The Clinton Dragons competed with Powell, the third-ranked team in Class 5A, for a half before the host Panthers pulled away for a 30-0 win Friday night at Scarbro Stadium.
The victory lifted the Panthers’ record to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Region 3-5A, although the Dragons managed to hold Powell to its lowest point total of the season. Clinton fell to 3-2, 0-2.
The Dragons were stymied in the rushing game as they were held to minus 34 yards on 26 attempts. Clinton lost 47 rushing yards on six sacks.
Powell has a number of college prospects on a veteran team.
“We were outmatched; I hate saying that — it’s a fact,” said Dragons Coach Darell Keith. “We’re a sophomore-based football team. We need to grow a little bit. We need a little bit more depth. They would have had to play their worst game, and then we would have had to play our best game. It was a tough game, but it was one we needed. I think that we’ll still be here at the end of the year. We’ll mature a little bit and grow from it.”
Many of Powell’s players are Division 1-level college recruits.
“That’s an understatement. Their whole defensive line is D1,” Keith said.
Walter Nolen of Powell, a 6-foot-4, 310-pound senior defensive tackle who also lines up at tight end occasionally, is one of the top recruits in the nation. Nolen blew up a few plays against Clinton, but was largely held in check by the Dragons’ sophomore center.
“That’s going to be Eric Page,” Keith said. “He did a pretty good job. He did all right.”
Quarterback Joshuah Keith went 13-for-21 through the air for 167 yards and two interceptions to lead the Dragons’ offense. Rodayvien Truss caught six passes for 65 yards and returned the opening kickoff of the game 34 yards, after which Powell never kicked to him again. Jeremiah Blauvelt reeled in four Keith passes for 55 yards. New punter Barrett Maddox dramatically increased the Dragons’ numbers from their last game against Oak Ridge game as he booted six balls for a 36.2-yard average.
Penalties were a factor for both teams as Clinton was flagged 12 times for 106 yards and Powell 14 for 128.
Keith managed a 13-yard run on the opening series of the game, which the Dragons started from their own 47 after Truss’ kick return, but Clinton went three-and-out and punted.
Powell took over at the 18 and marched 82 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown. Quarterback Jordyn Potts tossed a 26-yard scoring pass to J.J. Foust, and Dylan Stooksbury’s extra point put the home team up 7-0.
Clinton had another three-and-out on offense and punted, but Truss intercepted Potts to end the next Powell possession. Braylon Taylor recorded Clinton’s initial first down of the game after hauling in a 22-yard pass from Keith late in the first quarter, but the Dragons’ possession also would end in an interception after Carson Whitehead picked off Keith.
Two plays later, early in the second quarter, Connor Moody would intercept Potts, giving the Powell quarterback two picks in consecutive passes.
The Dragons managed their second first down, on a 20-yard pass from Keith to Blauvelt, but the drive ended with a game-best 47-yard punt from Maddox.
Powell would also punt, helped by the Dragons’ Caleb Cook hurrying Potts into an incompletion, but two sacks—including one by Nolen — forced Clinton into its fourth punt of the half.
The Panthers took possession at their own 46 and went 54 yards in nine plays to take a 14-0 lead. Potts scored on a 5-yard run, and Stooksbury’s kick made it 14-0 with 40 seconds left in the half.
Clinton would punt on its next series, but Riley Silk of the Dragons recovered a fumble by the Powell return man. Clinton, however, could not score, despite an 18-yard pass from Keith to Truss. The half ended with Powell up 14-0.
The Panthers’ Jayden Collins returned the opening kickoff of the second half 37 yards to the Dragon 41, and Powell moved to the end zone in 10 plays. Potts scored on a 1-yard run. Clinton’s line blocked the extra point, but the Panthers led 20-0 with 6:27 to go in the third quarter.
Two sacks for 16 yards by Powell’s Owen Peterson forced a Dragon punt on the next series. Powell scored on a 67-yard drive in six plays as receiver Adarius Redmond threw a 16-yard scoring pass to Ayden Greene. The extra point put the Panthers ahead 27-0 with 2:07 left in the third period.
In the fourth quarter, the Dragons would put together a 12-play drive but could get no closer to the end zone than the Powell 25. The biggest play on the drive was a 17-yard pass from Keith to Blauvelt. Keith also hit Truss for a 13-yarder.
Powell took over at its own 41 after the Dragons lost the ball on downs. The Panthers covered 49 yards in eight plays before Stooksbury booted a 27-yard field goal with 1:43 left for a 30-0 lead.
An interception and 31-yard return by Conner Wheeler of Powell ended Clinton’s next drive, and Powell ran out the clock.
“We’re going to be all right. Our time is coming,” head coach Keith said. “Playing iron-man football at 5A, we just didn’t have enough depth to keep up with them.”