By Joshua Huff, sports editor
Clay-Chalkville’s commencement to region play begins with one of its stiffest competitions this season as reigning state champion Pinson Valley heads into town riding a two-game winning streak.
Both teams enter Friday winners of five-out-of-six with the Indians nursing the only loss after falling to Hewitt-Trussville in the season opener. Since then, Pinson Valley has relied on a stout defense and the arm of quarterback Barry White. Throughout the past two games, the Indians have outscored both of their opponents, Ramsay and Shades Valley, 50-14.
Against Ramsay, the Indians allowed just 103 yards of total offense. Most noticeable, was Pinson Valley’s ability to squash any passing game. The Indians allowed just 4 yards in the air compared to 99 rushing yards. Antoine Williams recorded 9.5 tackles with 1.5 sacks in the win.
Pinson Valley was again reliable on defense against Shades Valley. The Indians gave up 97 passing yards with two interceptions. The defense hid the flaws of the offense as Pinson Valley coughed up four turnovers, but Shades Valley was able to only score a single touchdown.
Historically, Clay-Chalkville has held the advantage in the matchup against Pinson Valley. The Cougars are 5-10 all-time against the Indians. However, Pinson Valley has won the past five contest with the last Clay-Chalkville victory coming in 2015 when the Cougars crushed the Indians, 65-10.
Save for the 2017 semifinal victory over Clay-Chalkville in which Pinson Valley won, 37-7, the past five matchups have ended with nothing more than a touchdown’s gap between the teams. Expect the same this Friday as Clay-Chalkville will counter Pinson Valley’s defense with a high-powered offense led by quarterback Damione Ward.
Ward recorded 201 passing yards in the Cougars’ 19-14 win over Park Crossing this past Friday with one touchdown. Clay-Chalkville had to rely on the leg of Jaren Van Winkle to squeeze out a win — Van Winkle went four-for-four in the game. By far the most impressive showing so far this season for the Cougars was the final quarter against James Clemens in which the Cougars rallied from two touchdowns down to defeat the Jets, 38-37. Ward recorded over 300 total yards in the win.
With the Cougars the lone team in Class 6A Region 6 to yet play a region game, it’s vital that they snap Pinson Valley’s hold over them and snag first place ahead of Gardendale. For Pinson Valley, each opponent it faces view the contest as its championship. Each game becomes a test as to whether it can retain its dominance over the region. While each loss fuels the fire for teams waiting for their chance to reach the peak.
It should be a good one.