By Josh Bean | For the AHSAA
TUSCALOOSA – Pinson Valley quarterback Zack Pyron knew it was time to order Kool-Aid from the offensive menu.
Pyron’s 52-yard touchdown pass to Alabama commit GaQuincy McKinstry – known by his nickname of “Kool-Aid” – with 9:19 remaining put Pinson ahead for good in Friday night’s 23-13 victory over Spanish Fort in the Class 6A championship game at Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium. The 6A battle closed out the 2020 Super 7 State Championships here.
McKinstry made a leaping catch, avoided one tackler and juked past another for the go-ahead TD. Pinson Valley (12-2), led by first-year coach Sam Shade, won its third 6A state title in the last four seasons.
“I told Coach to run that play,” McKinstry said. “I knew it was my time to score. I knew I could score on that play.”
Asked about scoring his first touchdown at Bryant-Denny Stadium, McKinstry replied: “It will not be my last.”
The Super 7 Championships drew 42,301 fans during its three-day run, with 13,583 for Wednesday’s 7A championship game; 13,061 for Thursday’s 1A, 3A and 5A title games; and 15,657 for today’s 2A, 4A and 6A championships.
Spanish Fort (11-4), coached by Ben Blackmon, fell one win shy of a fifth state title, having taken home Blue Maps in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015. Pinson Valley won 6A championships in 2017 and 2018, and Shade won the title in his first season as a head coach while coaching in the stadium where he starred as a defensive back in the 1990s for Alabama.
Pyron won a third straight state championship, having played on Fyffe’s back-to-back 2A championship teams as a freshman and sophomore. He added a third title to his resume, despite struggling against a fast, aggressive Spanish Fort defense before finishing 13-for-21 passing for 166 yards.
Pyron, though, found McKinstry at the right time and later connected with Jaquel Fells for an 11-yard touchdown pass to essentially put the game out of reach, at 23-13, with 2:44 remaining. The Indians’ defense did the rest.
Pinson scored the game’s final 13 points, all in the fourth quarter, and shut out Spanish Fort in the second half.
“We had some ups and downs this year, but we came through it as a family,” Shade said. “I told the guys if we stayed together, we could do anything. We knew if we played the way we could, we could get it done.”
Pinson Valley got off to a strong start. Mike Sharpe scored on a 26-yard run on the Indians’ first possession to cap an efficient six-play, 70-yard drive. Zaylen McCray kicked a 26-yard field to make it 10-0 with 4:27 to go in the opening period.
After struggling offensively through the first quarter, Spanish Fort woke up and delivered a seven-play, 82-yard scoring drive. Johnny Morris had a 31-yard run to get the ball inside the 5, and quarterback Brandon Byrd’s 3-yard touchdown run made it 10-7 with 5:30 to go before halftime.
Pinson Valley – sputtering offensively – then made a big mistake when McCray knelt while catching a punt snap and was ruled down at his own 15. An unsportsmanlike penalty on Pinson added to the mix gave Spanish Fort the ball inside the Indians’ 10.
Three plays later, Byrd scored on a 1-yard TD run to make it 13-10 with 3:49 to go before halftime.
“This one didn’t end the way we wanted it do, but I’m ultra-proud of how they battled,” Blackmon said.
Morris paced Spanish Fort’s offense with 111 rushing yards on 14 carries. The Toros finished with 223 total yards, but 55 came on a pass from Byrd to Aaron Threat with six seconds to go. Oregon commit Christian Burkhalter had 1½ sacks for the Toros.
McKinstry had five catches for 89 yards. Tomas Wesley intercepted a Spanish Fort pass.
Pinson Valley’s James Perkins tallied seven tackles, including two sacks and 5½ tackles for loss. Sharp had 60 yards rushing on 13 carries, and Virginia Tech commit Kenji Christian added 35 yards on eight carries.
AHSAA SUPER 7 STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa
Wednesday, Dec. 2
CLASS 7A Finals
Thompson (14-0) 29, Auburn (11-2) 28
Thursday, Dec. 3
CLASS 3A Finals
Fyffe (15-0) 21, Montgomery Catholic (12-3) 16
CLASS 1A Finals
Linden (15-0) 32, Pickens County (11-4) 8
CLASS 5A Finals
St. Paul’s Episcopal (15-0) 29, Pleasant Grove (11-3) 21
Friday, Dec. 4
CLASS 4A Finals
Handley (12-1) 35, Gordo (13-2) 20
CLASS 2A Finals
Mars Hill Bible (13-2) 56, Abbeville (12-2) 14
CLASS 6A Finals
Pinson Valley (12-2) 23, Spanish Fort (11-4) 13