By Erik Harris
AUBURN — It doesn’t matter how many times a champion gets clocked, it can’t be knocked out. No. 3 Saraland knows that now.
The Spartan offense dominated Pat Dye Field for the entire second half of the Class 6A state championship game, but when it came time for a title-claiming series, it was top-ranked Clay-Chalkville that threw the haymaker, winning 36-31 in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Friday night.
Saraland (13-2) ran 24 more plays than the Cougars (15-0), outgaining them 522 yards to 410. It also controlled the time of possession, especially in the second half. But the Region 1 champs just couldn’t take the head off the snake.
Despite the statistical disadvantages, Clay-Chalkville found a way to protect its five-point lead in the final moments of the game.
Spartan quarterback Chris Weaver had 2:10 remaining to answer Ty Pigrome’s 48-yard touchdown run and win a state title. The senior, who played well all night, could’ve ended the Cougars’ unbeaten season with one final throw. But the defensive front wouldn’t allow it.
Senior defensive lineman Nick McDaniel sacked Weaver on third-and-10 with 25 seconds remaining to all but secure the perfect season.
Weaver’s size and athleticism was hard to contain. He went 16-of-28 through the air for 232 yards and a touchdown. He added 62 yards on the ground with another score, but it wasn’t good enough to beat the junior operating the other huddle.
Pigrome, a first-year starter, matured as a signal caller all season and was at his best when the lights were brightest. The righty proved to be bigger than the championship stage he played on, going 15-of-20 through the air for 255 yards and a pair of scores.
Much of his work came from inside the pocket, something he couldn’t have said earlier in the season. However, his legs were still there and they went for 101 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning, 48-yarder with 2:10 remaining.
His two favorite targets, as usual, were T.J. Simmons and Nico Collins. Simmons brought in five receptions for 165 yards and an 80-yard touchdown. Collins caught five for 65 yards and a touchdown of his own, which came from 17 yards out.
That duo provided the spark out wide needed to counter Saraland’s physicality. The Spartans’ defensive front did what no one else had done this season—win battles against the Cougars’ offensive front.
Holes were hard to find for Art Smith, who went for 48 yards on 13 carries.
This championship was won with speed and a refusal to be denied.