By Erik Harris
CLAY — The danger has come and passed for No. 1 Clay-Chalkville as it marches on to the quarterfinals.
“The second round game for everybody is the danger,” said Clay-Chalkville head coach Jerry Hood following his team’s 40-39 win over Homewood on Friday night. “I was scared of this all week, man. I didn’t feel good in my stomach all week, because that’s a talented (Homewood) football team.”
That Patriots’ talent was on display late in the fourth quarter when senior quarterback Carson Griffis led his offense on a memorable drive. Homewood trailed by seven with 7:14 remaining in what had already been a back-and-fourth affair.
Ten plays later, the Patriots had a decision to make. Griffis had just converted a 3rd-and-9 with a 44-yard touchdown scamper to pull to within one with 3:12 remaining. Homewood elected to go for two in hopes of reclaiming the lead. That’s when Clay-Chalkville sophomore JaMarlin Sewell struck.
He knew what was coming and stepped in front of Griffis’ pass for an easy interception to preserve the smallest of leads, but the danger still loomed over Cougar Stadium.
“They had done that play before and they scored a touchdown on us. I knew he wanted to throw to (Alec Marsch), so I just stepped in front of it. The ball looked real big,” said Sewell.
KarDamien Daniels recovered the ensuing onside kick for the Patriots, setting his offense up with a 1st-and-10 from the Cougars’ 41 with over three minutes remaining in a one-point game.
The defending Class 6A state champions responded like only a champion can. Faced with a 4th-and-inces situation, Clay-Chalkville made an adjustment on the line of scrimmage and stuffed Homewood’s Derrick Underwood, who had already gone for 123 rushing yards, for no gain.
“This game reminded me of the Hillcrest game,” said Clay-Chalkville defensive lineman Cole Baker. “We had that last two-point conversion and it came down to the game. We made the stops when it was needed and I couldn’t ask for anything more from my defense.”
“The fourth down, we checked into a bear front that we had not shown them all night and that was big for us. We probably should’ve gone to that a little bit earlier,” said Hood.
Clay-Chalkville ended the scare by converting a 3rd-and-2 with some thunder. A.J. Walker, the bigger of the Cougars’ two primary ball carriers, powered through the middle of the visitors’ defense for eight yards and a first-class ticket to the third round.
Cougars’ quarterback Ty Pigrome led his offense through one of its more sloppy outings of the year, but still found a way to finish with six touchdowns (four passing and two rushing). His ability to run became a major factor in the game, as he went for 218 yards on the ground. He also completed 11 of his 15 attempts for 135 yards and an interception to go along with his four touchdowns.
The righty fired a pair of touchdown passes to Alabama pledge T.J. Simmons in the first half, which ended at 20-all. Simmons finished with three catches for 58 yards and the two scores.
Through the second half, Pigrome worked in a scoring strike to Nico Collins on a 38-yard fade and later found Dez Williams on a quick slant for Clay-Chalkville’s final points of the evening.
Collins’ touchdown was possible thanks to another Walker first down. The big back took a fake punt six yards to move the chains in a tied ballgame, setting the stage for Pigrome to Collins on the next snap.
Griffis finished his prep career on a high note. The Homewood senior ran in for two second half scores and finished the game 18-of-25 passing for 232 yards and three total touchdowns. He also did damage on the ground, going for 87 yards and the two scores.
Underwood did most of the running around for the visitors. He carried the ball 20 times for 123 yards and two scores. Underwood’s final career touchdown was a little unorthodox. Following an Amari Holloway interception, the ball was ripped from his arms and recovered by Underwood in the end zone to tie the contest at 33 early in the final frame.
With Minor shocking No. 4 Muscle Shoals on Friday night, Clay-Chalkville will now visit the Purple Tigers for its first playoff road game next week.
“Minor is a heck of a team and we’re excited to play them,” said Baker. “I think it’s a great opportunity for us. Like people say, it’s hard to beat a team twice, so we have to prepare harder.”
Erik Harris is the Sports Editor for the Trussville Tribune. Follow him on Twitter@jeharris2 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.