By Erik Harris
PINSON — Pinson Valley head football coach Matt Glover didn’t sleep a wink on the night of Sept. 26.
While most were gearing up for another college football Saturday, Glover was struggling to forget what the Willie Adams Stadium scoreboard read hours earlier.
The sixth-year head coach didn’t have time for tailgating or rest, for that matter; he was busy making “the hardest decision” of his career with a 2-4 record on his hands.
After struggling through a day-and-a-half-long judgment process, Glover came to a final verdict Sunday morning, and some of his seniors weren’t happy about it.
His decision to remove junior starting quarterback Errius Collins from the team triggered a process of upperclassmen pouring into his office to state their discord, but the coach was convinced and he didn’t budge.
“I was really worried how it was going to affect our team because he’s a well-liked kid on our team,” Glover said.
The result of his decision was clear 29 days later as he watched his Indians, now 5-4, 4-2 in Class 6A, Region 6, prepare for their final regular season game of the year at Minor on Thursday.
Pinson Valley looked anything but divided as it took the practice field Monday afternoon. How could it? A 3-0 region run, which included a 28-26 win at No. 5 Shades Valley, is sure to bring a team together, especially when it’s a team bound for the playoffs.
Postseason play seemed like little more than a fantasy one month before when the Indians were shut out by McAdory at home. Pinson Valley lost more than a game on that homecoming night. In addition to losing Collins, the Indians found a divide on their roster that had to be resolved.
Freshman Jackie Matthews was called on to replace Collins and many pronounced the team dead with half the season remaining.
But there was something unknown, something that, unlike a player’s age or a team’s record, can’t be measured by numbers.
It’s hard to predict how a team will respond to diversity. But anyone who’s seen the Indians in action over the past month will agree: this team has responded like men.
“More people know my name,” Matthews said. “People I don’t know come to me (at school and say) ‘Good game.’”
Unsuspecting opponents had no way of knowing how everyone would up their level of play with a 14-year-old quarterback under center.
“I think the biggest part about that whole deal is our offensive line really, really, really came together and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got it,’’’ said offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jon Clements.
The strong surge up front has been vital for Matthews. Four-star running back Nick Gibson has benefited as well, with 304 rushing yards over the last two games.
“And Nick Gibson steps up, he’s toted the ball 78 times the last two games and just kind of (said) ‘Hey coach, I’ve got the load’ and that’s something that we hadn’t been getting toward the beginning of the year with the offensive line and Nick,” Clements said.
Even with the improvements of his offense, perhaps nothing has been more beneficial to Matthews than the salty play of his friends on the other side of the ball. Defensively, Pinson Valley is surrendering an average of 11 points per game since Matthews took over.
“It starts with defense and right now our defense is lights out,” Clements said. “The offense right now is really feeding off the defense.”
If his defense keeps that intensity and Matthews continues playing beyond his 14 years, Glover should have no problem getting his seven hours come November.