By Erik Harris
TUSCALOOSA – As they often say, all good things must come to an end.
For No. 1 Clay-Chalkville, it’s a 29-game winning streak that has snapped one ever-so-important step shy of a Class 6 championship repeat. Second-ranked Spanish Fort (15-0) ended that stretch of wins with a 31-28 win on Friday night in the Super 7 championship game in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
It was a 4th-and-1 conversion from Toros’ quarterback Tyler Johnston that finally ended the back-and-forth affair. The senior converted the fourth down by the smallest of margins and watched the clock wind down to zero.
“Spanish Fort’s quarterback is a good runner,” said Clay-Chalkville head coach Jerry Hood. “The kid is incredible, when it mattered late he made some good throws. I was proud of our defense, thought they gave our offense some chances to win the game.”
Johnson finished the game 13-of-23 through the air for 187 yards and two scores. He also tossed an interception to Armoni Holloway in the second quarter.
The Cougars (14-1) found themselves in a very unfamiliar situation – trailing for much of the championship contest. The running game had a lot to do with that. As a team, the Toros rolled up 216 rushing yards on the night to Clay-Chalkville’s 164.
Senior quarterback Tyler Johnston drew first blood with a powerful 2-yard touchdown score midway through the first quarter. That touchdown came due to a special teams mistake by the Cougars. The following Spanish Fort drive ended with another 2-yard rushing score, this one on the legs of Javon Brown to put his team ahead 14-0 early in the second.
Both of those scores came on third down situations.
Clay-Chalkville’s one first half score came on a 52-yard pitch-and-catch from Ty Pigrome to T.J. Simmons. The duo provided that much-needed spark on a 3rd-and-29.
The Toros added three more points with a Matt Quinn 25-yard field goal with less than a minute remaining in the first half, sending them to the locker room with a 17-7 advantage over the state’s top team.
Despite their inexperience playing from behind, Clay-Chalkville continued to fight. Quarterback Ty Pigrome got it started with an explosive 51-yard touchdown rush in the third frame. He went left on an option and darted up field to pull his team to within ten with 5:18 remaining in the third.
He struck again on the first drive of the fourth, converting a 3rd-and-6 with an 11-yard slant to Nico Collins for six. The Cougars had momentum, trailing 24-21 with over ten minutes to play.
But Johnston still had some magic left. The UAB pledge took the ball on the ensuing drive and went 88 yards with it on only two snaps. A 71-yard deep ball to Javon Brown put the Toros on the 17-yard-line. Those 17 yards were passed on the next play when Johnston went back to Brown to claim a 31-21 lead with 9:11 remaining in the contest.
Things looked dark, but Clay-Chalkville just kept playing. Pigrome found Brandon Berry on a broken play for a 22-yard touchdown on the Cougars final drive of the season. Pigrome broke free from a heavy pass rush to deliver the ball into the flats, where Berry proceeded to bulldoze his way into the end zone.
That touchdown updated the score to 31-28 with little over three minutes remaining. Unfortunately for those in blue, that’s when Johnston made his defining push to the championship.
A missed 25-yard field goal from Andrew Van Winkle at the end of the third quarter proved to be a key misstep for the home team.
“They didn’t really slow us down, we just made mistakes,” said Pigrome following the game.
Pigrome finished the game 17-of-32 for 214 yards and three scores. He was also sacked three times and added another 124 yards on the ground with a touchdown.
Simmons pulled down three passes for 87 yards and the score. Collins caught five passes for 68 yards and a score.
For the Toros, Brown found success in different aspects of the game. He caught six passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He added 76 more yards on the ground with another score.
Johnston ran it 21 times for 79 yards and a score.
Erik Harris is the Sports Editor for the Trussville Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @jeharris2 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.