By Gary Lloyd
CLAY — This wasn’t how it was supposed to end.
It was supposed to last at least another week, another chance to take down Class 6A No. 1 Hoover, the team that eliminated Clay-Chalkville in the state semifinals a year ago and went on to win a state championship.
Florence had other plans.
The Falcons endured multiple Clay-Chalkville punches and swung right back, earning a 37-30 win at Cougar Stadium on Friday in the second round of the state playoffs. Florence will play Hoover next week.
“It was a hard-fought game, back and forth,” said Clay-Chalkville senior quarterback Hayden Moore. “They did a great job.”
The fourth quarter was tense from the first play. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the Florence 12-yard line, Patrick Millican booted a 29-yard field goal to cut the Cougars’ deficit to 24-23.
One minute later, Florence quarterback Kendrick Doss hit Roland Adams for a 47-yard TD to take the lead back 30-23 after a blocked extra point. After each team stalled on their ensuing drives, Clay-Chalkville (10-2) had the ball with 4:11 to play. The Cougars were called for holding on a long run by Sidney Battle and Moore covered up a bad snap for a 12-yard loss. Facing third-and-22 from the Florence 44-yard line with 2:05 to play, Moore threw a deep touchdown pass to T.J. Simmons to tie the game at 30, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.
Doss, an Ole Miss commitment, kept his poise for Florence (9-3), completing all three of his passes for 78 yards and the game-winning 39-yard touchdown to William Barnett with :23 left on the clock.
Starting on their own 36-yard line, the Cougars got 25 yards on first down when Moore hit Simmons. On third-and-6 from the Florence 35, Moore had senior wideout Brian Clark open in the left corner of the end zone, but Clark bobbled the ball and dropped it as he fell to the ground. Clay-Chalkville benefited from a pass interference call in the end zone on fourth down with no time left, allowing for one un-timed down. Moore’s final pass fell incomplete.
“Knowing we’ve got to come back, and we almost did it,” Moore said. “We did the best we could. They deserved to win.”
The game started quickly for Florence. Doss found Barnett for a 36-yard touchdown on the first drive of the game. Junior running back Terrelle West scored on a 10-yard run to tie the game after one quarter.
Edson Casarrubias kicked a 21-yard field goal for Florence midway through the second quarter, and Clay-Chalkville answered on the next offensive snap when Moore connected with Clark for a 58-yard touchdown. Clay-Chalkville led 13-10 at halftime.
Doss scored at the 8:41 mark of the third quarter on a 5-yard keeper to put Florence up 17-13. Moore scored on a keeper of his own from one yard out on the Cougars’ next drive to go up 20-17.
Jaquaye Minor returned the ensuing kickoff 84 yards for a Florence touchdown and 24-20 lead, a play Clay-Chalkville head coach Jerry Hood said was his fault for changing the formation.
For Florence, Doss accounted for 348 yards — 248 passing, 100 rushing — and four total touchdowns.
For Clay-Chalkville, Moore completed 21-of-38 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed 11 times for just 18 yards.
“I got to throwing but they kept good pressure on me all night,” Moore said. “They did a great job stopping the run.”
West carried 10 times for 50 yards and a touchdown. Battle rushed 12 times for 46 yards and caught five passes for 50 yards. Clark caught five passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. Simmons caught all three of his passes for 82 yards and a touchdown in the final 3:14.
“I thought both teams played their guts out,” Hood said. “I thought Florence had a good plan to spread us out. Their quarterback is a tough player.”
The seniors on this Clay-Chalkville team end their four-year careers with a 41-8 record on the field, though nine of those wins were vacated during the 2011 season for playing an ineligible player. Hood said he was proud of the group.
“I would love to have gone further,” Moore said. “It was definitely our goal to go all the way, but we fell short.”
Contact Gary Lloyd at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.