By David Knox
PINSON – Pinson Valley’s Indians came into their meeting with rival Clay-Chalkville Friday night at Willie Adams Stadium with something to prove.
After starting off with a big win over McAdory, two straight losses had stung their pride.
Now, facing Class 6A’s top-ranked team in Clay-Chalkville, a team they claim as a rival but had never beaten in 10 tries, the Indians had a shot at redemption.
They got it.
Indians junior quarterback Jackie Matthews dove in from the 1 in the second overtime, and the Indians’ swarming defense sacked Cougars quarterback Willie Miller on fourth down on Clay’s possession, ending the game with the scoreboard reading Pinson Valley 21, Clay-Chalkville 14.
The Indians improved to 2-2, 1-1 in Class 6A, Region 6. Clay dropped to 3-1, 1-1 in the region, and no doubt several spots in the poll when it comes out Wednesday.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Pinson Valley coach Matt Glover. “I told the kids before the game that you’re representing not only (yourself), the guys who came before you, the community. I’m really proud of our guys. We took two lumps the last two weeks. And we didn’t have a great week of practice, but kids came out with energy. I can’t say enough about our kids and our coaching staff. Great win.”
Clay’s typical high-scoring offense was nowhere to be found. The Cougars did move the ball well in the first half. After taking the opening kick, Miller broke free for a 47-yard run and Nick Jones had a nice 9-yard run on third down that set the Cougars up at the Indians’ 15. But the Indians stiffened and on fourth-and-3 from the 8, Jones took the handoff but was stuffed after a 1-yard pickup.
Pinson relied heavily on Khymel Chaverst’s rushing to move the ball out near midfield, but was forced to punt. Clay made one first down, but faced a fourth-and-1 at its 41. Jeremy Rhodes came on to punt, but he took off on a fake around the left side. Pinson wasn’t having any of that and smacked him down for a loss and took possession at the Clay 38.
The Indians couldn’t cash in, though, when Saul Rios’ 41-yard field goal was short and wide right.
After an exchange of punts, the Cougars put together a scoring drive. Key plays were an 18-yard completion from Miller to Terrill Cole to convert a third-and-11 and a 12-yard scramble by Miller on fourth-and-9 at the Indians’ 25. On third-and-10, Miller delivered again, hitting running back Tony
Gurley on a wheel route for 13 yards and the first score of the game. Drennon Mayhew’s extra point made it 7-0, Clay, with 5:07 left in the half.
Pinson Valley quickly answered. Matthews delivered a strike to Dilan Henderson for a 64-yard pickup to the Cougar 22. Matthews then hit Torrey Hendrix for 9 yards and the equalizer as Rios drilled the PAT.
The teams went to the locker rooms tied at 7.
The second half was scoreless. Pinson had an early chance when Matthews hit Orion Morris for a 17-yarfd gain and then scrambled for 22 more yards. But Rios missed a 31-yard field goal try.
Clay had just two first downs in the third quarter and two three-and-outs. Pinson drove to the Clay 32, but on a fourth-and-3, Kymel Chaverst, the Indians’ workhorse running back, was stopped short.
The Cougars opened the fourth quarter with a drive to the Indians 11, thanks to a 19-yard Miller-to-Nico Collins connection on third down. But a bad snap over Miller’s head set up a third-and-25, and Miller’s next pass was his first interception of the year, picked off by C.J. Rudolph in the end zone.
A penalty on the runback left Pinson at its 8, but Matthews completed 5-of-8 passes for 59 yards to move the ball out. A Chaverst run got the ball to the 15, and then another Chaverst blast looked like the Indians would be inside the Cougars 5 with under four minutes to play. But a chop block was called on the run, and then Matthews was cited for intentional grounding. The Indians wound up punting.
Clay moved the ball out, mainly on Miller’s passing, but Collins – who had a very quiet night – couldn’t hold on to a toss as he was being knocked out of bounds on a third-and-11 with about 30 seconds left.
The Cougars punted, and Matthews took a knee to set up overtime.
Clay got the ball first and Miller found Courtney Braxton for a 4-yard score on third down. Mayhew made it 14-7.
But Pinson answered in one play. Liallen Dailey pulled in Matthews’ pass and Rios tied it at 14.
Pinson took the ball first in the second overtime. On first down, Matthews found Hendrix for a gain all the way to the 1, and Matthews dove in for the score on the next play. Rios’ PAT made it 21-14.
The Cougars had one last chance. Miller, who was hounded all night by the Indians’ pass rush, was sacked for a 6-yard loss. He found Cole for a 4-yard gain, but misfired on third down. On fourth down, he never had a chance as the Indians overpowered the Cougars offensive line and buried him into the Willie Adams turf.
Pinson Valley students stormed the field, and many stopped to take pictures of the scoreboard, as if they wouldn’t believe it in the morning without visual proof.
“He’s coming along,” Glover said of his junior quarterback. “Offense is getting better. O-line did a good job blocking. We had a big drive that changed field position start of the fourth quarter. I was just pleased with my guys.”
Clay had about 180 yards of offense in the first half. In the second half, though, the Cougars only managed about 50 yards.
Ty Woods and other Indians defensive backs did an incredible job on Collins, who had just two catches for 21 yards, unofficially.
Glover felt good about his team before the game.
“I actually did. I didn’t think Clay had the energy level where they’ll usually be. We always play them tough, and it’s the first time we finally pulled one out.”