Dragons outplay Central, but those penalties ...

Clinton pounded by flags

  • Clinton’s last scoring threat was an incomplete pass intended for Jeremiah Blauvelt but broken up by Chattanooga Central’s Donovan Smith. - Ken Leinart

  • Dragon wide receiver Andy King (12) and quarterback Trace Thackerson celebrate the duo’s touchdown in the fourth quarter against Chattanooga Central. - Ken Leinart

The Clinton Dragons outgained host Chattanooga Central by more than 200 yards Friday night, but the Purple Pounders outlasted the visitors 20-15.

Penalties were a major factor in the game for Clinton as the Dragons were flagged 17 times for 141 yards, including five for false starts and three for offsides. Many of the penalties caused major consternation between Dragon coaches and the officials and between the large contingent of Dragon fans—which rivaled the attendance on the home side of the stadium—and the officials. Chattanooga Central was penalized seven times for 94 yards, each flag for at least 10 yards.

In the first-ever meeting between the non-region opponents, Clinton fell to 3-3 on the season while the Pounders improved to 4-1.

Running back Connor Moody and receiver Andy King scored the Dragon touchdowns. Backup quarterback Trace Thackerson completed 8-of-12 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. Starting signal-caller Joshuah Keith left with an injury but completed 7-of-19 passes for 128 yards and was the Dragons’ leading rusher with 11 carries for 50 yards. Receiver/punter Donovan Smith scored twice for Central.

Clinton rolled up 386 yards of total offense, rushing 37 times for 115 yards and passing for 271. The Pounders outrushed the Dragons with 140 yards and two TDs on 32 carries, but were a meager 6-for-15 through the air for 43 yards and a TD.

The Pounders took the opening kickoff and reeled off a 30-yard run, but Moody’s 11-yard sack of quarterback Ronyé Watson led to a Central punt. Clinton, however, could do no damage on offense and punted back.

The Dragons committed all three of their offsides penalties on the next Pounder drive, and the hosts moved 68 yards in nine plays for the first score of the game. Smith took in a 27-yard pass from Watson for the score, and Luis Francisco’s extra point made it 7-0 Pounders with 3:21 left in the first quarter.

Clinton answered back with a six-play, 64-yard drive, overcoming a holding penalty and a false start at the beginning of the series. Keith connected with King for a 27-yard pass, and after a pass-interference penalty on Central, the Dragon quarterback found Rodayvien Truss for a 25-yard gain that put the ball on the Pounders’ 4-yard line. Three plays later, Moody ran the ball into the end zone from 1 yard out. Ryan Bradley’s extra point tied the game at 7-7 with 15.3 seconds left in the opening period.

The Pounders fumbled twice on their next drive, the second one on a punt attempt by Smith that resulted in a 17-yard loss to the 8-yard line. Jeremiah Lee recovered the ball for the Dragons.

Disaster struck for Clinton, however, on its first offensive play in the shadow of the Pounders’ goalpost. Tristan Odom of Central nabbed a pass that deflected off a Dragon receiver’s fingertips at the 1-yard line and returned the interception 86 yards.

Central, set up at the Dragon 13-yard line, scored on the next play as Michael Watson ran it in for the TD. Francisco’s extra point put the hosts up 14-7 with 10:09 remaining in the half.

Clinton went three-and-out and punted on its next drive. Cole Todora’s tackle for a two-yard loss ensured the Pounders would go three-and-out on their next drive.

The Dragons moved from their own 35 to the Pounder 6 but came away with no points. Keith completed passes of 16 yards to King, 12 yards to Braylon Taylor, 13 yards to Jeremiah Blauvelt, and 17 yards to Truss to get the Dragons close, but Bradley’s 23-yard field goal was blocked with 2:34 left in the second quarter.

Taking over at their own 20, the Pounders used a 35-yard run by quarterback Ronyé Watson to move into Clinton territory, but William Taylor’s sack of Watson for a 10-yard loss and a fourth-down pass that fell incomplete ended the drive for the home team with 45.2 seconds showing.

Clinton took over at its own 34 and moved to the Pounder 10 in seven plays but again failed to score. Central was penalized 31 yards on one play, getting stepped off 15 for a defensive holding and 16 for a personal foul. Braylon Taylor caught a 29-yard Keith toss to put the Dragons at the 5-yard line. A false start moved the ball back to the 10, but two incompletions ended the drive as time ran out in the half.

The Dragons took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched to the Pounder 14 in six plays. Blauvelt caught an 18-yard Keith pass, and Keith rumbled 31 yards on a run to move into the Central side of the field. Clinton avoided another disaster when Tyi Mosley’s 97-yard return of an interception for a touchdown was nullified by a pass-interference penalty on the Pounders. On the next play, however, from the Central 14, Clinton fumbled the ball away to the home team.

Three plays later, Clinton’s Caleb Cook recovered a Pounder fumble at the 25-yard line of Central. Clinton took over and moved to the 18, helped by a 13-yard Keith run but offset by penalties. The Dragons would end up turning the ball over on downs at the 16.

Central took over and seemed to have a three-and-out, but punter Smith took the snap for the kick and instead faked it, running 79 yards for a touchdown. The extra-point kick failed, but the Pounders led 20-7 with 4:04 left in the third period.

Keith was hurt and left the game after the Dragons’ first snap following the kickoff. Thackerson took over and ran 9 yards, and Elijah Batiste converted a third-and-one with a 2-yard run for Clinton. A third-down fumble on a snap that hit the man in motion and a fourth-down incompletion on the final play of the quarter ended the Dragon possession at the Central 42-yard line.

The Pounders punted, and this time Clinton answered. Taking over at their own 24, the Dragons used a 15-yard pass-interference penalty on the Pounders to get moving. Truss caught an 11-yard pass and a 13-yard toss from Thackerson to put the ball on the Central 30. On the next play, King reeled in a Thackerson pass at the 12-yard line on the right side of the field and moved diagonally to the left to score the second Dragon touchdown of the night. The Dragons went for two on the conversion, and Thackerson called his own number and scored to cut the Central led to 20-15 with 7:36 left in the game.

The Pounders went three-and-out on their next drive and punted. Thackerson connected with Moody for a 29-yard pass play, but the Dragon quarterback would soon be sacked for 13 yards. After a 12-yard pass to Lucas Kendall, Clinton turned the ball over on downs at the Central 34 with 1:26 remaining in the game.

The Pounders ran out the clock with three kneel-downs. Clinton called its last two timeouts on the first two kneel-downs. With 1:22 remaining, Central took its second kneel-down to run the clock down to 42 seconds. Dragon coaches insisted that Clinton should get the ball, after the 40-second play clock ran out, with 2 seconds left following the third kneel-down, but the officials allowed the game clock to expire.