By John Goolsby
Irondale -Shades Valley (5-2, 2-2) hung on in the 4th quarter to pull out a 35-29 victory over Pell City (0-7, 0-4) in Class 6A, Region 6 play. The Homecoming win keeps Valley’s playoff hopes alive.
Running back Micah Thomas scored on a 1-yard run to open the scoring. The Mounties led 7-0 with 7:39 remaining in the first period after the Jair Aguilar PAT.
The Panthers offense was unable to get on track early and was forced to punt on their first two drives.
After the Mounties fumbled near midfield, Pell City put together a scoring drive that ended with a 37-yard field goal by Jake Blackstone. Shades Valley led 7-3 with 36 seconds remaining in the quarter.
With 11:16 remaining in the half, the Mounties extended their lead to 14-3 on a 41-yard completion to Christian Thomas from Steve Brown.
Pell City put together a 15-play drive and moved to the Valley two-yard line, but the Mountie defense, with the help of a Johnny Steele tackle for loss, held the Panthers out of the end zone. The Mounties took over on downs with 3:04 remaining in the half.
The Mountie offense went to work quickly and moved the ball to their 46-yard line. Brown hit Korda’e Harper on a 54-yard pass for a score, but a penalty on the play took the points off the board, and the Mounties were forced to punt.
Before halftime, Pell City quickly moved the ball to their 46-yard line. Gross was set to pick up a big gain and a first down on a scramble. Valley’s Clayton Garrison tracked him down and tackled him short of the first down marker, and the Panthers were forced to punt.
The two teams headed to the half with the Mounties holding a 14-3 lead.
Shades Valley opened the second half with a 52-yard run by Micah Thomas, but a penalty nullified the play and the Mountie drive stalled.
After the two teams traded punts, Shades Valley extended the lead to 21-3 on a 65-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Korda’e Harper with 6:19 to play in the 3rd quarter.
Pell City answered back a minute later on a 52-yard touchdown run by Carlos Herring. Jacob Mahand blocked the extra point, and Shades Valley held a 21-9 lead with 5:14 remaining in the quarter.
Shades Valley’s offense went on a six-play 85-yard drive and scored on an 11-yard pass from Brown to Ji’Quez Daniel. The Mounties led 28-9 with 3:19 in the third quarter.
The Panther offense put together a nine-play, 70-yard drive. James Lucas cut the Valley lead to 28-15 on a five-yard run with 9 seconds remaining in the period. Shades Valley cornerback Kendall Odom came up with the interception on the two-point conversion attempt.
Pell City forced another Shades Valley punt and got the ball back near the 50-yard line.
It was then Shades Valley’s defense’s turn to stiffen and the Mounties forced the Panthers to turn the ball over on downs,
Pell City once again forced a punt and drew within six points on a 59-yard touchdown pass from Gross to Herring. The Shades Valley lead was cut to 28-22 with 5 minutes remaining in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Christian Thomas showed why he is one of the most dangerous players in the state. The senior took the ball at the two-yard line and raced 98 yards to give Valley a 35-22 lead with 4:40 seconds remaining.
Pell City wasn’t finished and put together a nine-play scoring drive. Herring scored on a 28-yard pass from Gross to again pull within six with 2:16 remaining.
The Panther’s onside kick failed, and the Mounties picked up a key first down on a scramble by Brown on 3rd down. Christian Thomas sealed the victory with a darting 26-yard run for a first down. Valley then ran the clock out to secure the win.
Head Coach Rueben Nelson was pragmatic about the win. “We’ve just got to get better,” he said. “I’m proud of them, but we have just got to get better.”
Christian Thomas, who had nine receptions, tallied over 275 yards of total offense, and scored two touchdowns, was excited after the win. “We did well as a team, and without each other, this wouldn’t be possible,” he said.
The Mounties travel to Pinson Valley next week for a huge Region 6 matchup.
Pell City faces Huffman in another Region 6 game.