Week 5: Spotlight
The rivalry, which began in 1922 and lasted 101 games, was judged in the late 1990s by USA Today as one of the nation's Top 10 high school football rivalries. The last one certainly lived up to that billing.
It was a classic finish to a series where Clay County has averaged 11.8 points per game and Lineville 12.8. The Aggies finished with 54 wins, Clay County 43 and the two teams tied four times. The two schools will merge next school year to form Central High School of Clay County. The new mascot name will be the Volunteers and the school colors red, white and blue.
Principal Billy Walker said 2,600 advance tickets were sold, and the crowd was estimated at more than 5,000 in a stadium that can seat 3,500. The stadium was full by 4:30 in the afternoon with late arrivals standing 30 deep around the fence and even deeper on the hill overlooking the field. As many as five TV stations were on hand along with numerous reporters and a host of other media.
And former governor Bob Riley, who is a Clay County grad, administered the ceremonial coin toss before the game using a special centennial coin honoring President Ronald Reagan.
Clay County (4-1), coached by Kris Herron, took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on Travis Smith's 10-yard touchdown run. Shawncey Simmons then kicked what would turn out to be the game-winning extra point.
Lineville (4-1), coached by Clay County grad Steve Giddens, finally scored with 4:30 to play when quarterback Demetrius Lindsey scored on a five-yard run. The extra point try was blocked, however.
Lineville got another chance quickly when the Aggies jarred the ball loose on the kick return and recovered at the Panthers 21-yard line. Three plays netted just zero yards and the Aggies lined up to try a 38-yard field goal. Once again, the kick was blocked to foil the scoring opportunity.
Giddens' team got the ball back with just over a minute to play. Panthers junior Jamari Staples intercepted Lineville's fourth-down pass to seal the win.
Lineville limited Clay County to just 145 yards of offense, including only 12 through the air. Simmons was the Panthers' leading rusher with 40 yards on 12 carries. Lineville had 107 yards passing but could muster less than 100 yards rushing.
When the game ended, both teams huddled together in the middle of the field as more than 5,000 fans – many of whom were at the stadium by 4 p.m. Friday – looked on.
Herron and Giddens embraced and then addressed the teams.
"There's nothing to be ashamed of," Herron said to the Lineville players. "Hey, this is what it was founded on and what it was all about. After tonight and a day or two, this stuff is over. We start coming together."
Giddens, who played in his final Clay Bowl game in 1979, reflected before the game.
"This is a special game for a special group from two special towns," he said. "We'll all miss it, but we all look forward to what comes next."
In one other milestone team performance, Fort Payne beat Cullman 44-21 to record the Wildcats' 500th school win. Fort Payne, currently coached by Paul Ellis, is now 500-336-29 all time.
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