By Erik Harris
CLAY — Top-ranked Clay-Chalkville is now two steps away from a state championship game in Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium on Dec. 5, but the Cougars reached the quarterfinals in human-like fashion Friday night.
A Cougar offense that has looked virtually unstoppable in 2014 was, by its standards, stopped at times by visiting Muscle Shoals in a 35-14 Class 6A second round victory.
Clay-Chalkville (12-0) did its usual in the early stages of the game, getting off to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. It wasn’t until the third Cougar drive that it looked mortal.
Senior running back Terrelle West went down with a knee injury at the end of the second drive, and the offense never looked the same. West ended the night with six rushes for 94 yards and a touchdown in limited action. The extent of the injury is unknown.
Art Smith and Brandon Berry, both seniors, replaced West, but could never provide the same spark West has brought all year. The Clay-Chalkville offense found the end zone twice more through the final three quarters of play.
Both scores came out of the hand of junior quarterback Tyrell Pigrome and landed in the sure hands of sophomore wideout Nico Collins. The first was a 15-yard fade route down the Trojans’ sideline to increase the home lead to 28-0 with 2:28 remaining in the half. Pigrome found the sophomore once more for the final score of the night, which went 19 yards, this time down the home sideline.
Muscle Shoals (8-3) did little damage against a stout Cougar defense. Quarterback Landon Smothers couldn’t find much daylight, but delivered a four-yard strike to Desmond Williams on the final play of the opening half to cut the lead to 28-7. Smothers finished 10-for-16 passing for 120 yards and a touchdown.
“The story here is how much improvement we showed defensively against an unorthodox offense,” said Clay-Chalkville head coach Jerry Hood. “They’ve been averaging 36, 37 points per game. I’m so proud of our defense.”
A Cougar defense that surrendered 50 points last week to Scottsboro played inspired. It found six points of its own when defensive lineman Nick McDaniel scooped up a Carlos Davis fumble and charged 40 yards to the end zone. The 40-yard rumble made it 21-0 late in the first quarter.
The Trojans changed the score early in the fourth when Davis got outside and went four yards for the touchdown to make it 28-14.
For Clay-Chalkville, Pigrome completed nine of his 17 attempts for 156 yards and three touchdowns. He added 10 rushes for 95 yards. Junior wide receiver T.J. Simmons only caught two passes, but one was a 39-yard score. Collins nabbed four passes for 71 yards and the two touchdowns.
The Cougars will travel to Decatur (9-3) for the quarterfinal round next Friday, Nov. 21. Decatur beat Southside-Gadsden 19-7 on Friday night.