By Gary Lloyd
CLAY — It’s been 15 years to the day since Clay-Chalkville won its only state championship in football.
On Dec. 4, 1999, the Cougars defeated Robert E. Lee (Montgomery) 30-27 in overtime to win the Class 6A state title at Legion Field in Birmingham.
Hal Riddle, who was in his first year as the Clay-Chalkville head coach and is now the director of student services for Trussville City Schools, said he remembers the day before the game, Principal Lawrence Carter had asked teachers to consider writing notes to the boys on the team. Some teachers wrote individually to kids they knew well.
The notes were compiled into packets and given to the team members the day before the game.
“That was pretty special,” Riddle said.
On Saturday, Dec. 4, 1999, Clay-Chalkville players loaded the bus at the high school, bound for Legion Field. Then a senior quarterback and now the Cougars’ offensive coordinator, Stuart Floyd remembers the bus ride to Birmingham.
“It was crazy,” Floyd said. “I just remember when we left here from the school, getting off the exit ramp, there were big signs there. When we got to Legion Field, there were hundreds and hundreds of people there while you walk into the stadium.”
Riddle said all the fans excited the players.
“We had a great crowd,” Riddle said.
Out of the Wing-T offensive formation, Clay-Chalkville got on the scoreboard first when Floyd hit Tavarous Doyle for a 43-yard touchdown with 9:47 left in the first quarter. Robert E. Lee tied it up less than two minutes later when Antonio Jones bolted 50 yards.
Lance Lieb’s 34-yard field goal gave Robert E. Lee a 10-7 advantage after the first quarter. Robert E. Lee went up 17-7 close to halftime when Jeremy Davis caught a 2-yard TD pass from Ken Johnson. Clay-Chalkville’s Matt Briggs kicked a 44-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 17-10 going into halftime.
Doyle then caught a 9-yard touchdown from Floyd midway through the third quarter to tie the game at 17. The Cougars took a 24-17 lead when Doyle scored on a 31-yard run.
Jones’ 2-yard touchdown run with 36 seconds left sent the game to overtime. Lieb kicked a 26-yard field goal to give Robert E. Lee a 27-24 lead.
“I was nervous as all get-out,” Riddle said.
Clay-Chalkville scored on its first offensive snap of overtime, a 10-yard Dewey Stoudmire sweep to the right side. The Cougars had run just one play out of the formation all season, but changed it up for this play, Floyd said.
“That’s why it worked,” he said.
Riddle said it was an exciting game and finish.
“Our guys were all jumping up and down,” Riddle said.
Doyle finished the game with 98 rushing yards on 12 carries. He caught five passes for 69 yards. Stoudmire rushed five times for 52 yards. Floyd completed 9-of-13 passes for 121 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Doyle was named MVP of the game.
Clay-Chalkville finished 12-3 overall and Robert E. Lee finished 8-7. Both teams had been their areas’ runner-up.
Fifteen years later, No. 1 Clay-Chalkville (14-0) has a chance to win its second state championship. The opponent is No. 3 Saraland (13-1).
“They’ve had an incredible year,” Riddle said of Clay-Chalkville.
Floyd said he feels more pre-game nerves as a coach than he did as a player. There are more distractions, more stresses. Another state championship, but as a coach, may mean more because the team would be undefeated, Floyd said.
“If they win, you could argue they’re one of the best teams in Alabama (high school) football history,” Floyd said.
Contact Gary Lloyd at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.