Chris Weaver drove his team back down the field to put Saraland in a position to win the game, but the Clay-Chalkville defense rose to the occasion with the game on the line. A team that had yet to play a close game all season long, the Cougars got a key pass break-up and a big sack to force the Spartans into a fourth and 14 with the ball on the 25-yard line. Getting pressure on the final play forced Weaver to throw early and his pass fell to the Jordan-Hare turf incomplete, securing the first state title for Clay-Chalkville since 1999.
“We kind of prepared for this stuff all year,” he said. “This is the closest anybody has played us and we worked very hard all year to stay even in everything we do, good plays or bad plays just play the next play. I saw that out of our kids.”
In a game billed as a battle of quarterbacks, both kids delivered in a big way. Finishing off one of the best seasons in state history, Pigrome completed 15-20 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and added 101 yards on the ground and three more scores. Coach “I thought he played outstanding and when it was go-time he ran the ball well,” Kelly said. “The big throws he made, my goodness. Being able to strike quickly was huge. He’s been the trigger of it and T.J. did an excellent job too.”
T.J. is dynamic 2016 wide receiver prospect T.J. Simmons. A physical player that has the skills to be a difference maker on the next level, he caught five passes for 165 yards and one very big touchdown. It came late when Clay-Chalkville needed some momentum in a big way. Trailing Saraland 24-16 late in the third quarter, Pigrome hit sophomore Nico Collins with an 18-yard touchdown, but the two-point conversion failed leaving the Cougars down by two.
That’s how things would stand deep into the fourth quarter when Simmons struck for the big play. With the ball on their own 21-yard line, the Cougars turned to their top two players to make a play and the duo delivered. Pigrome threw a dart to Simmons on the right sideline and the big receiver did the rest, running through tackles on the way to a 79-yard score to give Clay-Chalkville the lead.
“We just put the work in,” Simmons said. “We worked together as a team and made it happen. I knew if we kept scoring and our defense made a stop that we were going to win the game. I had to score. I had to get into the end zone for my team.”
T.J. Simmons takes it the distance
With the lead back the Cougars needed a defensive play, but Weaver and company would have none of that. Moving the ball to the Clay-Chalkville 23, the Spartans faced a fourth and one to keep the drive alive. Instead of keeping the ball with their big quarterback they went with the run and speedy Tyler Sims ran through a huge hole for the touchdown to put Saraland back in front.
That meant Clay-Chalkville needed another score and Pigrome was up to the challenge. Completing a pair of passes to move the Cougars on the other side of the 50, Pigrome called his own number on a first down play. Making a cut in the hole, the speedy junior outran the Saraland defense for the eventual game-winner.
It was all about defense early on as Clay-Chalkville’s front controlled the line of scrimmage. That eventually set up the first score of the game for the Cougars as Saraland rolled the dice on fourth and short on its own end, but Weaver was stopped to give the ball to Pigrome and the Clay-Chalkville offense. They managed a first down before Patrick Millican’s 35-yard field goal put them on the board.
Trailing by three the Spartans responded with Weaver leading the charge. Driving his team down the field and into scoring position with two impressive throws to Nick Williams and Velus Jones, Weaver dashed across from three yards for the touchdown to put Saraland up 7-3 late in the first quarter.
The second quarter was the Pigrome show as he drove his team 64 yards before finishing off the drive with a one-yard run, but the point after failed leaving the Cougars up 9-7. Getting the ball back late in the half on his own 18, Pigrome went to work again. Taking his team down the field on seven plays and into scoring position, Pigrome scored his second touchdown from the three to make it 16-7 at the half.
Three consecutive Saraland scores moved the Spartans in front 24-16 before Pigram and Clay-Chalkville broke loose late to secure the state title for the first time in 15 years.
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