By David Knox
In the end, it was just too much Keith Mixon. Shades Valley’s big-play multipurpose back scored four touchdowns and even recovered an onside kick as the ninth-ranked Mounties built a large lead and then held off a stubborn and spirited Hewitt-Trussville team 42-35 at Frank Nix Athletic Complex in Irondale on Friday night.
Mixon had his highlight-reel moments. But when the Huskies’ gritty defense managed to limit him and Shades Valley’s other explosive players, it was a different story. In fact, when Hewitt-Trussville hemmed Mixon up twice on a key fourth-period sequence, it gave the Huskies the ball again at their own 32 with 1:36 to play and a chance to tie or win. But Hewitt quarterback Blake Bailey – who pegged four TD passes — was sacked twice by a fierce pass rush and his third-down pass deep into Mountie territory was intercepted by Tanner Henton to kill the threat.
That a last-minute chance even presented itself was unexpected after unbeaten Shades Valley took a 28-7 lead into halftime. Take away the second quarter, which Shades Valley dominated with three unanswered touchdowns, and Hewitt-Trussville outscored their highly ranked hosts 35-21 — 28-14 in the second half. But the Huskies defense couldn’t contain Mixon completely and the offense missed a few key opportunities.
“We had our chances,” said coach Hal Riddle of his Huskies (2-4, 2-2 Class 6A, Region 6). “It’s not like we didn’t. We didn’t take advantage of all of them. But shoot, man, you’ve got to be thankful for a group that’s down 28-7 at the half and comes out and has a chance to tie the game or go for two and win the game at the end.”
Hewitt turned the ball over three times, all on interceptions, missed a field goal and had a handful of dropped passes and a couple of penalties at crucial times. A trick play late – a flanker pass – just missed. But while the execution wasn’t perfect, Riddle praised his team’s effort.
“These little ol’ boys from Trussville, they have a lot of heart,” Riddle said. “They’ve got a coaching staff working with them, keeps encouraging them and loving them.
“They had two big plays on us in the second half. This team is going to have some big plays. They’ve done it all year.”
Shades Valley built its 28-7 halftime lead after surrendering the game’s first score, a 3-yard toss from Bailey to Cyle Moore. T.J. McGettigan’s extra point gave the Huskies a 7-0 lead just four minutes into the game.
But the Mounties’ high-powered offense roared back with four touchdowns. Quarterback Rashad Louie scampered in from 11 yards out to tie the score with 4:02 remaining in the first quarter and then Mixon took over in the second period with a 1-yard plunge and a neck-twisting 44-yard bolt to push the lead to 21-7. Jaylin Boykin added Shades Valley’s third score of the quarter with a 13-yard run with just 43 seconds left before halftime.
The three-score deficit at the break was but an afterthought when Huskies offensive lineman Kyle Miskelley was injured on the final play of the half. The beginning of the break was delayed while paramedics and training personnel attended to him. He was placed on a stretcher and taken away by ambulance to St. Vincent’s in Birmingham with a possible leg fracture.
The Huskies scored first in the second half when a Shades Valley defender gambled on an out route and Bailey whistled the ball past him to DeMarcus Kelly, who turned upfield and outraced the Mounties 82 yards for a touchdown. A missed PAT left the Huskies trailing 28-13 with 7:19 left in the quarter.
But Mixon answered for SV, taking a toss from Louie and weaving through a pack of Huskies for a 69-yard score and nudging the lead back out to 35-13 with 5:45 left in the period.
The Huskies weren’t through, though. Seemingly on their heels, they put together a drive capped by Bailey’s 19-yard pass to Peyton Palmer. Bailey found McAlpin for a two-point conversion pass to make the score 35-21 with 1:45 still left in the third quarter.
Mixon again responded as the highly recruited junior seemed to ice the game with a 16-yard run to make it 42-21 with 11:53 left in the contest.
But that was the last time the Mounties would score.
Bailey, who shared time at quarterback with Zach Thomas for a good portion of the first half before Thomas was injured in the third quarter, led his team back again, finishing a drive with a 4-yard run. McGettigan’s PAT cut the lead to 42-28 with 9:23 to play.
The Huskies’ inspired defense clamped down as Shades Valley attempted to grind away at the clock, forcing Mixon and company to the sideline again. Bailey found Riley Stokes for a 48-yard touchdown pass and McGettigan’s kick pulled the Huskies within seven points with 3:19 left.
The Huskies, not willing to give their hosts another attempt to chew up clock, attempted an onside kick. The bobbling ball was loose for a second before Mixon raced up and corralled it.
But Valley couldn’t run out the clock, as Hewitt keyed on Mixon and forced one more punt. The Huskies got the ball back at their 32 with 1:36 left, but Bailey was heavily pressured and sacked on two successive downs. Unwilling to let that happen a third time, Bailey unleashed a deep throw that was intercepted, snuffing out the final hope.
Sacks and tackles for losses skewed the final statistical numbers. The Huskies rushed for 56 net yards on 32 carries while Valley recorded 120 yards on 25 tries. Bailey was 16-for-34 passing for 259 yards with the four TD passes and two interceptions. The Mounties also intercepted Thomas once. The Huskies didn’t lose a fumble. Austin Wysor and Hunter Songer each recovered Mounties fumbles.
“It’s hard to look at the hurt on their faces now,” Riddle said of his team. “But we’ve still got a chance to get in (the playoffs). We’re 2-2, it’s still in our hands.
“We played really hard. I don’t have any qualms with our effort. We’re thankful for these kids and the way they played and the way they get after it. That’s what you hope for, get into the fourth quarter and have a chance against a team ranked ninth in the state.”
Hewitt-Trussville hosts Mountain Brook in another Region 6 game Friday at 7 p.m. The Spartans (3-3, 2-2) beat Carver 35-7.