By Joshua Huff, for The Tribune
PINSON — Despite Clay-Chalkville’s dominant run through region play this season, the Cougars were still unable to solve the riddle that is Pinson Valley as the Indians claimed the Class 6A, Region 6 crown on Friday following a 27-10 victory thanks to four turnovers and a balanced offensive attack.
The victory for Pinson Valley was the seventh consecutive over Clay-Chalkville. In all, the Cougars lead the series, 10-7.
“Well, I’ll tell you what,” Pinson Valley first-year head coach Sam Shade said. “It feels good to be first place in the region. It feels really good.”
Unlike Clay-Chalkville’s overwhelming 45-0 victory over Mortimer Jordan this past Friday, the Cougars were in for a rough evening from the onset as Pinson Valley took the opening kick and promptly marched down the field thanks to a 37-yard Kenji Christian run and a 4-yard Mike Sharpe touchdown scamper.
Pinson Valley’s defense followed with two dominant outings in the first quarter as Clay-Chalkville’s Khalib Johnson and company were unable to generate any momentum during its two possessions in the opening frame. That defensive dominance allowed Pinson Valley’s offense to open the playbook, which led to an 86-yard Zach Pryon to Micah Woods touchdown pass to open the second quarter.
Though Clay-Chalkville’s offensive struggles remained throughout the majority of the second quarter, the Cougars still managed to drive to the Indians’ 5-yard line in the closing moments of the first half, but a Christian Hudson personal foul forced the Cougars into a deep hole, which ultimately caused them to settle for a 30-yard field goal to narrow the Indians’ lead to 13-3 at the half.
Clay-Chalkville’s chances of a second-half rally were all but dashed on the opening play of the third quarter as Johnson’s pass was intercepted by senior 5-star recruit Ga’Quincy Mckinstry, who returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. The Indians then again intercepted Johnson on a deep pass that was hauled in by Tomas Wesley in the end zone midway through the third quarter. That led to a 75-yard one-handed Christian catch and run to increase Pinson Valley’s lead to 27-3.
Johnson ended the evening with three interceptions and no touchdowns. Entering the night, the junior was 49-for-80 with 876 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
Clay-Chalkville was able to sustain a drive late in the third quarter, but the nightmarish evening continued as the Cougars fumbled the ball on the Indians’ 10-yard line. The ball was recovered by Tradarrius Swanson.
However, moments later, the Cougars proceeded to score their first touchdown of the night to being the fourth quarter on an Edward Osley touchdown run. But against a Pinson Valley defense that allows just 20 points per game, Osley’s touchdown was just window dressing for a night best forgotten.
For Pinson Valley, the region crown is the fourth region championship in program history and its first since Oxford ended the Indians’ two-year run in 2019.
“We had not played our best game yet,” Shade said. “We feel like this is the best game that we played this season. We still have some things that we can get better on. Some things that we can improve on and that’s what we plan on doing.”