By David Knox
For The Tribune
Two unbeaten teams in Class 6A’s Region 7 meet in an early season showdown when second-ranked Clay-Chalkville travels to Pell City on Friday.
An instant classic? Maybe. Or perhaps this one should be dubbed the Enigma Bowl.
Clay-Chalkville head coach Jerry Hood insisted yet again after last week’s closer-than-expected 49-28 win over Albertville that the Cougars are overrated. On the road at Albertville, he told his team at halftime that the Cougars needed an attitude adjustment.
“I said, ‘Look, you’re on the road, you’ve got an immature mentality,’” Hood said. “’Here’s the deal: If you do your job you’re gonna score four or five more touchdowns. Just do your job.’ And off we go.”
The defense is young, the high-powered offense sometimes stops itself with unforced errors, such as dropped passes, penalties and poor decisions. Clearly, for a deep run in the state playoffs, those things must be corrected. In the regular season, those kinds of mistakes could lead to an upset.
“Little things like that give an underdog some mojo,” Hood said.
Pell City doesn’t fit the underdog label, especially at Pete Rich Field. But though the Panthers are unbeaten, they’re something of an untested 3-0. A 14-7 win over winless Hueytown, a 34-7 whacking of Albertville and a 41-0 romp over winless Grissom don’t provide much of a measuring stick.
Under first-year head coach Brooks Dampeer – he replaced David Shores, who resigned in the spring – the Panthers are relying on some key playmakers. At the top of the list is Ira Burch, who scored on both offense and defense against Grissom. Running back Demaurian Willis and quarterback Jackson Williamson have also impressed in the early going for Dampeer, who was an assistant at Spain Park and moved with Shores to Pell City as offensive coordinator.
Last season, Clay-Chalkville blasted the Panthers 52-14. Hayden Moore went 18-for-21 passing for 289 yards and three touchdowns and Terrelle West rushed for 152 yards on 10 carries. Burch rushed for 107 yards on eight carries for the Panthers, who were 7-5 last season and earned a playoff berth.
This time around, expect a shootout. The mix of the offensive-minded Panthers and the young Cougar defense means Clay-Chalkville will need to put points on the board again this week. The defense did come up with four turnovers against Albertville to offset its inability to get off the field in the conventional manner. More of that, and a few defensive stops along the way, would go a long way toward a fourth straight win.