By: Staff Reports
SOUTHSIDE, Alabama – It was a hard trip to the locker room for members of Pinson Valley’s football team Friday night following its first round playoff loss to Southside-Gadsden.
Some players wept while others shook their heads in disbelief that a game they had controlled for nearly three and half quarters could turn so quickly against them.
The Indians (5-6) held the Panthers (9-2) scoreless for three quarters, but it wasn’t enough as Southside scored two touchdowns in the final 8:10 of the game to take a 14-10 win the first round of the 6A playoffs.
“We gave away two big plays,” Indians head coach Matt Glover said. “We had a chance to put them away and we didn’t. My hats off to Southside… That’s a tough group of kids who are used to winning.”
Playing once again without senior running back Nick Gibson, hobbled with a sprained MCL, Pinson Valley took a 10-0 lead with 5:07 left in the third quarter, when quarterback Jackie Matthews found Desmond Williams on a 19-yard touchdown pass.
The drive started when Southside’s Alaric Williams fumbled the ball two plays earlier, setting the Indians up inside the Panther 20.
“They were in man-to-man with inside leverage and we had the corner ball,” Glover said.
Pinson Valley held Southside on three successive possessions, but could get anything going offensively. Then the Indians punted deep, pinning Southside inside its own 2-yard line.
After a one-yard loss, Southside quarterback Hunter Armstrong fired a deep pass from his own end zone that hit senior Holt Keeling in stride near midfield, resulting in a 99-yard touchdown. Southside trailed by three with 8:10 left in the game.
Pinson Valley was unable to generate any offense, but held back a Southside drive, which pushed the ball to the 30 when they forced a fumble with about five minutes left. Penalties pushed the Indians back to their own 24, where they punted with 3:08 left.
Southside’s Keeling returned the punt to the 24, and Armstrong found Keeling again on the next play for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 2:37 left in the game.
A Southside interception iced the game with about 10 seconds left.
The first half was largely a battle of field position and turnovers. Southside’s deepest penetration failed when Carter West missed a 34-yard field goal at the 2:04 mark of the first quarter. The Panthers’ Williams had a 53-yard touchdown run negated in the second quarter on a flag for a chop block.
Pinson Valley had a golden opportunity later in the quarter when it blocked a Panther punt and had the ball on the Southside 22, but the Indians fumbled on the first play from scrimmage.
After holding Southside deep later in the second quarter, the Indians got the ball with less than two minutes left in the half. After an illegal procedure call pushed Pinson Valley back to the 39, they drove to the 22, helped by a 26-yard run by Torrey Hendrix, and a 15-yard pass to Spencer Underwood. The drive culminated with Saul Rios’ 23-yard field goal with one second left in the first half.