By Gary Lloyd
GARDENDALE — A couple teams Clay-Chalkville faced in the Class 6A state playoffs last season believe the Cougars will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.
No. 5 Clay-Chalkville defeated seventh-ranked Mountain Brook in the quarterfinals of last season’s Class 6A state playoffs at the Spartans’ stadium. It was just Mountain Brook’s second loss of the season.
Mountain Brook offensive lineman Ken Thompson said the Cougars were great at quickly moving the ball sideline to sideline on offense. It was one of the more athletic teams the Spartans faced a year ago, he said.
Teammate Christian Anderson agreed.
“They played a great game,” said Anderson, who called Clay-Chalkville a “very athletic” team.
Clay-Chalkville then fell 44-20 in the state semifinals to top-ranked Hoover, which went on to win the state championship. Clay-Chalkville finished the season 12-2. Hoover head coach Josh Niblett said Cougars head coach Jerry Hood has done “an unbelievable job” with the program. Niblett credited former Cougars head coach Hal Riddle, the current Hewitt-Trussville head coach who won a state championship with Clay-Chalkville in 1999, with initiating the rise of the program.
“They were able to tap in to those kids growing up understanding about championship football,” Niblett said. “I think the mixture that they have now with their kids with what they’re able to do from an offensive and defensive standpoint … they’ve had a lot of standout players.”
Niblett also credited former Clay-Chalkville head coach John Holladay with helping the football program “catch the eye of a lot of people” by making a run to the state quarterfinals in 2005.
Clay-Chalkville senior quarterback Hayden Moore said he believes the program is on the same level as some of the top programs in the Birmingham metro area and the state.
“We work just has hard as anyone else,” Moore said. “That hard work puts us right at the top with everybody else.”
Mountain Brook assistant coach Jim King called Clay-Chalkville a “tremendous team.”
“I think they’ll have a great team,” he said. “They have great players.”
Niblett said the Clay community has to be excited about the Clay-Chalkville program.
“We look forward to playing in games like that, against opponents like that, because it only makes you better,” Niblett said.
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.