By Erik Harris
For The Tribune
Pinson Valley senior quarterback Brooks Garrett turned 18 today and his teammates on the defensive side of the ball were nice enough to surprise him with a heartfelt gift — six forced turnovers in the Indians’ 44-6 victory over Hayden on Friday.
The Indians were able to capitalize on the gifts by turning them into 21 points that was more than enough to get their second Class 5A, Region 6 win of the season.
Perhaps Pinson Valley (3-1, 2-1) was looking forward to its showdown next week with Class 6A No. 2 Clay-Chalkville, as its offense got off to a painfully slow start against the Wildcats.
While their minds were on the Cougars, Hayden (0-4, 0-3) was busy holding the Indians’ offense to a sad 14 plays and two first downs through the first 24 minutes of play.
“Started real slow in the first half,” Garrett said. “I just had to pick it up and do what I’m coached to do.”
Fortunately for the home crowd, Pinson Valley’s opportunistic defense scored in the opening minutes of the game. On third and medium, defensive end Darius Adams tracked down quarterback Tim Curry, hammered the ball loose and scooped it up for a 20-yard touchdown return to give Pinson Valley a 7-0 lead.
The Indians struck again early in the second quarter when Saul Rios connected on a 27-yard field goal.
Penalties and a Nick Gibson fumble kept the Pinson Valley offense grounded for the better part of the first half. An 81-yard touchdown dash by Gibson was taken away by the Indians’ seventh penalty of the night.
But Gibson redeemed himself by reaching the end zone from six yards out late in the first half. The powerful score came two plays after cornerback Juray Smith picked off a Curry pass and returned it down to the Wildcat 16 yard line.
You could hardly say the Indians enjoyed their 17-0 halftime lead, though. After head coach Matt Glover gave them a passionate talking to in the locker room, the Pinson Valley offense took the field for the second half with a whole new focus.
“They really got on us at halftime,” Garrett said. “They said it was a new season after that half and I think it was.”
The birthday boy only threw the ball seven times over the final two quarters, but he completed five of them, all for double-digit yardage. His final toss of the night found Dylan Evans to convert a third and 11. Evans broke one tackle and charged 41 yards to the end zone to increase the lead to 37-6 with 8:25 remaining.
“I challenged (Garrett) at halftime and told him he has to make some plays for us,” Glover said.
Backup running back Tyree Watson landed the final blow of the night with a 42-yard scamper to the goal line late in the fourth quarter.
Gibson carried the ball 17 times for 178 yards and three touchdowns. Garrett went 5-of-11 for 94 yards and one score.
“If I’m ever having a bad game, I can always lean on Nick, but I like when we both have good games,” Garrett said.
Hayden’s only score of the night came with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. Curry found freshman Leonard Johnson for a 13-yard touchdown strike on fourth and long.
Both teams get a break from region play next week. Pinson Valley hosts Clay-Chalkville while Hayden takes on Corner.
“These next two weeks for us are big games,” Glover said.