By Joshua Huff, sports editor
CLAY — It was the best of times before it quickly became the worst of times for the Clay-Chalkville football team. The Cougars strutted into Cougar Stadium this past Friday riding a three-game winning streak to face a Pinson Valley team that had rode a wave of inconsistency up until that point.
If season records could talk, then the Cougars’ 3-0 record spewed nothing but lies. Other than a solid thumping of Dothan, 37-14, in the season opener, Clay-Chalkville has suffered through penalty/turnover-plagued outings and stuttering offensive performances. The latter burst to the surface during week two of the season against James Clemens.
Even though the Cougars escaped with a win, the first three quarters of the game were disastrous for Clay-Chalkville. Were it not for the heroics of Damione Ward and a defensive stand to end the game, the Cougars would have lost. Against Park Crossing in week three, Clay-Chalkville recorded just one touchdown and relied on the sure-footed Jaren Van Winkle to kick the Cougars to victory.
The Cougars accounted for 284 total yards with seven penalties and just 83 rushing yards against Park Crossing. This came against a team that had opened the season without scoring a touchdown against Lee Montgomery.
Against region opponent Pinson Valley in week four, the Cougars recorded 133 yards of total offense. Ward went 5-for-16 for 55 passing yards. Pinson Valley held the Cougars to just three first downs in the second half. The Indians won, 31-7.
Granted, Pinson Valley entered this season ranked No.1 in the region, but few expected the Indians to remain at the level that they had played at these past two seasons, especially with their former starting quarterback now accumulating wins at Auburn. As a result, nobody expected the Cougars to go belly up the way they did with the past two meetings having been so close — Pinson Valley won both contests in 2018 by seven and eight points, respectively.
Clay-Chalkville now has a chance to cast aside the storm clouds with region opponent Gardendale coming into town. Though undefeated, the Rockets’ record spews even more lies than Clay-Chalkville’s did; Gardendale enters 4-0 (2-0 in Class 6A, Region 6), but its wins have come against inferior opponents.
The Rockets’ opponents have won just four games combined through week four. History will also be on the Cougars’ side — The Rockets have never defeated Clay-Chalkville in the seven meetings between the two teams. The Cougars last defeated the Rockets, 56-14, in 2018.
The season is still young enough that a win against Gardendale is not a necessity, but with a slew of talented region teams remaining on the schedule, Shades Valley, Oxford and Gadsden City, the Cougars do not want to enter their bye week in week six with consecutive losses. Clay-Chalkville is bursting with talent throughout its roster, but the Cougars need to harness that talent in the second half of the season if they want to replicate this past season’s 12-2 record.
For the Cougars, it is going to come down to the small things. Do not be surprised if they start clicking on all cylinders.