Rivalry Riddle

If there is such a thing as a civil rivalry it might be found east of Birmingham and played Friday night between the Hewitt-Trussville Huskies and the Clay-Chalkville Cougars.

Coach Hal Riddle has been at Hewitt-Trussville since 2002, but he coached at Clay-Chalkville from 1999-2001, and the Cougars brought home a state championship in his first year 1999.

Clay-Chalkville leads the series 6-5, but Hewitt-Trussville has won the last two meetings.

The very likable Coach Hal Riddle tries to explain how this polite rivalry began and why it persists.

"Like some others around the state," Riddle starts. "Clay-Chalkville was a new school in the mid 90s, and when it opened it's entire population were kids that used to go to Hewitt-Trussville. It just split the zone in two. It was something that needed to be done, although at the time it was hard for the coaches at Hewitt to realize because they had gone through a really good time."

The Huskies were region champions in 1992, 1993, and 1995. They had a record from 1990-1996 of 66-24 and two semi-final state championship appearances. After the split the Huskies watched as the Cougars took down a state title in 1999. Coach Riddle's team won their region in 2008, the first region title since the split of the two schools.

"Now you've got two distinctly different groups," Riddle continues. "We have 90- something players, and they've got about that many and that gives 200 kids an opportunity where they wouldn't all have that opportunity if we were all under one roof."

"We are basically about two miles apart. That is unusual in that both of our schools are located on the edge of each school district. It just happens to be on the back edge which makes us close to each other. Two miles apart."

"A lot of the kids know each other. The coaches know each other. A lot of the folks who have children at school at Clay now are Hewitt graduates, so that makes it unique. We're in the region together. It's the first region game, so all of that put together makes it one of those barn-burner backyard rivalry kind of games."

Rebecca Johnston: Let's talk about the exciting win over Stanhope Elmore last week, what did you do well and what did you have to work on?

Coach Hal Riddle: "I think the biggest thing we did last week is that we didn't beat ourselves. We didn't turn the ball over. We did give up one long pass right at the end of the game, but we didn't just give them easy scores and we didn't give them the ball with short fields to travel. That ends up being true in every game that is ever played, but if you can keep from doing that you've got a chance and that's what we need to do again this week.

"We need to get a little better at are our kicking game. It needs a little improvement. It wasn't terrible, but it's not as good as it can be yet. We have a new punter and a new kicker, and they are working hard and our kids that are on those teams are working hard as well. It's going to get there."

RJ: Clay-Chalkville has a lot of things going right from them right now. What are you going to need to stop?

CHR: "They have just been incredible the first two games. They scored 43 points against Athens, and they are a team that has been a perennial playoff team. They have contended and won state championships, and to put 43 points on the board is impressive.

"The week before that in the jamboree I think they put 35 on the board against Chelsea. They have two running backs that are extremely talented and quick and fast. They have two quarterbacks they are playing that can run as well as throw the ball. So that's another weapon they have that we've got to defend.

"They spread you all over the field. Offensively, they are just very multiple and give you all kinds of things to worry about. We've got to find a way to slow them down. They have been a team that has just driven the ball on both these teams they have played so far. We've got to find a way to slow their offense down.

"They have been just about equally as good on defense these first couple of weeks. Then the other side of that is can we move the ball on them. We're trying to figure that out.

"We've got a plan that we hope is going to be good. We would like to run the football and then fake the run and throw. We don't want to just have to drop back and throw it all the time."

RJ: Can you talk a bit about your talented players. They played such a fine game last week.

CHR: "I'll start with Noah Wilson (ScoutSouth.com Player of the Week) because he is a fine, fine young athlete, but on top of that he's an incredible young man. He had a big week for us last week rushing the football, and he also caught a pass for 60-65 yards and a touchdown (Wilson had 267 all-purpose yards and scored three of the team's four touchdowns)."

"Noah is just very versatile, got a great work ethic, spends a lot of time in the weight room getting ready to play. But he's not the only youngster we have."

"We have a senior quarterback by the name of Brett Miller (Sr. 6-0, 175), Blake Beardon (Sr. 6-1, 185) at tight end, Austin Justice (Sr. 5-10, 160) at flanker. They have been exceptional for us, so far."

"On the front Patrick Gilbreath (Sr. 6-1, 260) and Derrick Talley (Sr. 6-0, 185), Jarred Waylander (Sr. 6-2, 235) all are guys that played some for us last year. They are anchoring our line at this point."

"From the defensive side, Corey King (Sr. 5-9, 185) and Eric Pierce (Sr. 6-1, 200) are the stalwarts on the defensive line there."

Cole Shannon (Sr. 6-2, 210) and Taylor Stephens (Sr. 5-11, 200) are two senior linebackers that we are leaning on heavily. Then behind them Matt Patridge (Sr. 6-1, 175) and Cody Segers (Sr. 5-11, 170) are two senior defensive backs that are returning that we will count on."

RJ: How did you come out of last week's 28-21 win over Stanhope Elmore?

CHR: "We did come out pretty healthy. We had way more than I would have liked that were cramping. We actually had two that we had to get IVs for at the end of the game, which I hate we let them get to that position."

"Hopefully we will be a little better prepared. We had one youngster, Beardon, that came out with a bruised shoulder but we expect him to be ready for the game. He practiced a little bit Wednesday."

RJ: Coach Riddle, can you explain what being in these kind of games does for coaches. It's what it's all about isn't it?

CHR: "Yeah, this is what's fun. Clay's got a new staff this year, Jerry Hood is the new head coach over there, and he has several new assistants. I don't guess I know everybody over there, but some of the guys on his staff I have worked with and have been on staff with before.

"I know Jerry from years ago. It's fun when you get to compete against good guys. They'll have their guys playing hard, and they'll be excited, and our kids will be excited."

"They've got some talented athletes, and we've got some that we think can play. It's fun to compete, and that's what it will be about."

RJ: Big Crowd?

CHR: "If the weather cooperates I think we will have a big crowd."

Clay-Chalkville (1-0) vs. Hewitt-Trussville (1-0)
Jack Wood Stadium (60th anniversary)
September 4, 7:00 PM

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