By Erik Harris
CLAY — It’s hard to believe that after all this Clay-Chalkville team has accomplished — going unblemished through eight weeks of play, asserting itself as the frontrunner in Class 6A and sending then-No. 3 Shades Valley back to rookie school with a 59-27 spanking on its own field — it still hasn’t hoisted the Class 6A, Region 6 crown.
This is the final week of region contests and thanks to a surprisingly strong campaign from Gardendale, Region 6 is up for grabs at Driver Stadium this Friday night.
If the Cougars (8-0, 5-0) walk away on top, they’re the undisputed champions. If Gardendale (5-3, 4-1) can pull the upset, it will state its claim in a three-way tie with Clay-Chalkville and Shades Valley for the region title.
Take care of business and it’s all yours; don’t take care of business and it’s still kind of yours. Head coach Jerry Hood might need to hire a professional motivator to deliver this pre-game speech.
What he won’t need to hire are playmakers. The Cougars have them on both sides of the ball.
Gardendale quarterback Zach Cupps has made a living this season of distributing the ball to do-it-all player Juan Jackson, wide receiver Austin Hicks, and running backs Tre Dunklin and DeQua Houston.
The Rockets enter this week averaging 39.25 points per game, but haven’t seen the likes of this Clay-Chalkville defense, which allows 19.1 points per game. Gardendale surrenders 25.63 points per game. Clay-Chalkville is scoring a whopping 49.75 points per contest.
It’ll be interesting to see how Hicks can compete with Cougar cornerbacks Kam Prewitt and Izzy Bennett, arguably the two best cover corners he’s faced. Perhaps the same can be said in reverse.
Clay-Chalkville defensive coordinator Sean Talsma knows where to expect Hicks before the snap. It’s Jackson that could be the problem because of his diverse skill set and ability to line up in various positions.
If Talsma and his defense have a hard time identifying Jackson and getting the proper matchup, it could be a fight to the finish.
Containing the Rockets’ speed will be all the more difficult if defensive end LaDarius Harris is unable to play. The Southern Mississippi verbal commitment suffered a foot injury last week against Woodlawn.