Gordo’s home games this season are at Pickens County while the Greenwave’s field is being renovated, one of the two games will likely be moved to Thursday.

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