With the Volunteers’ 33-0 win Friday night against No. 3 Dadeville (8-1, 6-1), they clinched the Class 4A, Region 3 championship in their first year as a school.
“It’s certainly a big step,” Clay Central coach Steve Giddens said. “Winning a region championship your first year in a new classification is big. The fact that we were able to beat two teams that win region championships on this level, that says a lot for our kids.
“Hopefully it teaches the younger kids, and that’s how you build a program.”
Despite both Lineville and Clay County having success in the past, tailback Tyrone Cosby said this year is special and still a first for him.
“It’s my first time going 9-0 and also winning a region at the same time,” he said. “It feels great, especially winning against a team that’s No. 3. I think we’re going keep this win in our head until Monday, but then we’re going to let it go. We can’t let this win be our golden win of the year. But it helps us a lot, spirit-wise.”
Both offenses struggled early, which caused Dadeville coach Richard White to focus more on throwing the ball since the running game was not going anywhere.
“Our plan is never to throw the ball as much as we did,” White said. “We try to see what we can do against people’s defenses. They shut our running game down. Wherever C.J. (Tolbert) went, they were there. After we saw what they were doing, we had to throw the football. We had some drops that were there.”
However, it was the Tigers defense that gave them a chance to take an early lead.
Defensive back Jessie Foster intercepted a pass deep in Dadeville territory and appeared to have it returned for a touchdown before he was caught by Cosby at the 12-yard line.
“That was really big in the fact that we had five people chasing him down the field and eventually caught him,” Giddens said. “To me that shows desire to make a play. That was a big moment to me. That may have been a turning point.”
But the Tigers couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.
After quarterback Kaleb Beck threw three incompletions, Dadeville faked a 39-yard field goal, which went for no gain.
After Clay Central was unable to gain a first down, its defense was able to take advantage of a Dadeville mistake.
“We made a bad turnover,” White said. “It was a 0-0 ballgame, we threw an interception there and it gave them the momentum. It kind of took the breath out of us because we were playing so well defensively.”
The interception by Travis Smith was taken 30 yards into the end zone, giving Clay Central a 7-0 lead.
“It looked like they were setting up the screen, so I kind of started flattening out,” Smith said. “I was right there to make a play.”
Once the Clay Central offense started clicking with a 13-0 lead in the second half, the game became more physical. And the players did, as well.
Before the Vols added any points to their two-score lead, two players were ejected from the game. Clay Central tailback Curtis Hunter was charged with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and was tossed. Dadeville defensive lineman Rod Crayton was ejected on the next play with the same penalty.
Immediately after that, it was all Clay Central’s offense.
Cosby and Smith traded carries and got the Vols into the red zone with rushes of no fewer than eight yards a touch. Lyles’ pass to Cosby, who juked Foster at the 5-yard line before diving into the end zone, ended the drive with a score, making it a 20-0 game.
Dadeville was never able to answer.
“They did a great job of shutting our offense down,” White said. “They didn’t completely shut us down, but they kept us off the scoreboard. I didn’t think they could do that.”
The lone spark of the Tigers’ offense came at a large cost.
Late in the third quarter, Beck found Tolbert wide open downfield. However, Tolbert was hit hard two steps after he caught the ball and went straight down as he fumbled the ball.
Vols defensive back Anthony Wood recovered the ball and returned it 50 yards to the Tigers’ 30.
During the long play, one Dadeville coach ran onto the field toward the end of the chaos to check on Tolbert and was flagged 15 yards—the first of three 15-yard penalties called on the Dadeville coaching staff on Friday night.
“There should have been a call made there,” White said of the hit. “They can fine me, they can send me a fine, they can do whatever they want to, but that should have been an ejection and 15-yard personal foul penalty called.”
White did not know Tolbert’s status after the game.
Tolbert finished with three rushes for two yards but added three catches for 45 yards. Beck completed 12 of 30 passes for 123 yards.
Cosby led Clay Central’s running attack with 168 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, along with one catch for a 13-yard score. Smith finished the night with nine rushes for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Lyles attempted nine passes, completing four, for 67 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.