By Gary Lloyd
AUBURN — They’re not ring chasers anymore.
They’ve caught the bling.
No. 1 Clay-Chalkville defeated No. 3 Saraland 36-31 tonight at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn to claim the Class 6A state championship.
“I guess it was meant to be,” said Clay-Chalkville senior defensive lineman Nick McDaniel.
Junior quarterback Ty Pigrome was named MVP of the game. He completed 15-of-20 passes for 255 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed 14 times for 109 yards and three scores.
The fourth quarter was full of excitement. Saraland amassed 199 yards of offense in the third quarter and took a 24-22 lead into the final frame. With 5:46 left, Pigrome found junior wide receiver T.J. Simmons for an 80-yard TD down the Saraland sideline. Jordan Young passed to Pigrome for the two-point conversion, giving the Cougars (15-0) a 30-24 lead.
Saraland answered six plays later when Tyler Sims found the end zone from 23 yards out on fourth-and-1. The extra point gave the Spartans (13-2) a 31-30 advantage.
On the ensuing drive, Pigrome bolted 48 yards for a touchdown with 2:10 to play. The two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving Clay-Chalkville with a 36-31 lead. Saraland marched down the field quickly and got to the Clay-Chalkville 25-yard line with :34 left. After two incompletions, McDaniel sacked quarterback Chris Weaver for a seven-yard loss with :25 left. The fourth down pass attempt fell incomplete near the end zone.
Clay-Chalkville took a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter on a 35-yard field goal by Patrick Millican. Saraland took a 7-3 advantage when Weaver scored from three yards out. Pigrome gave Clay-Chalkville a 9-7 lead on a 1-yard run early in the second quarter. The point-after attempt failed.
The Cougars pushed their lead to 16-7 when Pigrome scored from three yards out late in the second quarter. Saraland opened the second half with a recovered onside kick. One play later, Weaver connected with Velus Jones for a 52-yard TD. The duo converted the two-point conversion to make it 16-15 in favor of the Cougars.
Justin Harper gave Saraland an 18-16 lead when he split the uprights on a 24-yard field goal with 4:52 left in the third quarter. Long then put the Spartans up 24-16 on a 25-yard run. The two-point attempt failed.
Pigrome found Collins in the back of the end zone for a 17-yard TD four plays later. The two-point attempt failed, making it 24-22 in favor of Saraland entering the final quarter.
For Clay-Chalkville, Simmons caught five passes for 165 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Nico Collins caught five passes for 65 yards and a score. Senior running back Art Smith churned out 49 yards on 13 carries. Jalen Dawson led the Clay-Chalkville defense with nine tackles. Torrence Willis and Jarrod Reedus contributed 8.5 tackles each. Izzy Bennett had an interception.
For Saraland, Weaver completed 16-of-28 passes for 232 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Sean Long toted the ball 18 times for 154 yards and a score. Sims rushed eight times for 76 yards.
Clay-Chalkville totaled 410 yards in the game on 50 plays. Saraland amassed 522 yards of offense on 74 plays.
What was McDaniel feeling just moments after the game ended? He could only come up with one word.
“Champs,” he said.
Stay tuned to www.trussvilletribune.com for complete coverage of tonight’s game.
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.