by Alex Headley
The Pinson Valley defense ran the Moody High School Blue Devils ragged Friday night.
The Indians forced several early turnovers, including three interceptions, two of which were scoring plays. Zach Cunningham and Harry Mason led the defense. Mason had two interceptions and a touchdown. Cunningham had three sacks, an interception and a touchdown.
“I haven’t had a touch down since middle school,” Cunningham said. “It felt good. The defense is starting to really come together.”
Pinson Head Coach Matt Glover was pleased with the team’s performance and improvement.
“We just started executing better,” Glover said. “We are working harder and watching the film very closely. We’ve starting playing the way we are supposed to play.”
Pinson won the match 40 to 14.
“It’s a big win, but we still have some work to do,” Glover said. “Penalties are killing us, we have to fix that.”
A blocking in the back penalty cost the Indians one touchdown drive from Earnest Robinson.
AJ Freeman opened up the game in a big way, rushing 34 yards for a touchdown on the Indians’ first possession.
Moody answered back with a long drive resulting in a touchdown pass with 4 minutes remaining in the opening quarter. The Blue Devils kept up the heat, scoring again at the top of the second quarter. But that would be the last scoring play for Moody.
A 41-yard run from Freeman put the Indians at first and goal. Quarterback Brooks Garrett then rushed over the line to bring the score up to a tie 14-14.
Garrett had one touchdown and completed 9 of 13 passes.
Harry Mason’s first interception of the night came a few moments later with 2:10 on the clock in the first half. Mason scored off the play, putting the Indians ahead 21-14.
“That interception made the game for us,” Glover said. “We were on our heels a little and that gave us the spark we needed.”
Mason has been pulling double duty for the Indians, playing receiver on the offense in addition to his duties on the defensive line.
“I feel good on defense but I need to step it up in the offense,” Mason said. “The defense is just really clicking now.”
Freeman scored again after a short pass and a 59-yard run with 9:06 in the third quarter.
Freeman has been a big factor in the Indians’ success this season.
“Coach tells me to run explosive,” Freeman said about his strategy on the field. “I hit the hole as hard as I can and break away with my speed. That’s my advantage.”
Freeman said the offense has really come together this season.
“Harry moving to defense changed things a bit, but we are picking it up as a team,” he said. “All of our skill players are in a good spot.”
Freeman has received offers from Faulkner, Alabama State and Huntingdon College, but has not made a decision yet.
Cunningham’s big play came on the Blue Devils next possession. A punt put Moody on their own goal line and on their third attempt to escape their own territory; Cunningham intercepted and brought the Indians up to 34 points.
“Zach is big every week,” Glover said. “Coaches tell me every week that he is just unstoppable. I don’t know who is looking for him in college but everyone should want him. He’s the best in the country.”
Cunningham hopes to move on to play college for the University of Alabama next year.
“I plan on going to a good college and then hopefully move on to the NFL,” he said.
With 6:10 left in the game, Jeffrey Blair leapt into the endzone over a host of Devils to score one more time. Moody blocked the extra point attempt and left the match at 40 to 14.
Pinson Valley, now ranked No. 2 in regional play, will face off with Pleasant Grove at home next week before moving on to the playoffs.
“They are a good football team,” Glover said. “If we want to make it all the way, we have to keep getting better every week.”
After Pleasant Grove, the Indians will play Briarwood Christian Academy.
The Indians, especially the seniors, are aching for a win over Briarwood, something this class has yet to accomplish.
“We really want to beat Briarwood,” Blair said. “We took losses our sophomore and junior years. Now we have a hunger for that win
. We got blown out two years straight, but this time is senior night and we want that win. It’s a big night for us.”