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PINSON – The Clay-Chalkville Cougars survived a second-half comeback from the Hillcrest Patriots to hold on for a 56-35 victory Friday night in the first round of the AHSAA Class 6A playoffs.
The Patriots, trailing 41-14 at the half, reeled off 21 unanswered to start the second half to cut Clay-Chalkville’s lead to just 41-35 with 9:22 left in the fourth quarter.
Hillcrest senior linebacker Keith Holcombe, who is committed to play at The University of Alabama next season, started the second half scoring with a 2-yard plunge midway through the third quarter. Senior quarterback Riley Nix followed up Holcombe’s touchdown with two quarterback sneak touchdowns from the 1-yard line.
But just as Hillcrest found life again, Clay-Chalkville responded with a 1-yard touchdown run from senior running back Sidney Battle.
After Hillcrest fumbled on the Cougars’ 8-yard line on the subsequent drive, Clay-Chalkville, led by Battle, put the game away with a 64-yard touchdown run.
Battle finished the game with 145 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries for Clay-Chalkville.
Nix rushed for 87 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries, while Holcombe had two touchdowns on just three carries for Hillcrest.
“It says a lot about our kids, fighting through adversity a lot like last week,” Hillcrest coach Scott Martin said. “We were down 40-something to 14 last week and came back and lost in double overtime, 60-59. And then this week to comeback down 41-14 at the half and be able to get back in the game, and close it to 41-35, it says a lot about the character of our kids and the no quit in our kids.”
The Cougars jumped out to their early lead at the half behind five touchdown passes from senior quarterback Hayden Moore.
“Hayden looked special tonight, that’s the way we like him to play. He plays tough,” Clay-Chalkville coach Jerry Hood said. “He did a great job in the second half when it got crunch time.”
Cougars senior wide receiver Brian Clark caught six passes for 106 yards and three touchdowns. His three touchdowns came on receptions of 65, 45 and 22 yards.
Hood already knows a little bit about his opponent next week, the Florence Falcons, who the Cougars will be hosting in the second round of the playoffs.
“I know they got two Division I players on the offensive line. They got a Division I quarterback. They have more Division I players that we’ve probably played ever,” Hood said. “They shouldn’t be beat. I’m sure we’ll be the underdogs, and they’ll travel down here and we’ll do the best we can.”