FNL: Cougars will remember Titans

CLAY, Ala. – You can spell the end of the playoff hopes of the 2008 Clay-Chalkville Cougars – and the realization of the playoff dream of the Gadsden City Titans – with three letters: D-R-E. As in, Kirkpatrick.

Dre Kirkpatrick's 85-yard punt return for a TD highlighted a 21-0 second quarter run that propelled his Titans (5-4, 4-3 in region play) to the playoffs en route to a 28-12 win that ended the post-season hopes of the home-standing Cougars.

"My team set up a great blocking scheme," Kirkpatrick said after the game. "I gave one guy a little move and ran to the wall they had set up. If it wasn't for my teammates, nothing would have happened. We had a senior meeting this week and talked about how we had lost some games we should have won. This win puts us in the playoffs."

Kirkpatrick had seven tackles from his free safety spot against a Cougar offense that runs the West Virginia version of the spread.

To the categories:

TOP PROSPECT: That'd be Dre, with apologies to massive Quinton Dial (more on him later) of CCHS. Kirkpatrick was simply the best player on the field this night, as he is most nights.

"I've been doing this 17 years, and I haven't seen one that good," CCHS coach Brent Smith said. "I watched him play last Friday night, and Hewitt-Trussville had a guy running wide open down the middle of the field, and (Kirkpatrick) popped out of the ground and picked it off. He's an incredible player."

Gadsden insiders say Kirkpatrick has fought through nagging injuries to have a good year. That will have to continue for the Titans to advance in the 6A playoffs.

SENIORS WHO SHINED: Dial shined like the sun, but also can make eclipses happen he's so big. Listed at 6-foot-5, 295 in the program, he may be bigger. In fact, a bare-chested fellow student of his had Dial's No. 99 painted on his back with these stats: "6-6, 330," and he may not be far off.

Dial made 11 tackles, including a near Terrence Cody-like performance on what was almost a great goal line stand until Gadsden scored from the 1-yard line on its fourth try just before the half. Dial made the tackles on two of the previous three tries.

"He's a great player, and a great athlete who plays very hard," said Titans coach Joe Billingsley, who like last week's Buddy Anderson of Vestavia is a man of few words. "He's really aggressive, and he embodies what you're looking for in a defensive lineman."

"He's our main cog right there in the middle. He's playing well for us," said Cougars coach Brent Smith. "Very few people try to run straight at him. He's learned how to play hard every down, and really improved his overall game this year. He really has excelled, and he's one of our leaders on defense."

Though not a huge factor on this night, 6-foot-4, 210-pound Kendall "Special K" Kelley did catch a late out route, break a tackle, and drag another defender on a 20-yard gain. He blocked well all night, but did drop a screen when he tried to run before the catch.

"Not many people in the state ought to be able to cover him," Smith said. "He's very fast with good hands. He causes problems."

As for Kelly's ongoing battle with a hamstring pull, Billingsley reports that he is "about 95 per cent."

JUNIORS TO WATCH: One we had hoped to watch was injured: D.J. Vinson, the talented running back for Clay-Chalkville. However, linebacker Daniel Whatley (6-foot-3, 200), the leading tackler for the Cougars, played well.

Gadsden City cornerback Dale Trimble (5-foot-10, 160) teams with Kirkpatrick to give the Titans a fine secondary, as evidenced by his 23-yard interception return early in the second half to put the game out of reach at 28-6.

A big 56-yard run by 5-foot-8, 175 Antavio Smith set up a score, and Smith himself got in on the afore-mentioned 1-yard run just before intermission.

Though not a big threat passing, quarterback Y'latio Jones (5-foot-9, 160) runs the Cougars spread well and is quick afoot. He scored from the 1-yard line midway through the third quarter to account for the final margin.

SUPER SOPHS: Kelly is not the only fine receiver on the Titans offense. There's also 6-foot, 180-pound Darryl Lindsey Collins, who is also a threat in the return game.

Clay-Chalkville's Darrin Reaves (5-foot-9, 185) has done a good job filling in for Vinson, and he caught a 13-yard screen for six points to open the scoring. Also, put defensive end Cameron Wiggins (6-foot-2, 205) on your list. He'll get bigger.

How ‘BOUT THEM BURGERS: Normally, it would be strange to taste a burger at halftime of a game that had that familiar high school cafeteria texture. But this one was somehow kept piping hot, and dashes of mayo, mustard and ketchup did it proud, so kudos to the CCHS band boosters.

KUDOS FOR THE COUNSELOR: High school guidance counselors don't get the love they deserve normally, so FNL would like to salute Clay-Chalkville's Ellen Banks, who was recently named the State of Alabama Counselor of the Year. Hats off to her, and the thousands of other counselors all over the state who do a great job for their students, helping to plan their futures.

NEXT: Prospects will abound on both sides of the field for a game FNL has longed to cover for years: Blount/Vigor. The unbeaten Vigor Wolves have massive junior offensive tackle Quintorius Eatmon (6-foot-5, 330).

The Blount Leopards counter with the top safety in this year's junior class, Jarrick Williams. It ought to be a Halloween barn-burner at Prichard City Stadium, and FNL will bring it to you from the Port City.

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