By Scott Buttram
Clay-Chalkville High School will face the perennial favorite from the north, Hoover High School, in this week’s semi-final game for the right to play in the Super 6 in Auburn. The Cougars bring a 12-1 record into the game, while the Buccaneers are unbeaten at 13-0.
Could this be the year for CCHS to return to the state championship game and win the 6A title? Two area coaches who have faced off with them think it could be their year.
“I hate to put a jinx on Jerry (Hood), but I really think this is the year Clay can get them,” Pinson Valley coach Matt Glover said. “Obviously, they’re playing really, really good right now.”
Glover’s Indians provided the first real test for the Cougars, taking them to overtime, before the Cougars prevailed and pulled out the win.
“When we played them, they had a couple of kids out and I think it was an awakening for them,” Glover said. “Sometimes it takes a game like we had to put things in perspective and say, ‘Hey, we need to go work every day.’”
Hewitt-Trussville’s Hal Riddle, who led the Cougars to the state title in 1999, likes what he sees in this year’s edition.
“They’re really good on defense,” Riddle said. “They’re deep on the defensive line. They play seven or eight different kids while the game is being contested. They’ve got three linebackers that are really solid. I saw the game Friday night and they just made plays. Then in the secondary, they run well, they’re quick and they just don’t leave big windows to throw the ball in to.”
Riddle said that when it comes to the offense, Hayden Moore has really come on and been good for the Cougars.
“He’s different from (Jacob) Thomas. He’s more like Carr Tigner was for us
. He’s doing a lot of the same kind of things that we were trying to do when Carr was playing.”
Riddle said Moore’s ability to run the offense forces opponents to pick their poison.
“He throws the ball well with two big receivers on each side,” Riddle said. “You can’t load up on one because you have another on the other side. They have great running backs, but you can’t put everybody up front to stop the run because they’ll throw on you. It makes you play honest.”
Glover said that the Cougars cause problems with multiple looks on offense.
“Offensively, Clay is very hard to prepare for,” Glover said. “They do a lot of things formation wise, a lot of things shifting that makes your players think. And that’s not always a good thing, making high school kids think during a game. You want kids to react, not think.”
Riddle believes both the Cougars and the Buccaneers have enjoyed a really great year and both teams expect to win when they show up.
“I think they’ve been battle tested,” Glover said of the Cougars. “What they went through last year when everybody thought they had a chance to win it all, then they have it taken away by a technicality in the rule book. Put all that together and they’re hungry. A hungry team is a very dangerous team.”
The game will be at Hoover on Friday night with kick-off set for 7 p.m.