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Cougars power past Gardendale in key region game

By David Knox

Sports Editor

CLAY – In what was supposed to be a showdown in Class 6A, Region 6, instead it was a showoff.

Clay-Chalkville whipped Gardendale in the trenches and powered away to a dominating 41-7 win at Cougar Stadium on Friday night.

The Cougars (6-1, 3-1 in Region 6) put themselves in good position in the region race with the win over the Rockets (4-3, 2-1). They trail Pinson Valley by a half-game (though the Indians hold the tiebreaker since they beat Clay) and now lead Gardendale by a half-game (but now own the tiebreaker).

The Cougars piled up an unofficial 315 yards rushing and added 70 through the air for 385 yards of total offense.

“I thought we did a good job being physical in the box and our offense did a good job kind of sorting some things out that they do that presents some problems for us,” Cougars coach Drew Gilmer said. “But I thought we did a good job sorting it out. I thought we were very physical and that’s what we’ve got to be.”

Gilmer cited Jack Jones and Noah Tatum as a couple of linemen that stood out, but he said he thought across the board the line played well. “I thought just as a unit we really played together and that’s very important.” Meanwhile, the defense was even more impressive, holding the Rockets to an unfathomable 36 yards of total offense for the game – 16 yards rushing and 20 passing. The Rockets had just five first downs – all in the first half.

The Rockets, who were playing without quarterback Michael Crowder after he was injured early in the second quarter, managed just 5 yards rushing in the second half as Gardendale simply tried to run Stephen Lancaster and Conner Howell on quarterback sweeps.

“The defense played good,” Gilmer said. “They got handcuffed a little bit when the quarterback went down, but I thought defensively we played really well. I thought we were physical again, I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage all night and I thought we did a pretty good job tackling. We got sloppy in the middle, leaving our feet on tackles, that we’ve got to clean up.”

The Rockets’ only bright spot came on Kendale Allen’s 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown after Clay had opened the scoring on Quentin Young’s 2-yard TD run. Landon Erbrick’s extra point gave the Rockets a 7-6 brief lead.

After that, it was all Cougars.

Young (138 yards on 15 carries) scored three times on runs of 2, 20 and 18 yards. Curtis Blakely (154 yards on 15 carries) added a 1-yard scoring run and Willie Miller threw touchdown passes of 7 yards to Roderick McCloud and 22 yards to Terrill Cole. Jaren Van Winkel kicked five of six extra points.

Given that the only score was allowed by the special teams, Sean Talsma’s defense hasn’t allowed a point in three games.
The Cougars left some points on the board, with a couple of touchdowns called back due to penalty. They also fumbled a punt and allowed the return for a score.

“There’s stuff we’ve got to clean up,” Gilmer said. “One was definitely a hold I saw, some others I’ll have to look at and see. But you’re going to have some of those, we just have to try and eliminate them.”

The key region win keeps the Cougars in the hunt for a region title, if someone can knock off Pinson Valley, and certainly puts them in good position to earn a home game in round one of the playoffs as the region runner-up.

“We’re on track for what we’ve got to do,” Gilmer said “We’ve still got Carver and still got Minor (in region play) to take care of business there. We’re still on track to accomplish what we want to accomplish.”

Carver is up next. The Cougars will travel to face the Rams in a rare Saturday night game. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

Carver knocked off Minor 21-14 Friday night to improve to 5-1, 2-1 in the region to put itself in good position to make the playoffs. Clay-Chalkville now holds a 6-0 record all-time against the Rockets.

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