Saturday, September 24, 2011

Clay County 7 - Lineville 6

By Steve Haslam

It is quite possible, that every inhabitant of Clay County, found their way into Horn-White Stadium on Friday night. With the bright green of the fresh grass as the only color of neutrality, the sea of blue and red, which had converged on Ashland would have the stadium rocking long before kick off.

The Panthers seemingly dominated the field in size and talent coming into the match. However, what Lineville lacked in size or quantity, they made up for with deafening cheers from their crowd, and a burning desire from their players. After a commemorative coin toss from former Governor and former Clay County football player Bob Riley, Jaylan Ackles would lead his Clay County Panthers and both crowds into an uproar for the last, first kickoff of the Clay Bowl.

The first two series would have both teams exchanging punts on 4th down, as each side battled for a breakout play. The first major play, that Coach Herron would later describe as a turning point for his team, was a Clay County punt by Jamari Staples on 4th and 1, with 6:50 to play in the 2nd quarter. Demetrius Lindsay, who had been the key to most of Lineville’s offense thus far in the game, uncharacteristically fumbled the ball on the return, and it was recovered by a pouncing Devin Gaddis of Clay County.

On the very next play, running back Travis Smith would keep his head low and bust through the seems of the Lineville defense for a touchdown. Clay County would then convert the PAT, which would make the score 7-0 for the Panthers.

Seeking redemption, the Aggies turned on the jets on the ensuing drive with a couple of good runs and a 20 yard pass play on 3rd and 9 by Demetrius Lindsay. After a big combo hit from Shawncey Simmons and Andrew Robinson, Lineville decided to go for it on 4th and 1. To the dismay of the home crowd, who were confident that the Panthers had made the stop, the referees would rule the play as a first down. Lineville would then complete passes on 3rd and 18, as well as 4th and 7 to keep their drive going. The pass on 4th and 7 however, would be ruled out of bounds and the Panthers would take over. After a few short run plays up the middle, Clay County would go into the half leading 7-0.

The Panthers would start the 2nd half with the ball and would be held by a fired up Aggie defense. After failing to convert on 3rd and 13, the Panthers would be forced to punt. The special teams for the Panthers would have their own error as kicker Jamari Staples fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the Aggies. The Panther defense, led by stops from Hunter Nelson and Jaylan Ackles would then hold the Aggie offense to a 3rd and 20. It would all be for naught though, as Tyrone Cosby would take a pass and break three tackles for a 20-yard gain.

It seemed the Aggies were destined to score after bringing the ball to the five-yard line. However, the Panthers would make a show of stops, culminating in a touchdown-saving interception from Anthony Wood.

After injuring his shoulder in last week’s game against Handley, Lamar Jones would make his way on to the field for a series of runs for the Panthers. Gut runs from Shawncey Simmons and Travis Smith would create additional first down yardage as Coach Herron looked to run the clock. The Panthers would start the 4th quarter on 4th and 1, leading the game 7-0.

The nail biting would continue, as the Aggies would stop the Panthers on the first play of the 4th. On the following series however, Rob Smith would make a massive sack on 3rd and 7, forcing Lineville to punt yet again. The Panthers would also punt on a 4th and 1 of the next drive. Yet another punt scare came as the Aggie punt receiver dropped the ball. Demetrius Lindsay would quickly hop on the ball though, saving the series for Lineville.

With their backs against the wall, the Aggies would make a huge pass play to Curtis Hunter for a 25-yard gain. The chunk of yards would rile up the anxious visiting crowd and seemingly wipe the fatigue from their players’ faces. The next play would be a completed pass to Demetrius Lindsay for 15 yards. Lindsay would lateral the ball to another receiver for an additional 6 yards on the play. The drive would continue with a 10-yard run from Curtis Hunter, and would culminate with a touchdown run from Demetrius Linday. The PAT would be no good, making the score 7-6 with a few minutes to play in the 4th.

Perhaps the scariest moment for Panther fans came on the ensuing kickoff return, when receiver Shawncey Simmons fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Aggie Daniel Henry. Coach Giddens’ crew would recover the ball less than 30 yards from the end zone, but would miss another field goal attempt for the win. With under 2:00 to play, and after another punt from the Panthers, the Aggies would have one final shot to win the game. An interception from Jamari Staples however, would seal the deal, and the Panthers would leave the last Clay Bowl as the victors.

It was a tale of two teams. The Panthers dominated on the ground, while the Aggies were calculating through the air; while both teams’ defenses showed signs of stopping any team of any size.

As the two teams knelt for a final prayer of support and thanksgiving, one tradition died, while another was born. Next year, the red vs. blue will become the red, white, and blue; and the people of Clay County will finally stand as one.

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