Up against a fourth down on Muscle Shoals’s 3-yard line with 30 seconds remaining, Pinson Valley (10-2) head coach Patrick Nix opted to go for the score to ice the game.
Rather than extending the lead to 8 with a chip-shot field goal, Nix called upon Kenji Christian to seal the deal, and the junior running back did just that. Christian powered his way up the middle for a 3-yard score to secure Pinson Valley’s third straight trip to the Class 6A semifinals; the Indians ended Muscle Shoals’s (12-1) undefeated season with a 26-14 victory.
“Too many bad things could happen on a field goal. Our defense was playing so good, and they would’ve had to drive all the way down the field to beat us if we did not get it in,” said Nix on why he elected to go for it on the final drive.
The first half was an offensive struggle for both teams, but Pinson Valley struck first. Chris Ruiz-Soto nailed a 34-yard field goal to give the Indians a 3-0 lead. Muscle Shoals responded immediately with a touchdown drive to take a 4-point first quarter lead.
Pinson Valley forced two interceptions and two punts the rest of the half, but could only add three more points to the scoreboard by halftime, as Ruiz-Soto drained a 26-yard field goal. Pinson Valley went into the locker room trailing 6-7.
When the second half arrived, the rain went away, and the Indian offense came alive.
￼“God gave us good weather. In the first half it rained, and in the second half, it didn’t. I think that was a big thing. The passing game opened up a lot in the second half, and we were able to do just enough. Barry made a ton of big throws, and the run game opened up a lot as well,” stated Nix.
Pinson Valley forced a three-and-out for the Trojans to start the second half, and the Tribe took advantage of it. Mike Sharpe dashed 12 yards untouched to the house, and gave Pinson Valley a 13-7 advantage.
Muscle Shoals was not finished. The Trojans marched 61 yards down the field to reclaim their lead, and a 17-yard Jackson Bratton touchdown run put them ahead 14-13. That would be Muscle Shoals' final score of the night.
A seven-play, 68-yard scoring drive was Pinson Valley’s quick response. Indian quarterback Barry White connected with Kool-aid McKinstry on a 13-yard slant to recover the lead with 11:18 remaining in the game. A failed 2-point conversion attempt left Pinson Valley out front 19-14.
After forcing a huge punt for Muscle Shoals, the Indians got the ball back at their own 10-yard line with just over eight minutes remaining in the game. Pinson Valley chewed around 7:30 of game time on the 90-yard scoring drive. After Christian put the nail in the coffin, Pinson Valley boarded the busses with a 26-14 quarterfinal win.
“We’re just a good football team, we really are. We’ve gotten better each week, and we just keep improving. We’ve got great kids that work hard and play extremely hard. That just makes us a good team,” Nix said.
White made huge plays and had a very solid night. The senior completed 11 of 17 passes for 148 yards with a touchdown.
Christian was a machine running the ball for Pinson Valley. He accepted 20 carries for 119 yards with the game-ending touchdown.
Defensively for the Indians, MJ Dailey and Jamari Dailey both had interceptions in the first half.
Next week, Pinson Valley will travel to Oxford in the Class 6A semifinals. The Indians fell to the Jackets earlier in the year by one point.