PINSON — Sometimes the ugliest things can turn out to be absolutely beautiful.
Freshman kicker Saul Rios had turned in an ugly night during regulation time of Pinson Valley’s playoff game against old nemesis Hartselle, having missed a field goal and an extra point.
But when it counted the most, Rios sent home an 18-yard field goal that was a knuckle-ball of a kick, just scraping by the lower left corner of the goalpost. That kick won the game for the Indians in overtime, as they defeated the Tigers 23-20 to advance to the second round of the AHSAA Class 5A playoffs.
It was a contest that hinged on the ground game, where the Tribe was at its best when running back Nick Gibson had the ball, while Hartselle excelled on bruising up-the-gut plays from Masio Stover and D’Andre Mack. Indeed, the only big play on offense came early on, when pint-sized sophomore quarterback Jacob Tiffin connected with Mack on a 67-yard touchdown pass for the game’s first score.
Pinson looked at first like it would also rely more on the air attack, as quarterback Brooks Garrett threw 13 passes in the first period. Two of them were good for touchdowns: one to Spencer Underwood that tied the game at 7-7, and another after a Tiger field goal from Garrett to Desmond Williams for three yards with 46.4 seconds left in the opening frame. (Rios missed the extra point kick.)
After trading interceptions to start the second quarter, both teams largely went back into their comfort zones on the ground. Hartselle took back the lead with 4:44 left in the first half after starting a drive at midfield. It took 10 running plays to score, which came on a 7-yard throw from Tiffin to Tobias Mitchell. The Tigers took a 17-13 lead into the locker rooms.