By Bobby Mathews, Sports Editor
CLAY — Khalib Johnson threw for four touchdowns and a score, while Ed Osley ran for two more, and the Clay-Chalkville Cougars needed every point they could get to take down Gardendale 50-44 here on Friday night.
Johnson threw for 277 yards on 18-of-33 passing, and Osley ran 22 times for 160 yards.
But the story of the game was the Cougar defense, which gave up 44 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter to allow the Rockets to tie things up. When the teams went into overtime, Clay-Chalkville’s stop unit played like the team they’ve been all season, holding the Rockets to -3 yards and forcing them to try for a field goal.
The kick was blocked, and Khalib Johnson took the ball 10 yards for the score on the first play of the Cougars’ ensuing possession for a walk-off touchdown.
Clay-Chalkville moves on to the semifinals of the AHSAA 6A playoffs, traveling for the first time all season, when they head to Mountain Brook on Friday, November 26. That’s why Clay-Chalkville is The Tribune’s Team of the Week.
“We can’t have those big mistakes. We got a personal foul that put us back 15 yards after a big first down. We just can’t do the stupid things,” Clay-Chalkville head coach Gilmer said following the win. “We had a lot of things going against us, it wasn’t ideal. We haven’t been in a situation like this and our guys continued to fight, continued to believe, and we get to live to see the next round.”
This contest was completely different than the first time the Cougars played the Rockets this season, a 46-0 romp in the fourth game. Clay-Chalkville hasn’t been challenged often. Until Friday night, their closest game was a 17-point win over Hueytown, another semifinalist in the 6A playoffs, back near the end of August.
The defense was put in a tough postion during the final quarter against Gardendale as the offense stalled multiple times, including going 0-2 in the fourth on fourth down attempts. The sixteen points they allowed in that final period was the most fourth-quarter points the Cougars have surrendered all year. This is a defensive unit that takes a lot of pride in what it does.
The Cougars have pulled off five shutouts this season, including one in the first round of the playoffs against Decatur, so giving up 44 points and allowing Gardendale to stay in the game had to be be emotionally and physically draining. But for four downs in overtime on Friday, Clay-Chalkville’s defense did what it has done all season: it got the stop when it needed to.
Team of the Week is sponsored by Courtesy GMC.