“We started the season 3-3 and I wondered if we were even going to make the playoffs.”

Those were the first words from Danny Horn after he wrapped up his seventh state championship with a thrilling 43-42 win over Vigor, putting him in an elite club with Josh Niblett from Hoover as the only other coach to accomplish this feat completely at AHSAA schools.

Vigor’s defense came in as one of the best in the state, only allowing a little over 6 points per game. The 5A state championship game started as a defensive battle before ending up in the 40’s.

The score at halftime was 21-16 Central-Clay County, but three of those five touchdowns were defensive scores. Central’s lone offensive touchdown in the first half came after a turnover started the Vols deep in Vigor territory. Vigor’s lone offensive touchdown in the first half came on a deep bomb for one big play and a touchdown. Central only had 52 yards at the half.

The Vols got the ball to start the second half and were able to drive it right down the field for the first time in the game to extend their lead to 28-16 over the Wolves.

Vigor roared back to take a 30-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but Central answered early in the fourth with a touchdown and 2-point conversion of their own to take back the lead 36-30.

Vigor drove down and scored on a 20-yard screen pass that saw James Jackson carry eight defenders into the end zone. Vigor went for two, like usual despite the tie score, and failed to convert to leave it tied at 36-36.

Vigor scored with 6:40 left in the game to go up 42-36 on a long, 56-yard Artel Howell touchdown reception. Once again, Vigor failed a 2-point conversion.

After each team went 3-and-out, Central-Clay had one last chance to drive the field with 2:18 remaining. After moving their way down to the 18, Central got stopped three plays in a row. On 3rd down, Coach Horn saw something on the play call and said, “Heck, let’s run it again.” The Vols were successful this time, and on 4th and 10, Central converted and got the ball to the 1-yard line where a score, and all important extra point, won the game for Central.

A heartbreaking loss for Vigor, as they lost two games this season by a total of two points. Quarterback Kyle Walker played well in defeat, throwing 15/21 for 337 yards, 4 TD and 2 INT while also adding 15 carries for 34 yards. Artel Howell played lights out as well with 6 catches, 200 yards and 2 TD while also adding a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown.

For Central, Shamari Simmons won the 5A title game MVP after 6 catches for 102 yards plus one rush for 9 yards. Simmons also had a tackle. Quarterback Philip Ogles was 14/33 for 190 yards and a touchdown, while running back Quentin Knight had 28 carries for 55 yards and 2 touchdowns.