By Erik Harris
CLAY — For the quarterfinal round of the Class 6A state playoffs Clay-Chalkville (12-0) will hit the road for the first time this postseason.
The Cougars’ third round opponent, much like their second round opponent, is the polar opposite of what they see in the mirror. Decatur (9-3) has made a playoff run fueled on dominating defense.
The Red Raiders have allowed 14 total points through the first two rounds of the Alabama High School Athletic Association playoffs.
To advance past the second round, Decatur won a hard-fought contest over Southside-Gadsden 19-7, a game in which it forced three fourth-quarter turnovers and scored one offensive touchdown.
On the other hand, the Red Raider defense held Southside to 155 yards of total offense and no touchdowns. The lone Panther score came on a kickoff return.
Holding No. 1 Clay-Chalkville to the same offensive production is a far different feat, however. Head coach Jerry Hood’s offense has amassed 120 playoff points, but a season-ending knee injury to running back Terelle West in last week’s win over Muscle Shoals might put the Cougars’ offensive staff back in front of the chalkboard.
West’s injury is a big deal. The senior is his school’s all-time leading rusher and finished this season averaging more than nine yards per carry while reaching the end zone 19 times.
He’s one of the many reasons why Clay-Chalkville has been home to the state’s top offense in 2014. The Cougars will replace West with a committee of rushers. Senior Art Smith along with juniors Brandon Berry and A.J. Walker will take the challenge.
The Cougars will need more from junior quarterback Tyrell Pigrome and his skilled targets T.J. Simmons and Nico Collins, which means offensive coordinator Stuart Floyd might change his play calling moving forward. Floyd has run the ball 65 percent of the time in postseason play.
If Clay-Chalkville can score on a tough Decatur defense and advance Friday night, it will host the winner of No. 5 Florence at Gardendale in the semifinal round Nov. 28.