By Britney Bailey, For the Tribune
CLAY – The “Redemption” tour continues for the Clay-Chalkville Cougars as they added the Parker Thundering Herd to their list of victories.
The Cougars put on an incredible defensive performance Friday night at home to secure their trip to the AHSAA State Championship game after a 38-13 victory.
Parker ended the 2022 season for Clay-Chalkville in the first round of the playoffs with a on-point upset.
Cougar quarterback Jaylen Mbakwe got the Cougars on the scoreboard first with 5:50 to go in the first with a short touchdown run, the PAT by Ellison put the Cougars up 7-0.
Mbakwe then found Marlon Compton for a stunning 53-yard pass to put the Cougars in scoring territory.
Aaron Osley found the endzone shortly after with a 13-yard run to give the Cougars a 14-0 after the PAT.
Parker answered with a pick-six by Na’eem Offord in the second quarter to cut the Clay lead to seven.
Osley wasted no time finding his way back to the endzone with 6:03 remaining in the half with help from a 25-yard zinger from Mbakwe to hand the Cougars a 21-7 lead.
Mbakwe would head to the locker room after the play, and would not return for the remainder of the game with what appeared to be a concussion after a helmet-to-helmet run on with Parker defenders.
Parker running back Martavius Purnell answered the call and put Parker back in the game with 2:37 before the half. The Herd’s PAT failed and the Cougars held a 21-13 lead to the locker room.
Ellison put up three more points for the Cougars in the third with a field goal, giving the Cougars a 24-13 lead at the 8:44 mark.
A botched punt return by the Cougars gifted Parker the ball in Cougar territory, but the Cougar defense quickly shut down all advances.
The Cougar defense, lead by DJ Barber and Avion Pickett, held Parker to 117 yards of total offense on the night.
Sophomore quarterback Aaron Frye took over the reins for Mbakwe in the second half.
Frye would end up having a “Mbakwe moment” of his own, turning on the jets for an explosive 80-yard touchdown run to up the Cougar lead to 30-13 with 5:48 remaining in the ballgame.
Taurus Chambers would seal the deal for the Cougars with just :40 left on the clock, for a final score of 38-13.
“I feel great. Proud of our football team. We battled some adversity,” Head Coach Drew Gilmer exclaimed of his team, “We knew it would be a battle.This is a great football team with Parker, our guys fought their guts out.”
Gilmer noted that Mbakwe will be fine after the hit and the Bama comitt echoed his coach. “Im ok,” he said.
The Cougars will head to Tuscaloosa next Friday to face Saraland in the 6A AHSAA State Championship game at Bryant-Denny Stadium at 7 pm.