Clinton pounded while Trojans ‘scooted’
No football team likes surprises.
Not at this level, not at this stage of the season.
Nobody likes them because they defy definition, defy preparation.
How does this happen? you ask.
“Surprise,” comes the answer.
The Clinton Dragons, bound to the TSSAA football playoffs for the first time since 2015, did not run into a buzz saw last Friday night.
They ran into speed.
While the Dragons won almost every stats category there is, they still lost in the first round of the TSSAA 5A playoffs, 42-19, to host Soddy-Daisy.
They had a good game plan for us,” Clinton Head Coach Randy McKamey said. “They had a … Measure of quickness.”
The Trojans, who were a mixed bag of emotions and expectations throughout the 2018 season (a win over Knoxville Catholic, a loss against Lenoir City), added a wrinkle the Dragons hadn’t seen: A defensive player lining up on the other side of the line and making hay.
Garrett Anderson, a defensive back by trade on the Soddy-Daisy roster, proved to be part Dragon slayer.
The Clinton line, the big, beefy guys up front that in recent weeks had set up homesteading rights on any line of scrimmage they came across continued to do so.
The Trojans could not find purchase inside the hash marks, nor could they stop the progress of the Dragons in the same region.
Like the team they had grown into, the Dragons thrived inside, living life between the tackles. Seniors Luke Johnson, Johnny Hunter, Christian Hopper, and Zach Page did roadwork duties and cleared lanes.
Without the services of Isiah Washington, he of the mangled ankle, the Black and Orange relied on stalwarts Reagan McKamey and Josh Breeden.
It should have been a classic muscle vs. speed matchup.
There’s always a “But,” isn’t there?
An outsider looking at Soddy-Daisy High School would think it was just another of the Hamilton County schools, those big, faceless monoliths without any real “feel” to them.
Soddy-Daisy is different.
“It’s a school like ours,” McKamey said. “It’s a community school. These kids have probably played together since … What, peewees or junior league or whatever. I didn’t prepare us for that. That’s on me.”
The Dragons knew about Hayden Maynor (speed), they were very aware of KeSean Eubanks (speed, plus), but they were not aware of the Trojan wrinkle with Anderson.
Clinton’s chess play opened first, with what it had been doing best of late, what it had learned it could do, pound the rock, set defenses on their butts and eat up yardage.
But when there is a penalty, a break down in communication in the line and what had been an automatic four-five yards a play becomes a third and long …
The Trojans tried their luck up the middle on their first try from scrimmage. Andrew Shoopman, crashed in from the end and Trevor Linderman and Luke Johnson sealed the deal.
It was the game the Dragons expected, right?
Look for Maynor, look for Eubanks, and who, by the way, is this Anderson kid who just ran by us for a 54-yard touchdown?
“I congratulated him (Anderson) after the game and I asked him, ‘When did you start running the ball?’ This game,” Mckamey said he was told. “Good player. He hurt us on defense, too, but I told him he might think about asking for more time on offense.”
Despite Anderson’s burst, the Dragons went to work. In blue-collar fashion the Black and Orange chewed up ground, chewed up minutes, chewed up defenders.
The score was set up in bleak fashion: A blocked punt.
But a hit by Gavin Bolinger forcing a lose ball, and recover by an alert Jacon Brock put the ball back in Clinton’s pocket.
Reagan Mckamey did most of the work, delivering more most of the yardage the Dragons needed. Josh Breeden delivered the knockout punch with a 15-yard run, and with a Noah Grumbach kick, the sore was 7-7 with 2:26 in the first quarter.
Shoot-out, here we come.
The Dragons were then introduced to Mr. Eubanks. Mr. Eubanks introduced himself with an 89-yard kick return to put the host ahead 14-7 — with the PAT, with 2:14 on the first quarter clock.
“That hurt us,” McKamey said. “The quickness, the speed was there.”
Soddy would score two more touchdowns, both times reaching to the outer limits, spreading the Clinton defense and cutting through ‘ Maynor and Anderson getting a score each.
The thing about these Dragons, though, they don’t know when to give up. With a little less than five minutes left in the first half Clinton mounted a 60-plus yard drive that was capped by a picture-perfect strike from Quarterback Luke Harrison to Brantley Nichols covering 13 yards.
Two scores in the third quarter by the host, squelched any come back by he Dragons.
The Dragons would not go to sleep, however.
Cody Parker, he of the dash right, then left, then just go where no defenders dare to go, took the last kickoff from the host 84-yards for the score with less that 10-seconds to go in the third stanza.
The two-point conversion failed.
Neither team scored in the final frame.