Dragons nearly capture first win of the Keith Era

  • Jacquez Johnson picks up yardage on a play from the line of scrimmage. The senior back electrified the Clinton faithful with a 91-yard kickoff return for a score to start the second half of Friday night’s game. - Ken Leinart

  • Clinton’s Elie Deshome picks up a chunk of yardage Friday night against Campbell County. - Ken Leinart

It could have been a win.

But two fumbles — including one in the red zone — and two missed extra points (one blocked), and the final was not in favor of the Clinton Dragons, who lost 34-33.

Clinton almost pulled off a great comeback. Clinton traveled to Campbell County for a region game and their penultimate game of the season.

Darell Keith, head coach for the Dragons, said that the team changed their offense for the game.

“I implemented the I-formation, and basically ran exactly what I ran in Kentucky,” Keith said. “Our kids are more suited for that type of football, and it’s what I promised Clinton when I came: to play smash-mouth football. It’s the same blocking system as the Wing-T. That’s what our talent dictates that we’re going to run.”

The Dragons had an up-and-down experience in Campbell County.

Campbell County scored first, with a one-yard rush to put it up 6-0 after a failed extra point attempt.

Clinton answered later in the first quarter with a 21-yard pass from Joshua Keith to Wesley Phillips to even the score 6-6 after the extra-point attempt also failed.

Campbell County scored again early in the second quarter to put the score up 13-6, but, once again, Clinton answered, this time with a 39-yard pass from Keith to Darrion Woodruff to even the score 13-13.

Campbell County could have demoralized Clinton with two more touchdowns to end the first half, going up 27-13. Except Clinton opened the second half with an explosive 91-yard kickoff return by Jacquez Johnson to put Clinton back in the game. Campbell County scored one more time in the third to put the Cougars up 34-20, and Clinton answered with one more touchdown pass to Jeremiah Blauvelt to end the third quarter with Clinton down 34-27.

So began the fourth quarter, with Clinton desperately struggling for the touchdown they needed to even up the score, and Campbell County trying to keep them out of the end zone. Clinton finally found that touchdown with a seven-yard run by Elie Deshomme to put Clinton only a point behind with a minute left in the fourth. The extra point attempt would have tied it up, but when the ball was snapped instead of soaring through the upright, it was blocked by Campbell County, leaving the score 34-33, and sending Clinton home still without their first win of the season.

Stat-wise, Clinton came out on top in most categories. Clinton finished the night with 19 first downs to Campbell County’s 18, 143 rushing yards to Campbell County’s 115, and 229 passing yards to Campbell County’s 157. Clinton finished with 372 total yards and 59 plays; Campbell County finished with 272 yards and 60 plays.

The places where Clinton fell short were in sacks, with Clinton giving up four sacks for a total loss of 23 yards, and penalties, which cost Clinton 85 yards before the end of the night. On top of that, add in two fumbles, one inside the red-zone, and it all added up to a game that was much closer than it arguably should have been.

Still, the Dragons played their hardest, with Eli Deshomme rushing for 75 yards across 15 attempts and William Taylor rushing for 45 yards across seven attempts. Joshua Keith passed for a total of 229 yards and three touchdowns, while Jeremiah Blauvelt, Cole Phillips, and Kendall Lucus completed three receptions apiece.

Jacquez Johnson ran four kickoff returns for the Dragons for a total of 157 yards, while Josh Bolinger got the team’s only sack for the night, costing Campbell County seven yards.

“Until now, I didn’t implement Coach Keith. I leaned a little too much on other people and trusted a little too much, so from here on out, I’m going to dictate everything. We’re going to do very little, very well,” Keith said after the game.

Speaking about the game itself, Keith was candid.

“We had them and let them off the hook. We missed two [extra point attempts]. Hindsight is 2020. I was going to go for a two-point conversion, and I thought they had worked too hard for me to take a chance like that. The kicker was on that night and hitting everything, and I’m pretty sure that with the momentum, if we had gone to overtime, we would have won.

“In this environment, it’s about mentality. They went down and scored and saw they could do it, and they wanted more, so when we get that win, we’re going to be hard to beat. We just have to learn how to do it, and see how it feels.”

Keith went on to talk about Clinton’s losing season so far, and how it’s affected not only the team, but also him.

“I appreciate the people’s patience. Right now things aren’t fun, but I’m going to look back on these times and thank God for the discipline and the humbling. He humbled me. I’ve never been a losing coach. The worst season I’ve had was 5-5 in a regular season, and I’ll never say “I’ll never lose” again. I’ve been humbled. I needed to get down in the muck with these kids, so we can come back up together

“Maybe this is like when I grew up poor, so when I managed to pull myself out of poverty, I never went back because I knew what it was like. Maybe this time when I get back on the winning side, I’ll never go back, because I never want to feel this way again.”