By Joshua Huff, for The Tribune
MOUNTAIN BROOK — In a battle of playoff dominant defenses, it was Mountain Brook that prevailed during Friday’s quarterfinal round as Clay-Chalkville’s unblemished run through the 2020 Class 6A state playoffs ended on Friday night, 21-10, thanks to a Spartans defense that stifled the typically explosive Cougars throughout the night.
The loss for Clay-Chalkville ends a four-year run of advancing into the semifinals. Mountain Brook, which returned to Class 6A this season after spending the past six years in Class 7A, has once again embraced the warmer waters of a division that it once dominated during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s instead of the unfriendly confines of Class 7A — The Spartans had just two playoff wins in Class 7A during their stay.
“They deserved it,” Clay-Chalkville head coach Drew Gilmer said of host Mountain Brook. “They were the better team tonight. We wish them nothing but the best of luck.”
Mountain Brook continued its strong showing from the first two weeks of the playoffs with yet another defensive masterpiece, this time against a Clay-Chalkville squad that entered the night outscoring its first two playoff opponents, 105-0. That dominance was on display early as Mountain Brook opened the game with a bruising opening drive that was capped off with a 3-yard Strother Gibbs touchdown run at the 8:45 mark of the first quarter.
Clay-Chalkville then took its turn on offense and promptly ran three plays before punting the ball away. In fact, the Cougars managed just five offensive possessions throughout the entire first quarter and into the second quarter. Clay-Chalkville managed to settle down, however, and responded with a run-oriented, methodical drive that running back Edward Osley concluded following a 14-yard touchdown run that knotted the game at 7-all.
Undaunted, Mountain Brook stuck to its run game and drove Clay-Chalkville back in the final moments of the first half to retake the lead, 14-7, following a 1-yard Gibbs touchdown plunge with 2:13 left in the second quarter.
“They’re a physical football team,” Gilmer said in regards to Mountain Brook’s run game. “That’s what they’re built off of. They were able to come out and run the football on us. They turned tonight into a run fest and we made a few more mistakes than they did. They came out on top.”
The Spartans opened the second half with yet another soul-crushing drive that Clay-Chalkville was only finally able to halt at its own 19-yard line thanks to a missed field goal. The Cougars concocted their own long drive behind the arm of quarterback Khalib Johnson; however, that drive ended following back-to-back false starts, which pushed the Cougars back to the Spartans’ 30-yard line and forced them into a Jared Van Winkle 34-yard field goal that he converted to narrow the Spartans’ deficit to 14-10 at the 24-second mark of the third quarter.
Mountain Brooks’ offense, along with a multitude of penalties late in the fourth quarter, would ultimately prove to be Clay-Chalkville’s undoing as the Spartans responded to the Cougars’ field goal with a 6-minute drive that was propelled by 35-yards of Clay-Chalkville penalties. The Spartans’ game-sealing drive ended on a 1-yard Michael Brogan run that increased their lead to 21-10 with 6:48 left in the game and effectively cast a permanent shadow over the Cougars’ 2020 championship aspirations.
“You can’t make mistakes like this in a big-time game,” Gilmer said. “We made more mistakes than they did. With two good football teams, you can’t do that and expect to win.”