E.A. Sports Today

PC turns back Tigers

Pell City comes from behind, seals Piedmont Passing Camp title with interception, denies Handley for second year in a row

Carson Walker (15) races upfield after his interception in overtime sealed Pell City’s title game win over Handley in the Piedmont Passing Camp as Tanner Clowdus (48) and the Pell City sideline erupts to celebrate. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
PIEDMONT – By its very name, 7-on-7 passing camps are showcases for receivers and the strong-arm, quick-release quarterbacks who throw to them. But it’s an equal opportunity for the defense to shine, and Pell City’s defense did in the biggest moment of the game.
Junior defensive back Carson Walker jumped the route and intercepted Handley quarterback Evan Cofield’s pass in overtime to seal a 26-20 win for their second straight title in the Piedmont 7-on-7 passing camp, and once again deny the Tigers the prize.
“This pick was amazing right here, it meant so much,” Walker said. “We’ve worked so hard this summer, we put so much work in. The Lord has been providing for us this summer. I’m just thankful that I was able to seal the deal.”
Handley coach Larry Strain has been bringing his teams (Woodland, White Plains, Handley) to the Piedmont passing camp all 12 years they’ve been having it. The Tigers were playing in the finals for the fourth time in the last five years – and second straight against Pell City – and the way things were going it looked like they were finally going to win one.
Cofield was sharp all day and threw touchdown passes to Tae Snead, Devontae Houston and Seidrion Langston on the Tigers’ first three possessions for a 20-12 lead. When Langston defended the last play in the end zone, it looked as if the Tigers had won.
But wait. There was a flag away from the ball giving Pell City one last chance to extend the game – but the Panthers had to convert. Mitchell Gossett hit Connor McCombs for the touchdown and the game-tying, OT-forcing two-point conversion.
“It’s all about competing,” Pell City coach Wayne Lee said. “You want to come up here and get better, but if they’re going to give away something for winning, you want to win. They just kept competing and competing.”

Handley quarterback Evan Cofield threw touchdown passes to three different receivers in the championship game. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

Pell City got the ball first in overtime. Gossett misfired on his first two passes, then hit McCombs twice for the go-ahead score and the Panthers’ first lead of the game. The extra-point pass fell incomplete, opening the door for Handley to win in a final drive scenario.
Walker, a junior about to move into his second year as a starter, killed the threat with his first interception of the summer. He had two picks last season.
“I think when everybody comes to a 7-on-7 they all come to look for the offensive plays, but when you have a defense that’s tight, like a brotherhood, plays start happening,” Walker said. “Once the plays start happening the defense starts shining and the offense will be crushed.”

The Panthers went 7-1 in the tournament with their only loss coming to Handley 19-13 in pool play. Handley’s only loss in the tournament was in the final.
Pell City reached the finals by holding off Piedmont in the semifinals 20-12. Handley reached the finals with a last-place 21-20 win over Albertville.
“At least our kids competed today,” Strain said. “That’s what it was about, coming up here, competing, getting better. Quarterback throwing the ball, learning how to defend the pass, but it’s not real football. We’re going to find out what real football is in about a week, but I’m excited about the way our kids competed today.”
The tournament traditionally marks the end of Piedmont’s summer workouts right before the start of school. The Bulldogs swept through their pool play, went 6-1 overall and were put out by the tournament champions.
“Very pleased with the progress we’ve made from the beginning of summer to now,” Piedmont coach Steve Smith said. “We’ve got some really competitive people up here at the tournament. I’m real pleased with our effort today.
“I think you get a lot more in passing camp out of defense than you do on offense. You’re covering a lot of routes, get to see a lot of reps. Most of the time you only see somebody throw it 8-10 times a game. You play seven games today you probably ran 100 pass routes and probably defended 100 pass routes; you can’t get that kind of work just in normal practicing. Being able to see some high-caliber athletes on both sides of the ball will make us better.”

Pell City quarterback Mitchell Gossett rolls out to pass in the Piedmont 7-on-7 title game against Handley. Gossett brought the Panthers back three times to tie the game on the final play of regulation and win it in overtime. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

To see more photos from the championship game click on this link: www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

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