Clinton wrapped up their non-conference football schedule on Friday night hosting the Vikings from Hoggard. The Dark Horses were looking to avenge last year’s loss to Hoggard, a game Clinton probably should have won. The Horses quickly dispelled any doubt that they were up to the challenge, running out to a 21-7 halftime lead en route to a 33-7 thrashing of the Vikings.
Clinton opened the game on defense and it looked as if the Dark Horses would have their hands full. The Vikings quickly picked up a first down with two smash mouth runs up the middle and got a gift from an off sides penalty on the Dark Horses. On second and five from near midfield Hoggard abandoned the running game and took to the air. Seconds later Clinton’s Kris Williams intercepted the overthrow and returned it to Vikings 29-yard line, setting the offense up with a short field for their first possession.
The first drive was a quick one as Jalen Smith took the first hand off of the game and rumbled 29 yards for the Dark Horses first score at the 9:44 mark of the first quarter giving Clinton a 6-0 lead. Chandler Perry tacked on the PAT kick and the Horses had the early 7-0 advantage.
Hoggard appeared undaunted by the quick Clinton score as they took over on their own 20-yard line after Perry’s kickoff sailed through the end zone. The Vikings methodically moved the ball down field, pounding run after run at the Clinton defense before finally punching the ball into the end zone for their first score with 6:26 remaining in the first quarter. After the PAT barely squirted through the uprights the game was tied at 7 a piece.
Clinton’s offense stalled near midfield on their next possession forcing a Dark Horse punt. Perry’s pooch punt was downed at the Vikings 6-yard line pinning Hoggard in the shadow of their own goal posts. The Vikings offense was once again able to move the ball, but Clinton’s defense stiffened, coming up with a big fourth down stop to take over on downs at the Clinton 35-yard line early in the second quarter.
Once again the Horses wasted no time. Ryheem Skinner took a hand off around the left end on the second play of the possession and 65-yards later crossed the goal line to give Clinton their second lead of the night, one they would never relinquish. Perry added the PAT kick to give Clinton a 14-7 lead with 9:46 remaining in the first half.
An inspired Clinton defense forced a Hoggard punt on the ensuing possession and put the Dark Horse offense back in business with good field position at the 50-yard line. The Dark Horses once again made quick work of the Hoggard defense, driving the ball quickly inside the 10-yard line. Tyion Wright polished off the Clinton scoring march when he sprinted around the right end of the line for the final 5 yards of the drive putting the Dark Horses up 21-7 at the 4:18 mark after Perry’s third successful PAT kick of the game.
Perry boomed the ensuing kick into the end zone forcing another Hoggard drive to start at their own 20-yard line. Hoggard once again showed resiliency, driving the ball across midfield, threatening to cut into the Clinton lead. But the Clinton defense bent but refused to break when cornerback Khari Williams came up with an acrobatic interception near the sideline, thwarting the Viking scoring threat and giving the Dark Horses the ball back at their own 21-yard line with just under two minutes remaining in the half. Knowing they would get the ball to open the second half, Clinton’s offensive coaches were unwilling to take too many risks and ran out the first half clock, taking their 21-7 lead to the locker room.
The Dark Horses took the second half kickoff and once again used punishing runs from Skinner, Wright and Smith to move the ball deep into the Viking’s end of the field. Smith got his second touchdown of the night when he took a hand off up the middle, found a hole and cut to the left sideline running over several would be tacklers to rumble across the goal line for a 13-yard TD run, extending the Dark Horse lead to 27-7. Perry’s PAT was blocked leaving Clinton with a 20-point advantage at the 7:58 mark of the third quarter.
Hoggard’s fortunes took a turn for the worse on the ensuing kickoff. When the Viking returner mishandled the kick inside the 5-yard line and had to retreat into the end zone to retrieve the ball before starting his return. The Viking return man was met at the 10-yard line by several Clinton defenders, was upended and Smith finished him off by driving him violently into the turf at the Hoggard 10-yard line.
The Vikings picked up a couple of first downs before they were forced to punt the ball once again. Clinton took over on their own 22-yard line. On the next play, Wright broke off a long run, scampering 60-yards before being run out of bounds at the Hoggard 12-yard line. After a late hit penalty was tacked onto the end of the play the Dark Horses had first and goal at the 6-yard line. Another Viking miscue, off sides on the next play moved the ball to the 3-yard line, where Smith put his head down and plowed through the line for his third score of the night.
A poor snap on the PAT attempt resulted in a failed run attempt by Perry, but the Dark Horses held an insurmountable lead at 33-7 with 1:09 remaining in the third period.
Hoggard got two more possessions but each time they saw drives fizzle out as Clinton’s defense continued the theme of bending but not breaking. Each of the Viking’s final two drives ended when they failed to convert fourth down plays giving the ball back to the Dark Horses. Clinton was satisfied to run the clock out on two fourth quarter possessions, and celebrate their fourth win of the season, this time over a 4A opponent, to wrap up the non-conference portion of their schedule.
Clinton was paced by Skinner’s 14 carries for 192 yards and a touchdown. Smith got 12 touches for 89 yards and three scores. Wright added 84 yards on just five carries and one touchdown. Williams gained 32 yards on five carries on a night that he did not throw a single pass as the offensive line opened enough holes to keep the ball moving on the ground.
Defensively the Dark Horses were led by Mike Kramer with 12 tackles. Kris Williams added 11 stops and had an interception and a pass break up. Khari Williams intercepted a pass, broke up two more and picked up three tackles to post a nice stat line. Frank Nelson tallied nine stops and Skinner and Isaiah Page each made eight tackles.
After the game Clinton head coach Bob Lewis applauded his team’s effort.
“Our team played well tonight, the backs ran hard, the offensive line opened some nice holes and this was the classic example of a defense bending but not breaking.,” Lewis said. “They ran the ball on us tonight, I’m not sure how many rushing yards they had but they ran it good all night. Our guys rose to the occasion and made some big plays. We had two big interceptions to stop drives — Kris (Williams) got one on the first drive that really slowed their momentum and set up our first score and Khari (Williams) made a big play in the second quarter to stop a possible scoring drive.”
Lewis continued, talking about what beating a 4A opponent means to his players.
“It is important to them because they see them get so much publicity in the papers and are on TV all the time. I told our guys all week that the city boys are coming to play the country boys so you need to teach them a thing or two,” said Lewis.
The win runs Clinton’s record to 4-0 on the season as they prepare to start their conference schedule. The Dark Horses open up Four County Conference play next Friday at Pender with kickoff set for 7 p.m.