GARDENDALE — Trey Stoddard spent part of his Friday night preparing for redemption.
The Trojans’ freshman kicker, who clinched a first-round playoff win last year as an eighth-grader, sent two extra points wide left in Friday’s second round Class 6A playoff game at Gardendale.
So Stoddard sent one practice kick after another into the net throughout the second half, figuring he might need to hit one. And when the Trojans drove to the Gardendale 1-yard-line with five seconds left and the score tied, Stoddard had his chance.
“To tell you the truth,” Muscle Shoals coach Scott Basden said, “I didn’t watch it.”
Stoddard’s kick was good. Muscle Shoals 30, Gardendale 27.
It put the Trojans into the Class 6A quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 and set up a rematch of last year’s playoff game against Pinson Valley, which the Trojans lost.
“I guess you think about it in the back of your head, but you just try and go out there and just focus on kicking the ball and not really think about consequences,” Stoddard said. “Like, it’s a playoff game, last second — you don’t try to think about that. You just try and think it’s a routine kick.”
Gardendale had a second left and completed a pass on its final play, but the receiver’s lateral fell to the turf and Muscle Shoals had the win.
The Trojans trailed 27-19 at the start of the fourth quarter, and what made the comeback even more impressive was Muscle Shoals had to rally without starting quarterback Logan Smothers, who left with an undisclosed injury late in the second quarter and did not return. Basden said he did not yet know Smothers’ status for the Pinson Valley game.
Sophomore quarterback Luke Peoples, who has played mostly at the end of routs, found Ty Smith for a 74-yard touchdown with 8:51 to go. Peoples threw a two-point conversion to Markel Ricks on the right side of the end zone to tie the game.
Gardendale missed a field goal on its next possession, and the teams traded punts.
Taking over at the Trojan 44 with 1:28 left, Smith made an impressive 36-yard catch over a defender in the middle of the field and landed at the Gardendale 20. A pass interference call and a Brooks Berry run got Muscle Shoals to the 1, and Stoddard kicked the winner.
“I thought he did great,” Basden said of Peoples. “He was a little shaky at first, but other than that I thought he played well. I just told him you’ve got a bunch of people around you that believe in you, and don’t let them down because they’re going to play their guts out for you. And, you know, they did.”
Peoples said the seniors let him know at halftime they believed in him.
“I felt comfortable with it,” Peoples said. “They put me in at practice. I get reps with them. We’re like brothers. If one goes down, one’s got to step up. And the weapons around me make it easy.”
Gardendale scored on its first two possessions for a 10-0 lead. Quarterback Will “Goose” Crowder, receiver Kendale Allen and tight end Bailey Parsons caused Muscle Shoals problems all night.
But Smothers ran 59 yards on third down to cut the deficit to 10-7, and Muscle Shoals’ next two possessions were one-play scoring drives as Keevon Hankins ran 69 yards for a touchdown and Smothers found Smith for a 68-yard score.
But Gardendale added 10 points before halftime and then scored a touchdown on its first drive of the second half.
Muscle Shoals’ defense made sure that was the Rockets’ final score of 2019.
“I saw confidence in (Peoples),” Smith said. “It’s a big position to step up in, to take Logan’s spot. I’m just glad that he finished it well.”
Muscle Shoals will get to play next week's game against Pinson Valley at home.
“They get tougher every week, ” Basden said. “ We’re just blessed to be playing one more week.”