By Erik Harris
GARDENDALE — This one was tabbed as “The Battle of the Councilmen” three days before kickoff.
But once the fans gathered and the Driver Stadium lights were lit, there were no legislators lacing up, only a record-setting Gardendale offense and a Pinson Valley defense coming off consecutive shutouts.
Although the Rockets fell short of another historic night, they did enough to win the Class 6A, Region 6 test 25-21 on Friday night.
None will take the Pinson Valley loss harder than Pinson City Councilman Joe Cochran, who must now live up to his end of the bargain by taking a pie to the face Tuesday night on www.TribuneSportsLive.com.
Cochran was challenged by Gardendale City Councilman Allen Jerkins early in the week. The two agreed that the losing team’s legislator would get a pie in the face from the victor.
If Jerkins has a delivery anything like Gardendale quarterback Zach Cupps, Cochran should say his prayers. The junior played well in and out of the pocket, completing 17 of his 26 attempts for 286 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Cupps did much of his damage in the first half. He found a wide-open Reagan Padgett for a 63-yard score to wake the scoreboard with 6:02 remaining in the opening quarter.
Pinson Valley (2-2) then took advantage of a Rocket fumble by going 22 yards on four plays to even the score at 7-7 early in the second. Junior quarterback Errius Collins finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown rush.
Collins had a roller coaster game. He came out hot after the break, tossing TD passes on the first two drives of the third quarter. Trey Underwood was on the other end of the first one — a 65-yard bomb on the first play of the half. Minutes later, Collins placed a jump ball into the hands of Desmond Williams from 22 yards out to give the Indians a 21-13 advantage midway through the third.
But as pretty as his performance was coming out of the locker room, Collins was equally as ugly later on. His first interception came in the red zone with Pinson Valley leading 21-19 in the fourth. The second came minutes later on a third and eight from the shadow of his own end zone. Collins rolled away from pressure and blindly flung the ball into the night.
Gardendale’s Jay Washington was on the receiving end of both mistakes. Three plays later, Juan Jackson found the go-ahead, two-yard touchdown to make the score 25-21 with 3:14 remaining.
Jackson also found the end zone in the third on a 13-yard draw up the gut to pull the Rockets to within two.
“I thought we had a good game plan, but I thought we just shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times,” said Pinson Valley head coach Matt Glover.
Pinson Valley star running back Nick Gibson had a quiet night for his standards, rushing 23 times for 106 yards. The Mississippi State pledge knows the passing game must back defenses off moving forward.
“I feel like they were keying down on me, but in the second half we were using me as a decoy to open up the passing game,” Gibson said.
“They did a good job of taking away the run,” Glover said. “Our bread and butter is on the run and we just didn’t do a good job tonight.”
Collins went 8-for-18 through the air for 185 yards, three touchdowns and the two picks.
Bouncing back next week will be tough for Pinson Valley, as it invites No. 2 Clay-Chalkville into Willie Adams Stadium for another region contest.
“I feel like we’re getting better every week so I think we have a great shot against Clay-Chalkville,” Gibson said.