The North Sand Mountain football program’s playoff streak has now reached seven.

With a playoff spot on the line, a quick start was the key for NSM in the 29-14 Class 2A Region 7 victory at Falkville on Friday night. 

NSM (4-5, 3-3) scored on its first two possessions, tacked on a first half safety and held off several challenges by a pesky Falkville team along the way. With the win, the Bison claimed the fourth and final playoff spot from Region 7. 

It’s NSM’s seventh straight playoff appearance, the longest active playoff streak among Jackson County teams.

“It was big coming out of gate like we did and putting a little doubt (in Falkville) there. We gave them some hope at the end of the (first) half, but we responded like we’re supposed to (in the second half). We were able to run, get first downs and chew clock and finish drives,” said NSM head coach Keith Kirby. “I’m proud for our boys, proud for our coaches. They did a great job.”

NSM won its last two region games to earn its postseason berth.

“(The players) kept hanging in there, kept fighting, and found a way to get the job done,” Kirby said. “They showed what they’re made of.”

Falkville (4-5, 2-4) lost its last four region games.

“(NSM) punched us in the mouth early and it took us a quarter to punch back,” said Falkville head coach Adam Ward. “By that point, it’s tough. You have to claw your way back from two scores. I thought we responded in the second half but they had one drive and hit us in the teeth again.”

The first punch – actually the first two punches – came quickly. NSM took possession at its own 30-yard line following the opening kickoff and swiftly moved down the field. It took five plays to cover the 70 yards with the touchdown coming on a 19-yard pass from Landon Keller to Derek Bearden. 

Falkville (4-5, 2-4) had two first downs on its opening drive before the drive stalled at the NSM 37-yard line. The Bison took over at their own 23-yard line after a short punt and, again, swiftly moved down the field. The 7-play drive culminated with a 6-yard touchdown run by Mason Smith and NSM had a 14-0 lead with 1:54 left in the first quarter. 

The lead grew to 16-0 when Falkville running back Jordan Greenfield was tackled in the end zone. However, it was Falkville taking momentum into the locker room when Greenfield broke about five tackles on the way to a beautiful 40-yard touchdown run with 29.7 seconds left in the half. A two-point conversion attempt failed and Falkville trailed, 16-6, at half. 

Falkville took the second half kickoff and drove deep into NSM territory. The drive ended when Greenfield was tackled in the backfield on 4th-and-1 from the Bison's 18-yard line. Neither team scored in the third quarter but NSM added to its lead with 11:25 remaining in the game when Bearden weaved 8 yards into the end zone after dropping a direct snap.  After the PAT, the Bison's led 23-6.

The Blue Devils answered quickly with quarterback Caden Burnett capping a 8-play, 56-yard drive on a 1-yard touchdown run. Burnett’s two-point conversion pass to Dawson Fowler cut the deficit to 23-14. NSM answered with a 9-yard scoring run by Smith.

Falkville appeared to have sliced into the deficit with 3:21 remaining what would have been a 35-yard scoring pass from Burnett to Fowler was negated by a holding call. The Blue Devils eventually turned the ball over on downs. 

Greenfield finished with 142 yards on 29 carries but only had two runs over 10 yards. Smith and Joshua Farmer each rushed for 126 yards for the Bison and Alex Luna had 79 yards on eight carries. NSM sacked Burnett four times with Lucas Steele collection two of those sacks.

Smith ran for 124 yards on 17 carries for NSM while Hank Farmer ran for 118 yards on 16 carries. Keller finished 5-of-9 passing for 69 yards.

› Steve Irvine is a correspondent for The Decatur Daily.

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