The Pinson Valley Indians travel to Clay-Chalkville to play the Cougars in a Class 6A, Region 6 game, where the winner takes the region title. Both teams come into the game undefeated in region play.
While the Indians have two losses to 7A Hewitt-Trussville and 5A power Ramsay, the Cougars have one seven straight games coming into this big battle.
Pinson Valley (5-2, 4-0) comes into the game being off the last two weeks due to a COVID-19 forfeit and an open week so they are well rested. "We wanted to keep playing if it was up to us coming off the loss to Ramsay," said Indians Head coach Sam Shade. "That was a heartbreaking loss in the Ramsay game. We wanted to get that taste out of our mouths so not having a game it was tough."
The Indians offensive is led by quarterback Zach Pyron. Pyron has made a successful transfer from 2A Fyffe. "We feel like Zach is improving every week," added Shade. "He is not where he wants to be but we talk about it all the time. Our goal is to get better everyday and better every game and he has done that and he continues to do that."
Pyron has a lot of weapons in the receiver bunch. Kool-Aid McKinstry is a big time talent. McKinstry is ranked 18th in the 247 Sports 2021 top football recruits. The senior wide receiver could come down to the two state schools in Auburn and Alabama. LSU is his third choice. "Kool-Aid is one of our offensive leaders on that side of the ball," said Shade. "Going into the season we were hoping not to play him on that side of the ball because he is so valuable on offense. He can make things happen on that side of the ball, but because of injuries and lack of depth, we had to play him more on defense than we wanted and at times, we believe it has hurt his offensive production. It is a juggling act on defense, we just have needed him to play on defense. He had to play safety against Jackson-Olin due to a starter being out due to injury. Our best option was to play him at safety at that game. He is such a good athlete with great football IQ. He is a guy that doesn't need a lot of reps on defense, because he picks things up so quickly. As a person, he is hungry, wants to work hard and he will not be afraid to put the work in."
Wide receiver Jaquel Fells is very dangerous in opposing secondaries. Fells has offers from Carthage College and Bethel University. Micah Woods, Devin Kelly and Taborie Reed all can play. Woods has offers from Lagrange College and Bethel University. "Fells is a very explosive player," said Shade. "He can play a lot of positions. He is playing the slot position for us. He can play running back and even had to play safety against Ramsay. He is versatile. He is one of those guys that we talk about getting the ball to him as much as we can in a game. He is so elusive with his quickness. He can stick his foot in the ground and accelerate. He is one of our strongest players and that is why he can break some tackles.
The Indians have one of the best 1-2 punch in Class 6A. Kenji Christian and Mike Sharpe can get a big run anytime they touch the football. Christian, a Virginia Tech commit, has very good size and speed while Sharpe has the quickness to avoid a tackle at anytime.
The offensive line has a good one in Rayvon Crum. The North Texas commit is having a big season for the Indians. Martinez Claughton, Cameron Ambrose, Joel Brown and Carson Moorer round out the Indians offensive line.
The Pinson Valley defense has been good for most of the season. The Indians have only given up more than 20 points in two games this season. Two solid leaders on defense have been James Perkins and Julian Peterson. Perkins, an Air Force commit, has been banged up with a hand injury early in the season and looks to be healthy. Peterson, a Troy University commit, has played big since day one for the Indians. "James at times was playing with one hand due to a cast on his hand," added Shade. "Julian has been solid as he was banged up against Ramsay but is healthy coming into this game. Having those two guys on the field have been big for us this season."
Linebackers Alijah May and Noah Steen are solid. The secondary with Kaniji Chandler, Aramarius Butler, Zac McCray and Amon Scarbrough will need to play against the Clay-Chalkville receivers.
The Clay-Chalkville Cougars (7-0, 5-0) have been good all year long. "We have so much going on with this and that along with school being different with the players that it is hard to just sit around and think about things since this is such a difference year," said Cougars Head coach Drew Gilmore. "We have just been focused on the day. It is about what do we need to do today and the rest will just work itself out. Our players can't take things for granted because he are not guaranteed tomorrow. We have to look to the guy next to you but it has brought us together as a team."
The Cougars offense is run by first-year starter Khalib Johnson. "Khalib has done a tremendous job and he keeps getting better each day," added Gilmore. "He has ups and downs. Getting live game reps but he is going to be a heck of a football player."
At running back, Lazaris Hinkle, Edward Osley and Cam'ron Williams are getting reps this season. "Lazaris is a downhill brusure that you just get tired of tackling," said Gilmore. "He is hard and heavy and likes the physical contact. Edward is growing into his body. He is a bigger kid. He is very versatile. He is our best blocker, running back and might be our best receiver. He can just do everything so he lets you get into different packages without subbing anyone." Fullback Corey Calvin gets reps as a lead back for the running backs and is very important to the Cougars offense.
At receiver, Marquarius White, Ortavious Miles, Isaiah Carlisle, Nathan Owens and Jordan McCants can find their way onto the field. White, a Virginia Tech commit, is very good with speed and very good hands. "Marquarius has been our guy, he has been very consistent throughout the year," said Gilmore. "He has good speed, catches the football and creates good one on one matchups that you have to take advantage of." Tight ends Antonio Miles has a Jackson State offer.
The offensive line of Izziah Williams, Ahmante Altman, Xavier Norman, Joshua May and Frederick Samuel are very good group with good size. "Izziah is one of our best athletes on our team," added Gilmore. "He works hard every single day and is a very hard worker. He is our long snapper and he plays in short yardage situations on defense. Guys like him are the nuts and bolts of this team."
The Cougars defense has been solid and played incredible against Mortimer Jordan last week. The defense held Mortimer Jordan to 87 total yards in that game. "We are getting lined up, playing fast and we have been good tacklers," said Gilmore. "We have to be sure tacklers and get people to the football. It all comes down to blocking and tackling and we have done a good job of tackling this season."
The two inside linebackers of Jamarcus Dunn and Jonathan Harris are playing lights out so far this season. "Jamarcus is a kid that works hard everyday," said Gilmore. "He does everything that we ask him to do as a staff. Makes our days better with a kid like this around the team."
Lineman Jordan Walker and Kaleb Simon are having good seasons and to a good job of taking on blockers for the Cougars linebackers. Add in Robert Blanco to the linebackers. Rodarius Skyes, Kevin Hurley and Jamon Smith get reps on the defensive front. The secondary has Kere Thomas, Lamar Croskey, Jayden Sweeney and Kameron Peterson. "These guys are football players," added Gilmore. "They are playing well as a unit."
Jaren Van Winkle handles the place kicking duties for the Cougars.