by John Goolsby
Shades Valley won their first playoff game since 2017 this past Friday night on the road against Cullman. The Mounties defeated the Bearcats 28-14 in a game that was tight until the closing minutes. The win propels the Mounties into the remaining field of 16 teams that are vying for the 6A crown. “It is an unbelievable deal for us to be in the second round of the playoffs. This is exactly where we dreamed and hoped we would be. I think the kids are starting to understand the magnitude of where we are,” said Head Coach Jamie Mitchell. The Mounties play host to Pinson Valley tonight at 7 PM.
The Mounties started the season 0-6, due in large part, to a difficult schedule. They have now won four of their last five games. Of the eight teams remaining in the north section of the bracket, Shades Valley has faced six of those teams.
The defense, led by sophomore linebacker Nathan Lavender with 13 tackles, played much better than the previous week. The Mounties held Cullman’s option running attack in check for most of the night. After the Bearcats marched 80 yards for a score on their first drive, the Mounties defense stiffened and held Cullman to 92 rushing yards the rest of the game. The Bearcats were only able to produce 34 yards through the air. Lavender, who is also the long snapper, played his best game of the season according to Mitchell. “He’s just a sophomore and we think he is going to be exceptional for us…he did a great job,” said Mitchell.
The Shades Valley rushing game had another productive night. The Mounties rolled up 224 yards on the ground. Junior Jordan Pearson had 118 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown. Freshman running back Bralen Hart added two scores. Sophomore quarterback Earl Woods hurt the Bearcats early and often and gained 92 yards on 9 carries with one touchdown. Senior wide receiver Al Weathers IV had three receptions for 57 yards.
Mitchell was extremely pleased with his special teams. Sophomore kicker and punter Wuilman Guerrero had a very good night. “He was a game changer for us…he flipped the field for us on a couple of punts and kicked the ball deep on kickoffs,” said Mitchell. Mitchell was also pleased with his kickoff coverage as it had been the team’s achilles heel. Mitchell also praised his scout team, “those guys did a good job getting us ready for Cullman,” said Mitchell.
Pinson will be a challenge for the Mounties. The third-ranked Indians are loaded on offense and defense. “When you think about Pinson Valley, they have the number one cornerback in the United States. He’s the number twenty four overall rated player in the United States. They have a D1 tailback that has committed to Virginia Tech. Their left tackle is committed to North Texas. Their nose guard is committed to Troy. They have two or three other guys on defense with multiple offers that just haven’t committed yet,” said Mitchell.
The Mounties and the Indians met previously in the second game of the year. The Mounties led with 4:36 left in the game. The Indians came back and won 31-21 late.
The game can be seen live on the NFHS Network at 7:00 PM. https://www.nfhsnetwork.com