By David Knox, Sports Editor
CLAY – Before the new high school region alignments we revealed, Clay-Chalkville football coach Jerry Hood and Pinson Valley coach Matt Glover had decided to continue the two schools’ football rivalry.
There was a very good chance that the Cougars might jump into Class 7A, with talk of an expansion to the 36 largest schools or that Clay-Chalkville would surpass some school as the 32nd largest and move up, anyway.
There was even some scuttlebutt about expanding to 48 teams.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association, however, stuck with 32 teams. And Clay-Chalkville came in as the 35th largest school. So the Cougars and Indians stayed in the same region, Class 6A, Region 6, and their game Friday night will have some braggin’ rights as well as region implications.
“Pinson Valley is a great, great football team,” Hood said, “They’ve got a good friend of mine coaching over there, and they always play us great. It’s going to be a great football game.”
Indeed the Indians have given the Cougars some tough games. In 2001, the Cougars pulled out a 24-19 win. In 2007, it was 21-20 win. The Cougars needed overtime to sneak away with a 31-28 win in 2012, a year Clay made it to the semifinals before falling to Hoover. In the Cougars’ 2014 state championship run, Clay led Pinson by just three points before Ty Pigrome sealed it with a TD with just 1:23 left for a 45-35 win.
Pinson Valley’s Glover said the game really isn’t a rivalry, though, until the Indians break the 0-10 streak against the powerful Cougars.
And for all those close games, last season was not one of them. The Cougars dominated 65-10, and there wasn’t an Indian this offseason who didn’t say he was looking forward to a rematch.
The Indians appeared much improved and opened with a win over McAdory. But losses to Ramsay and Minor have Pinson Valley sitting at 1-2, 0-1 in the region.
With the Cougars locked in as the top-ranked 6A team in the state, could they overlook the rival that’s never beaten them?
“We’re all real excited about Pinson,” Cougars defensive lineman Keilend Clayton said after last week’s 36-14 win over Walker. “We’ve been looking forward to playing Pinson, they are a real good football team. I think it’s going to be a real good game. Their quarterback (Jackie Matthews) will be a real big part of it, but I think my d-line will be ready and be prepared for it and will play well.”
The Cougars offense has been a bit of a surprise so far. With Pigrome and T.J. Simmons among the key players gone from the explosive attack of the past two teams, many experts thought the defense would need to carry the team.
But sophomore quarterback Willie Miller has been outstanding. He is 41-of-65 passing (63 percent) for 667 yards in three games with six touchdown passes, and he has not thrown an interception. He’s added 132 yards on 25 carries on the ground with two touchdowns, including the game winner with a half-minute left at Bessemer City.
Running back Quentin Young, a junior, has rushed for 537 yards on 58 carries, a 9.2 yards per carry average, and tallied seven touchdowns.
Nico Collins, the Cougars’ five-star receiver, has gathered in 16 catches for 386 yards and three touchdowns.
A bunch of other “no-names” are making names for themselves, and the unsung heroes on the offensive line are giving Miller time to pass and opening holes for Young, Tony Gurley, Nick Jones and others.
Pinson has playmakers, and they will be ready to redeem themselves after two tough losses and the bitter memory of a 55-point loss a year ago. Plus, this game is at Willie Adams Stadium, so the Indians’ fans will be ready to see an upset of their highly ranked neighbors.
Kickoff is 7 p.m.