Clinton hosted Wallace-Rose Hill for its final regular season game with a conference championship and high seedings for the upcoming playoffs on the line. The two tradition rich programs squared off in a much anticipated Four County Conference battle. The Bulldogs came in looking, not only to take the conference crown, but also to avenge last year’s loss to the Dark Horses on their home fields. The Bulldogs took the early lead capitalizing on a couple of big plays and held off the Dark Horses for a 28-14 win.
The Bulldogs won the coin flip and opted to kickoff to the Dark Horses to start the game. A fired up Wallace-Rose Hill defense forced Clinton to punt after three plays, and after Hampton Brock’s punt the Bulldog offense opened the game in good field position at their own 48-yard line. The Bulldogs quickly punched in the first score, driving efficiently down the field on several slashing runs. On first and ten from the Clinton 27-yard line, Keyshawn Canady took the ball off tackle and bolted into the end zone for the Bulldogs first score. After Yahir Cano’s PAT kick the Bulldogs held a 7-0 lead at the 6:42 Mark of the first quarter.
The Dark Horse offense was unable to gain much traction on their second possession as their drive stalled after picking up one first down. Brock once again trotted on for the punt, but this time the Bulldogs’ Johnnie Glaspie scooped up the bouncing punt at the Wallace-Rose Hill 45-yard line and darted across midfield, breaking into the open and taking the ball down the visiting sideline for the 55-yard touchdown. Cano’s PAT was true and the Bulldogs held a 14-0 lead, and had effectively taken the large home crowd out of the game at the 5:08 mark of the first quarter.
Once again the strong legged Cano drove the ball into the end zone, preventing a Clinton return and setting the Dark Horses up at their 20-yard line once again. The Dark Horses proceeded to go on an 80-yard drive, converting two crucial fourth down plays on the drive with Ryheem Skinner powering the ball over the goal from 4-yards out with 26 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The Dark Horses had cut the Bulldog lead in half after Chandler Perry’s PAT kick and Clinton seemed to have new life.
Wallace-Rose Hill would waste no time answering Clinton’s first score. The Bulldogs offense took over on their own 31-yard line and after a couple of nice running plays, the visitors took to the air. On second down from their 44-yard line the Wallace-Rose Hill quarterback, Aliza Carter, dropped back and found a wide open Keyshawn Canady for the 56 yard score. Cano tacked on the extra point and Wallace-Rose Hill had regained the 14 point margin at 21-7 with 10:16 left in the first half.
The Clinton offense looked to build on the momentum of their first score as they once again opened at the 20-yard line, but were undaunted by the 80-yards that stood between them and their goal. Unable to get the ground game going, the Dark Horses tried the airways, and with some success. Kris Williams flung a long pass down the sideline in the direction of Jeremiah Pope who was well covered but was able to use his size and good hands to come down with the ball and a long gain to spark the home crowd. After moving the ball into the red zone the Dark Horses faced third down at the Bulldog 15=yard line. Kris Williams dropped back, was well protected and fired a strike to Jaylen Best in the back of the end zone for a Clinton score. Chandler Perry added the PAT kick and the score stood at 21-14 with 6;05 remaining in the second quarter.
It appeared that Clinton’s defense had finally gotten a stop on when Prentice Murphy and Rayquan Faison combined for a tackle that dropped the Bulldog runner for a loss on third and inches setting up 4th and 1 at the 29-yard line. Surprisingly the Wallace-Rose Hill coaches decided to forego the punt and go for the first down, picking up 5 yards on the play to extend the drive. The Bulldogs efficiently drove the ball deep into Clinton territory before the Horses got the stop, forcing a 37-yard field goal attempt. Cano missed the kick, but the drive had taken valuable time off the clock and taken a toll on an already overworked Dark Horse defense.
The Horses took over at their own 20 -yard line after the failed field goal attempt with 1:15 remaining in the half. The Dark Horses were unable to get anything going as time ran out on Clinton’s bid for a tie before the halftime break. The Bulldogs would hold on to take their 21-14 lead into halftime.
The Dark Horse defense looked to be rejuvenated when they made two nice stops on first and second downs of the opening drive of the second half. On third and nineteen Clinton commited a costly penalty, when they had too many men on the field changing the fourth and nineteen play into a much more manageable third and four, which the Bulldogs pick up easily. Wallace-Rose Hill converted a fourth down play later in the drive then sent a runner off tackle and into the endzone from 25-yards out to run the lead to 28-14 after Cano’s fourth PAT kick of the night at 8:19 of the third quarter.
Clinton took the ensuing kickoff with Jeremiah Pope finally getting to run a kick back, advancing the ball out to the Dark Horse 27-yard line for the Dark Horses best starting field position of the night. Clinton drove the ball down field getting nice runs from Skinner and Faison to convert on crucial fourth down plays to set up a first and goal at the Bulldog 1-yard line, but that is where things went badly. On first down the Horses were flagged for illegal procedure, backing them up to the six yard line. The quarterback/center exchange was botched on the next two plays moving the ball back and setting up fourth and goal from the 11-yard line. Ryheem Skinner’s blast up the middle on fourth down was not enough as he was upended just inside the 5-yard line to turn the ball over to the Bulldogs on downs.
The Bulldogs took over at their own five yard line and once again looked to be moving in for the score when they fumbled the ball back to the Dark Horses. Jeremiah Pope covered the loose ball to give Clinton possession at the Dark Horse 8-yard line. Unable to capitalize on the turnover the Dark Horses were forced to punt the ball back to Wallace-Rose Hill with under 6 minutes remaining in the game, all but ending any hopes that the Dark Horses could threaten the Bulldogs’s lead. Wallace-Rose Hill was able to run the remaining clock out and secure the 28-14 win, and the Four County Conference Title.
Statistically the Dark Horses were led by Ryheem Skiner with 96 rushing yards on 15 carries and one touchdown. Rayquan Faison carried 7 times for 40 tough yards, Tyion Wright added 61 yards on 12 carries. Quarterback Kris Williams threw seven times, completing four for 75-yards and one touchdown pass. Jaylen Best had one catch for 15yards and one touchdown, Jeremiah Pope caught one pass for 37 yards, Tyion Wright caught one ball for 20-yards and Ryheem Skinner had a catch for 3-yards.
The Dark Horse defense was led by Prentice Murphy with 14 stops. Isaiah Page added 9 stops and Devonte Smith chipped in 8 stops. Jeremiah Pope recovered a second half fumble, the only turnover of the contest.
After the game, Clinton head coach Bob Lewis said, “give Wallace-Rose Hill the credit they have a good football team. They were better than us tonight, particularly our defense against their offense, the defense really hurt us tonight. This game has been tit for tat every year, we go beat them on their field and then they come here and beat us, it is just a good rivalry. If there is a bright spot out of tonight it is that we get to live to play another day.”
The loss drops Clinton’s record to 8-2 overall and 6-1 in Four County Conference play. The Dark Horses will have to wait until early next week to learn their playoff fate, but hope to host at least a first round game.