By Erik Harris
For The Tribune
HARTSELLE — Hartselle was able to get a little revenge Friday night.
The Tigers saw their season end at Willie Adams Stadium last November when Pinson Valley kicker Saul Rios curved a 19-yarder through the uprights to secure the playoff win in overtime.
There was no such glory for the young kicker or any of his teammates Friday night in Hartselle as the Indians dropped their season opener, 27-21.
Pinson Valley did show a lot of spark offensively, especially in the first half (the Indians’ three scores came from 35, 33 and four yards out). But the second half got sloppy for the inexperienced unit.
Junior quarterback Errius Collins, who was starting for the first time, turned the ball over on his first two possessions of the second half. The first one was a fumble that Hartselle linebacker Connor Landers scooped up and went 40 yards for the score, which locked the game at 21 early in the third quarter. On the ensuing drive, Collins found cornerback Jaylan Jackson for the first of two interceptions.
The Hartselle senior really made his mark on this game. On the third play of the third Tiger drive quarterback Jake Tiffin threw it short to the speedster and watched him go 84 yards for the touchdown, making it 14-7 in favor of the home team with 3:14 remaining in the first quarter.
Jackson would later put an end to Pinson Valley’s final drive. He stepped in front of another Collins pass with four minutes remaining in the game and Hartselle leading by six. Three minutes later, Jackson put the game on ice with a highlight reel rush of 11 yards. The back-and-forth scamper moved the chains with only 60 seconds remaining.
There was much inexperience on the field for the Indians, including first-year offensive coordinator Jon Clements, who looked promising in his first game.
Clements dialed up several first-half passes that had the host team scratching their heads. One of them came late in the first quarter when Collins connected with a streaking Trey Underwood for a 35-yard score.
Two drives later Clements was at it again. Collins found a wide-open Desmond Williams in the end zone on a beautiful play action rollout to tie the game at 14 with 8:40 remaining in the half.
“Having Nick Gibson in the backfield always makes play action look really good,” Clements said. “Nick was very explosive early so we tried to go with the play action boot leg.”
Pinson Valley looked golden after putting together a six-play scoring drive 17 seconds before the break. Gibson finished the drive with a four-yard rush off the left side, but it was the sophomore rusher that did most of the work.
Torrey Hendrix ran the ball three straight times to start the drive before Collins burned an eager defense with a 52-yard strike to Williams. The drive gave the Indians a 21-14 halftime advantage.
Collins finished the game 8-for-13 for 187 yards passing, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Gibson ran the ball 26 times for 115 yards and a score. Hendrix got involved with eight carries for 37 yards.
Pinson Valley looks to get back on track next Friday when it hosts defending Class 4A state champion Oneonta.
“I’m not disappointed with our guys,” Clements said. “I told them if anyone needs to be mad it’s me and I’m not so we just need to learn from our mistakes.”