Cougars open with Niceville (Fla.) on national stage
By Gary Lloyd
HOOVER — Bang.
That’s the sound of the season starting for Clay-Chalkville.
This game is against Niceville High School, one of the top teams in the state of Florida, the Class 7A runner-up a season ago.
It’s on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Hoover High School’s Buccaneer Stadium.
Oh, and it will be televised on ESPNU, immediately following Hoover vs. Miami (Fla.) Central.
You could easily make the case it’s the most hyped game in Clay-Chalkville history, short of the 1999 state championship game. But don’t tell the players.
“It’s just another game,” said junior wide receiver T.J. Simmons.
That seems to be the mindset of the Clay-Chalkville players. Senior running back Terrelle West said he and teammates don’t feel the pressure of being on a national stage, since the right amount of pressure is put on them every day in practice by coaches and themselves.
“I just feel like it’s a great opportunity for us, being that this is our senior season,” West said. “We get to go out with a bang.”
Clay-Chalkville and Niceville seem similar. The Cougars last season scored a school-record 540 points in 12 games, an average of 45 points per game. Niceville scored 598 points in 15 games, an average of 39.9 per game. Clay-Chalkville scored more than 40 points in seven games. Niceville accomplished that six times. The Cougars exceeded 50 points five times, while the Eagles did so four times.
Both defenses were solid a season ago, considering how many possessions their opponents had due to their success on the offensive side of the ball. Clay-Chalkville surrendered 254 points in 12 games, an average of 21.2 points per game. Niceville allowed 266 points in 15 games, an average of 17.7 per game. Clay-Chalkville allowed fewer than 10 points three times, while Niceville did it five times.
Clay-Chalkville head coach Jerry Hood said his team has been breaking down film on Niceville most of the summer. Clay-Chalkville junior quarterback Tyrell Pigrome said Niceville is a fast team, and he expects the Cougars to match its speed. The Eagles have an athletic wide receiver they try to get the ball to on quick bubble screens. All-purpose back Shi’kim Coward has about 15 scholarship offers.
“They’re a great football team, got a great coaching staff,” Hood said. “It’ll be a good challenge for us. They’re a bigger school. They’re probably the favorite, and we’re the little ol’ underdog.”
Hood said he’d be disappointed if any players on his team have nerves since the game is on national television. He said they’re all 15 to 18 years old, and this should be the time of their lives.
“We just look at it as a fun opportunity and as a game that doesn’t make a hill of beans for the playoffs or whatever, but it’s a chance to showcase who we are, and I think our kids will go out with a mindset to win and to play the best they can play,” Hood said. “That’s our goal.”
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.