Dragons heading to Round 3

Clinton snaps 14-game losing streak to OR

  • Clinton quarterback Joshuah Keith tucks the ball and looks for running room during last Friday’s playoff game against Oak Ridge. Keith threw for 212 yards and ran for 48. - Barry Houchin

  • Clinton QB Joshuah Keith points heavenward to thank God for the victory. - Barry Houchin

The Clinton Dragon defense earned a second-half shutout at Oak Ridge as the visitors came from behind to stun the Wildcats 24-21 in the second round of the football playoffs Friday before a big crowd at Blankenship Field.

Clinton quarterback Joshuah Keith scored touchdowns on two one-yard runs in the fourth quarter, the second to put the team ahead to stay with 3:56 remaining, to give the Dragons their first victory in the second round of the postseason since 1992.

Oak Ridge missed a tying field goal with 43.6 seconds left in the game, and Keith took two kneel-downs to salt away the triumph.

The win, the Dragons’ 10th in the playoffs in 23 games, snapped a 14-game losing streak to Oak Ridge and a six-game streak at Blankenship. Clinton also had been 0-3 in second-round games since 1992. The Dragons and the Wildcats played on the 80th anniversary of their first game in 1943.

The Dragons (6-6) will now host Walker Valley (10-2) in the quarterfinals this Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m. for the first-ever meeting between the Cleveland school and Clinton.

Keith’s passing numbers against Oak Ridge were 12-for-20 for 212 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He led Dragon rushers with 15 carries for 48 yards and two scores. Bryson Maddox paced Clinton receivers with 117 yards and two TDs. Chauncey Felts rushed 11 times for 42 yards, and Wesley Phillips caught three passes for 38 yards. D’Mon Marable’s lone catch for Clinton was a 56-yarder.

Bo Wright led Dragon defenders with 12 tackles, and he also recovered a fumble. Jerius Hundley made 10 tackles and recovered a fumble. Lavelle Pendergrass recorded eight tackles for Clinton, including two tackles for loss. Gage Wergin made seven tackles with two-and-a-half TFLs for 14 yards and one pass breakup. Marable added six tackles, forced two fumbles, and made two sacks for 13 yards. Jayson Graham also tallied six tackles for the Dragons. Deameion Leavell and Derek Bean had five tackles apiece.

Clinton played fairly mistake-free football, committing only two penalties for 15 yards and recovering its lone fumble.

The Dragons held Oak Ridge running back De’Jauvis Dozier to 126 rushing yards on 26 attempts with one TD. Dozier ran for 206 yards and three TDs in the teams’ first meeting earlier this season. Wildcat quarterback Blaine Stansberry went 7-for-14 passing for 181 yards and a 55-yard touchdown to Almani Rembert. Brandon Heyward returned a kickoff for a TD for the home team, which finished its season 9-3.

Clinton scored on the game’s opening possession, with either Keith or Jawan Goins running the ball on most plays. Keith moved the sticks with a 19-yard scamper and later found Maddox in the back-right corner of the end zone for a 19-yard scoring strike. The extra-point kick missed, leaving Clinton up 6-0 with 7:33 left in the first quarter.

Heyward took the ensuing kickoff at his 18-yard line and motored down the left sideline for an 82-yard TD return. Eli Pearson’s extra point put the Wildcats ahead 7-6.

Oak Ridge forced a Dragon punt before Pendergrass and Felts stopped Dozier for a 3-yard loss on the Wildcats’ next series. Stansberry completed a 20-yard pass to Will Pressley, but the drive would end at the Dragon 26-yard line after Hundley and Pendergrass tackled Heyward on an end-around for a 1-yard loss and Stansberry overthrew Rembert in the end zone on fourth down.

Clinton went three-and-out, punted to Oak Ridge, and saw Stansberry connect with Rembert on a 55-yard touchdown pass along the left sideline. Pearson’s kick gave Oak Ridge a 14-6 lead with 9:17 remaining in the half.

The Dragons got a 21-yard kickoff return from Goins to start their next drive at their own 29. Maddox caught a 13-yard pass for one first down, and a personal-foul/targeting penalty on the Wildcats moved the chains again.

Two plays later, from the Oak Ridge 41, Maddox broke open on his route at the 10-yard line and hauled in Keith’s throw for a touchdown. Clinton’s two-point-conversion run failed, but the Dragons had cut the lead to 14-12 with 6:02 left in the second quarter.

Wergin broke up a pass to bring on an Oak Ridge punt, but Clinton punted it back to the Wildcats soon afterward.

The hosts then went on an 11-play, 58-yard scoring drive, mostly behind the running of Dozier. The Wildcat back scored the TD on a 2-yard run, and Pearson’s boot gave Oak Ridge a 21-12 lead with 38.0 seconds left in the first half.

Elijah Bradley sacked Keith for a 9-yard loss near midfield as time expired in the half.

Marable forced two Stansberry fumbles on the first pair of Oak Ridge drives in the third quarter, but the Dragons turned the ball over on downs inside the Wildcat 5-yard line after each. Wright recovered the first fumble and Hundley the second.

Wergin and Leavell stopped Heyward for a 6-yard loss on a lateral pass to help force a Wildcat punt early in the fourth quarter.

The Dragons took the ball at their own 31. A pass-interference penalty on Oak Ridge and Marable’s 56-yard pass reception set up Keith for a 1-yard TD run on second-and-goal. A two-point pass failed, but Clinton was down only 21-18 with 7:19 left in the game.

A Pendergrass tackle of Dozier for a 1-yard loss helped force another Oak Ridge punt.

Clinton took over at its own 40. Phillips caught a 13-yard Keith pass, and Felts ran 18 yards to set up first-and-goal at the 5.

Keith ran 4 yards on the next play and then 1 yard for the touchdown. The extra-point kick failed, but the Dragons led 24-21.

Stansberry hit Pressley for a 31-yard pass to start the final Wildcat drive, but Wergin’s tackle of Dozier for a 2-yard loss on third-and-5 from the Clinton 19 made Pearson’s field-goal attempt a 38-yarder. He missed it short and right, and the Dragon celebration was on.