By Kyle Parmley
DECATUR – Pinson Valley lost the momentum in the first quarter and never regained it.
The Indians failed on a fourth try and turned the ball over deep in their own territory and lost 35-7 to Region 8 opponent Austin in the first round of the AHSAA Class 6A playoffs on Thursday night at Ogle Stadium.
Pinson Valley (7-4, 4-2) took the opening kickoff and drove the ball quickly down the field. After a screen pass fell just short of the line to gain, the Indians sent in cornerback Jay Woods to take the direct snap. Austin snuffed the play out and Woods was stopped for a major loss.
“We drove down there the opening series and I probably should have done something else,” Indians head coach Matt Glover said. “We thought we had them on that because we haven’t run that formation in awhile.
“It didn’t work out. Hindsight is 20/20.”
All was not lost, however.
Austin (8-3, 4-2) capitalized on a big play to move quickly towards the end zone, but was stopped dead in its tracks when running back Timius Lowe fumbled the ball a yard shy of the goal line, giving Pinson Valley the ball back with the game still scoreless.
The Indians were unable to seize the moment, as quarterback Jackie Matthews threw a pass up for grabs on third down. Austin’s Rorrick Steward intercepted the pass at the 24-yard line and took it the rest of the way for the touchdown.
“That was huge,” Lowe said. “Coach told us if we make a mistake don’t worry about it because the 11 guys on the opposite side of the ball have got your back.”
From there, Austin’s running game took over. The Black Bears nearly eclipsed the century mark with three players, and when the dust settled, rushed for a total of 351 yards.
Lowe carried the load, even after his fumble, toting the rock 20 times for 129 yards and a touchdown. Asa Martin combined with Lowe and Kylan Torain to form a dynamic stable of running backs, going for 101 yards on 11 carries. Quarterback Victor Garth narrowly missed triple digits, ending up with six carries for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
“Austin’s got a good football team. We knew coming in we were going to have to stop the run. My hat is off to them,” Glover said.
Garth attempted just six passes and completed five of them, for only 37 yards.
Austin gained its separation with a 21-0 second quarter run, as Garth scored both of his touchdowns and Lowe added one to give the Black Bears a 28-0 halftime advantage.
Any chance Pinson Valley had of getting back into the game in the second half was thwarted on the opening drive of the third quarter. CJ Rudolph had excellent coverage on his receiver and intercepted an overthrown pass, but the play was called back due to a pass interference call on Rudolph.
Khymel Chaverst had an excellent night out of the backfield for Pinson Valley, as he gained 114 yards and scored his team’s only touchdown on 18 rushes. Torrey Hendrix tried to play, but came in for a single play in the second quarter and was unable to continue.
The Indians are now forced to say goodbye to a solid core of seniors that includes wide receivers Errius Collins, Keimon Norman, and Kris Lewis, defensive backs Jay Woods and Rhasheed Wilson, and defensive linemen Joshua Jemison and DJ Gregory.
Glover went up to each of them individually after the game and expressed his gratitude.
“I was just telling them I appreciate everything they’ve done for us,” he said. “The bad thing about it is you lose a game like this and their season is over. They’re disappointed right now and they should be. They played hard all year long.”
Pinson Valley achieved a playoff berth for the sixth consecutive season under Glover, and did so without an obvious star player, as in years past.
“Not a lot of people thought they were going to do much. But it doesn’t matter what people think, it’s what they think,” Glover said.
The future is bright for the Indians looking forward, as the returning cast hits the grindstone again immediately.
“I’m proud of the way our kids fought all year,” Glover said. “They overcame a lot of adversity. We’ll go back to work next week and start looking forward to next year.”
Austin now advances to the second round and will face the winner of Fort Payne and Briarwood Christian.