Dragons hold off Karns for first win

  • Head Coach Darrel Keith gives a speech to the team after the Clinton Dragons’ 42-33 win against Karns. It was the Dragons’ first win of the season. - Collin Riggs

  • Clinton’s Eli Deshomme takes off down the sidelines, pursued by Karns defenders. - Collin Riggs

  • Jacquez Johnson runs around the back on a rush for the Dragons. - Collin Riggs

The Clinton Dragons, after a season full of hardship and uncertainty, finally pulled out their first win under new head coach Darell Keith, beating Karns 42-33 on the road.

It was the best Clinton has looked all year, with the Dragons taking an early lead from a 63-yard touchdown pass to Wesley Phillips by Joshua Keith and following it up in the second quarter with a 3-yard rushing touchdown by Jacquez Johnson and another 1-yard rushing touchdown by Keith.

The Dragons entered the second half with a seven point lead on the Beavers, only for Karns to close that gap with two touchdowns in the third quarter to Clinton’s one.

It looked like Karns might make a comeback when it scored in the final seconds of the third to put the score at 28-27 in Clinton’s favor.

But Clinton’s Wesley Phillips grabbed an interception in the fourth quarter and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown. Karns answered on its next possession with a 67-yard touchdown run to keep them in the game, but Clinton sealed the win with a 50-yard pass from Keith to Jeremiah Blauvelt to score and put the Dragons up 42-33 at the end.

The game was close, with Clinton ending the night with 18 first downs to Karns’s 16. Karns won the rushing game with 361 yards to Clinton’s 265, but Clinton won the passing game with 192 to Karns’s 119. In total, Clinton lost on yardage, with 457 total yards across 53 plays to Karns’s 480 yards across 59 plays. Both teams gave up 40 yards each to penalties, while Clinton gave up a single sack for a loss of eight and fumbled and lost three possessions.

Elie Deshomme led the Dragons on rushing yards with 111 yards, followed up by Johnson with 66 yards and Keith with 52. Connor Moody, William Taylor, and Darrion Woodruff all rushed for less than thirty yards apiece.

On receptions, Wesley Phillips led with 112 yards for two completed receptions. Behind Phillips, Jacquez Johnson came in with two receptions for 30 yards and Blauvelt’s single reception netted him 50 yards.

Jacquez Johnson and Andy King ran kickoff returns for the Dragons with Johnson gaining 27 yards across two returns for the Dragons and King netting 13 yards on a single return.

Darrel Keith, head coach for the Dragons, spoke on the last game of the season and reflected on the season as a whole.

“I feel great, man. I feel vindicated because I came down here with my ideas, and at some point, I had convinced myself that you couldn’t play smash-mouth football in East Tennessee. Throughout the season, I played more what I would call a modern offense, and at some point I couldn’t take it anymore and went back to what I knew and it’s what I thought it was. We had begun to experiment with it in the West game. We had over 170 yards rushing on West. It just goes to show that sometimes you have to remain true to who you are regardless of what everyone around you is doing. Stay true to yourself and believe in yourself. Never doubt yourself because when you start to doubt yourself, others will too.”

Keith said that the support from the fanbase has been amazing, and that living in Clinton has been a very positive experience for him and his family.

“The support and fanbase was beyond belief. I’m very grateful for it. Clinton is truly small-town America and it has had such a positive effect on me and my family and especially my son. I thank Clinton for that. Coming up in a world so full of turbulence and evil, it really has been a healing factor for us.”

Clinton graduates nine seniors this year, but Keith said he isn’t worried.

“I lost a lot of kids along the way, but of the seniors, I really only have about four that made a major contribution to the team. Those seniors are good, but it’s a whole lot easier to replace four than 24.”

Clinton had scheduled a game against Heritage High School for this Thursday, but that game has been cancelled due to a positive Covid test associated with the Heritage High School football team.