By Joshua Huff, sports editor
CLAY — Clay-Chalkville returns to the field this Friday as the Cougars make the trip south to face Shades Valley following a bye week.
The Cougars are currently in the midst of a two-game losing streak after losses to Pinson Valley and Gardendale, both of which are Class 6A Region 6 opponents. Those losses sent Clay-Chalkville to 0-2 in region play and 3-2 overall.
Shades Valley enters in much the same fashion. The Mounties have lost two consecutive games to Stanhope Elmore and Vestavia Hills, respectively. The matchup against Clay-Chalkville is a return to region play for Shades Valley. It spent that past two weeks out of region. Those losses sent the Mounties into Friday’s game 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the region.
With the season entering the back stretch, the importance of this game in regards to the playoff picture is of the upmost for both teams. As things stand, Shades Valley holds the fourth and final spot in Region 6 with Clay-Chalkville sitting just in front of last place Pell City (1-4, 0-3). A Clay-Chalkville victory, followed by a Huffman loss, will vault the Cougars into a two-way tie for the final playoff spot.
Granted, there’s still four weeks left in the season following this week, but a Cougar loss will increase the difficulty ten-fold of returning to the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.
The bye week for the Cougars could not have come at a better time. It proceeded a stretch where in which Clay-Chalkville got blown out by Pinson Valley and lost a heartbreaker to Gardendale. Were it not for the last-second field goal, the Cougars would be sitting 4-1, 1-1 in the region and in control of their own destiny.
The current streak is not a result of poor play. The defense has allowed fewer yards (26.8) per game than the offense has scored per game (27.2). Disregard the Pinson Valley game, and the Cougars have shown grit and an ability to pull out wins on both offense and defense.
Shades Valley enters following a shutout loss to Vestavia Hills, 0-17. The Mounties’ offense was nonexistent in the game. Faced with the same dilemma that Hewitt-Trussville faces, Shades Valley has been decimated by injuries to key players this season. The Mounties were down to their third-string quarterback, Earl Woods, against Vestavia Hills.
Woods was efficient against the Rebels. The freshman went 10-of-14 for just 54 yards with one touchdown.
In Clay-Chalkville’s most recent game two weeks ago against Gardendale, the Cougars rallied back from a 21-7 deficit to take a 35-21 lead midway through the third quarter, but Gardendale rallied back and won on Landon Erbrick’s 32-yard field goal. In the loss, Clay-Chalkville quarterback Damione Ward rushed for a game-high 142 yards on 21 carries. He also threw for 135 yards, but he threw just four passes in the second half.
Historically, Clay-Chalkville has had Shades Valley’s number. The Cougars lead the series 14-4 and defeated the Mounties 31-6 in 2018. Clay-Chalkville is undefeated on the road this season, 2-0, with a neutral site victory over Dothan and a victory over Park Crossing in Montgomery.