By Erik Harris
A certain opponent sometimes brings out the best in a competitor. It might come from extra motivation fueled by a rivalry, or it might be a simple competitive advantage. But for whatever reason, Pinson Valley running back Nick Gibson seems to get in touch with his ferocious side against the Mortimer Jordan Blue Devils.
Gibson more than helped the Indians capture a 48-36 victory in their Class 5A, Region 6 opener at home Friday night. You could say he flat-out carried Pinson Valley (2-0, 1-0) to the win.
“I set goals before the season and I want to be the No. 1 running back in the country and go for the most rushing yards,” said an exhausted Gibson.
The junior ball carrier sliced, diced and bulldozed his way to a 450-yard, six-touchdown performance that more than doubled the damage he did to the Blue Devils’ defense last season (220 yards on 24 carries and a pair of scores).
“It’s nothing,” said Gibson. “I feel the same way with every team. Coach (Matt Glover) has been pushing me and it has paid off.”
A gutty performance by Mortimer Jordan senior quarterback Devlin Hodges kept things interesting, though. Hodges found the end zone four times, two rushing and two passing.
“I knew Hodges was good and I told our kids that he can beat you by himself, he’s a good quarterback,” Glover said.
If not for a few untimely dropped passes, Hodges might have led the Blue Devils (0-2, 0-1) to an impressive road win.
Hodges was particularly fond of finding running back Landon Smith for scores. He connected with Smith in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown on the visitors’ third drive of the night to give them a 6-0 advantage.
The pair would dial it up once more, this time on a beautiful deep ball that beat senior cornerback Jaylyne Rhone, who had sticky coverage on the play. A successful two-point conversion gave Mortimer Jordan a 22-21 lead with 4:18 to go in the third quarter.
Unfortunately for the blue and white, that’s when Gibson kicked it into beast mode.
The junior reached the end zone four times during the next 16 minutes of play. On three of those trips, he traveled more than 65 yards. The other score was a 5-yarder out of the “Seminole Package” that capped a seven-play drive. The bruising run gave the Indians a 41-28 advantage with 7:02 remaining in the game.
It was an effort worthy of the attention SEC schools and other college football powers are already giving the junior.
“I told (Gibson) at halftime that I wanted him to take the game over and he said ‘Coach, I will,’” Glover said. “That’s what I expect from him, he’s a football player.”
Hodges did direct two more scoring drives to keep things respectable, but the damage done by Gibson was too much to overcome.
Pinson Valley senior quarterback Brooks Garrett didn’t have to throw much on this night, but he did complete five of eight passes. One key completion went to tight end Dylan Evans, a 10-yard touchdown that trimmed the Blue Devils’ lead to 21-14 at the end of the first half. Garrett was picked off once by defensive back Ryan Tucker.
Besides that, Garrett repeatedly turned and handed the rock to Gibson.
“When we’re averaging 10 yards a carry, we’re not going to throw the ball,” said Glover.
Junior Tyree Watson carried the ball 10 times for 36 yards while backing up Gibson.
Mortimer Jordan actually won the possession battle in the second half. They ran 43 plays from scrimmage to the Indians’ 27. The Blue Devils also moved the chains 15 times in the final 24 minutes of play.
But when three second-half drives go for three plays or less because of long Gibson touchdown rushes, it doesn’t matter.
Pinson Valley will look to remain unbeaten next week when the Indians travel to Walker (1-1) for another Region 6 contest Friday.