By Phil Gibson
The Clay-Chalkville Cougars opened up the playoffs at home Friday night with an emphatic 45-14 victory over the Decatur Red Raiders.
After struggling in their first few possessions during their last game, the Cougars offense came roaring out of the gates early. On their first possession junior quarter back Hayden Moore hit junior wide receiver Brian Clark for a 34 yard bomb to score the first touchdown of the game. After the Raiders answered with a touchdown of their own, it seemed like it might be a track meet kind of game.
The Cougars’ defense had other plans. They wouldn’t allow another score until the Raiders’ final possession of the game.
“We play as a family,” said senior defensive lineman Lyrone Steed. “It’s all about coming together as one and getting the job done.”
Steed certainly did his part to get the job done. After a controversial helmet-to-helmet hit in the second quarter, tensions between the teams were high. Tempers were flaring up on the field before Steed returned a fumble 62 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the half, sending the Cougars into the locker room with a comfortable 31-7 lead. More importantly, it got the Clay-Chalkville players refocused on the task at hand
“It was a big statement,” said Steed. “Coach wanted us to keep a level head and keep handling our business.”
The Cougars’ defense certainly handled its business, as the Raiders never crossed midfield in the second half until their last possession, long after the starting unit was out of the game.
On the offensive side of the ball, the big story was the return of junior running back Sidney Battle, who has been missing time since October with an injury. Battle’s playing time was limited, but he still managed 66 yards on six carries and a touchdown.
“It felt good,” said Battle. “I wanted the ball. I wanted to get out there and just run.”
Battle also had high praise for the other Clay-Chalkville running backs, who have been impressive filling in.
“They don’t need me,” said Battle. “Terelle West (sophomore running back), he’s a great back. We’ve got Chris Marshall (junior running back) and Stephone Sheffield (sophomore running back), and they’re good.”
West’s carries may have decreased with Battle’s return, but he still managed to stand out by turning a short pass from Moore into a 70 yard receiving touchdown. The other Cougar touchdowns came on a four yard run by senior fullback Kenterrius Gray and a 70 yard hookup from junior quarterback William Bailey to senior receiver DeAndre Woods.
With the win, Clay-Chalkville moves on to face Tuscaloosa County High School next week. Clay-Chalkville head coach Jerry Hood thinks the Cougars have their work cut out for them if they are going to win.
“Tuscaloosa County is probably better than us,” said Hood. “We should be the underdog, but we’ll do the best we can.”
We’ll see how the Cougars match up next Friday.