Lack of depth and practice reps thwart Dragons in 36-0 loss
Clinton held up its end of the football “rivalry game” mystique.
But lack of depth and an offense that can’t get the practice repetitions it needs to work out the kinks showed up Friday night in a 36-0 loss to Oak Ridge.
Clinton returned to the field last weekend after a two-week quarantine due to COVID-19 protocols (no Clinton player tested positive for COVID-19).
“I really thought we had turned the corner in the Halls game, but then we had to deal with COVID and things we can’t control, it really messed the timing of the offense up and set us back. I don’t think it really affected the defense at all,” Dragon Coach Darell Keith said.
Clinton had a rough time standing up to Oak Ridge during this yearly rivalry game.
The Dragons held the Wildcats for the entire first quarter, with neither team taking a lead early on, and finished down at the half 10-0. Unfortunately for the Dragons, they couldn’t mount a strong enough offense to score.
Unable to move the ball on offense, the Dragon’s defense stayed on the field for nearly three quarters of the game. That reflected in the scoring in the second half, where the Wildcats came away with 26 points, finishing with an interception and 50-yard return as the clock ran out to put them up 36-0 for the final.
“The defense has really bought in,” Keith said. “ They’re awesome, but they can’t stay on the field the whole game. Unfortunately, most of our freshmen are on offense, and I did that for a reason, because I know that if we’re going to win here, we need to put a lot of points on the board, and we’re going to do that next year. We have the depth right now to play at a high level for two quarters, and then we fall off.”
Stat-wise, the Dragons tried their hardest, coming away with 12 rushing yards across 29 attempts to Oak Ridge’s 190 yards across 33.
Meanwhile, on passing, the Dragons have improved as they’ve settled into their new offense, throwing for 28 yards to Oak Ridge’s 88. Clinton finished with 40 total yards for the night across 44 plays, while Oak Ridge walked away with 278 across 53.
Part of the reason for Clinton’s lack of yardage was that their defense gave up four sacks for a loss of 21 yards, and finished with 14 penalties that cost them 104 yards. Oak Ridge finished with 10 penalties for a loss of 100 yards, with many of those coming from unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but they could afford the loss.
Both teams fumbled four times each, with Clinton losing two of those fumbles and Oak Ridge losing one.
Brandon Holifield was the lead rusher for the Dragons, with 26 yards across eight attempts, while Connor Moody came in not far behind with 20 yard across six attempts, while Joshua Keith was the only passer for Clinton, with eight completions across 15 attempts.
On receiving, Braylon Taylor led with three receptions for 22 yards. Andy King, Wesley Philips, Kendal Lucus, and Nate Murphy all finished with a reception under their belt, but each gained five yards or less for the completion.
Meanwhile, Andy King got the Dragons’ only interception for the night, but gained no yardage. Jackson West and Moody teamed up for the only Dragon sack of the night, costing Oak Ridge three yards.
Coach Keith sat down to talk about how he felt the game went, and the difficulties the team has faced throughout the season.
“It’s a humbling experience, but it’s one I don’t ever want to get used to. I don’t want to compromise; I’m not happy at all.”
Speaking on the – tense – situation that came about on the field, Keith said he doesn’t approve, but he won’t tolerate disrespect, from players or other teams.
“I don’t agree with any kid fighting on the football field, but we aren’t taking [any disrespect]. We’ll be cordial, and we’ll be gentlemen, as long as you treat us that way. You’re going to get what you give from the Clinton Dragons from now on. You disrespect us; you will be disrespected.
“We lost, but they respected us when they left. They knew they just played a football game. They knew they played us.”
Keith has a vision for the future of Dragon football, and he said that people should get their jokes in now.
“Enjoy the licks. Kick us while we’re down, ‘cause we won’t be down for much longer. People are recognizing the talent here at Clinton.”