Sky Davidson and Caleb Bowman combine for career nights to propel Clinton to conference opening win against Harding Academy
SEARCY, Ark. - It’s hard to believe that a game in Week 4 of the football season could have important playoff implications, but that was the case for Clinton (4-0, 1-0) and Harding Academy (2-2, 0-1) Friday night. Both teams entered as favorites to battle it out for the 3A-2 conference championship along with Melbourne, with the winner of this game being in the driver seat for playoff seeding. As such, this highly anticipated showdown was the Hooten’s Arkansas Football 3A game of the week, and was covered on statewide radio by The Buzz 103.7. Clinton prevailed in a 48-27 shootout behind 331 rushing yards by Sky Davidson and Caleb Bowman.
The game got off to a fast start as Clinton Quarterback Weston Amos connected with Austin Drake for a 45 yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage. Matt Gonzalez kicked the extra point to give Clinton an early 7-0 lead. That lead, however, was short-lived as Harding Academy tied the game on a trick play pass from wide receiver Caden Sipe to quarterback Davis Morgan.
Clinton went back to work in the wing-t offense, pounding the right side of the offensive line with continuous bruising runs by Sky Davidson and Caleb Bowman. Davidson capped the 11 play, 56 yard drive with a 1 yard touchdown run to put Clinton ahead 14-7, but Harding Academy answered with an 88 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Stone Sheffield to tie the game at 14 heading into the second quarter.
The Yellowjackets continued to pound the Wildcats’ undersized line, and overcome a 1st and 23 courtesy of a holding penalty enroute to a Caleb Bowman 2 yard touchdown run to retake the lead 21-14 at the 10:23 mark of the second quarter. Harding Academy once again moved the football into the Clinton red zone, but the Yellowjacket defense stiffened, forcing an incomplete pass on 4th down. Bowman and Davidson both picked up big chunks of rushing yards as Clinton marched down the field, scoring a touchdown on a Weston Amos 2 yard run to push the lead to 28-14.
Harding was forced to punt after a three and out, and an unsportsmanlike penalty earned All-State Wildcat middle linebacker Jake Duggar an ejection during the punt. Set up with first and 10 in Harding territory, Clinton drove 44 yards in 7 plays, ending the drive with Sky Davidson’s second touchdown of the night. A blocked extra point made the score 34-14 going into halftime, which was shortened to 10 minutes due to impending downpours moving into the area.
The Wildcats started the third quarter with the ball, and drove down the field to the Clinton 16 yard line. A false start penalty moved Harding back to the 21 yard line, then Codey Edwards sacked Davis Morgan for a 6 yard loss. After two incomplete passes, kicker Ben Sloan yanked his field goal attempt too far left, ending the scoring threat.
Clinton’s offense picked up where it left off in the first half, at least momentarily. Using punishing runs by Davidson and Bowman, and the toss sweep by Ethen Drake, the Yellowjackets found themselves once again in the red zone with a chance to put the game away. Facing first and goal from the 9 yard line, Weston Amos spun out a tackle and sprinted for the end zone. He was stopped out of bounds short of the goal line, and appeared to have injured his lower leg. Instead of punching the ball in, Clinton was penalized for three false starts (due to a different quarterback cadence), and fumbled a snap while using three different players under center. Facing 3rd and goal from the 18 yard line, Sky Davidson took the direct snap and raced to the endzone for his third touchdown of the night. He then added the two point conversion to give Clinton a 42-14 lead.
Harding never quit. Davis Morgan engineered a scoring drive that combined precision passing and tough running between the tackles, ending with a touchdown strike to Connor McGaha on the first play of the 4th quarter to cut the lead 42-21. The Wildcats recovered their onside kick, and nine plays later Morgan hooked up with tight end Adam Fager for a 10 yard touchdown strike to cut the lead to 42-27. Sky Davidson blocked the extra point attempt.
With Amos still on the sideline, Clinton struggled to move the football, eventually punting the ball back to Harding with 6:05 left in the game. Facing 4th and 6, Morgan completed a 17 yard pass to Jimmy Citty to extend the drive into Yellowjacket territory. The Wildcats made it to the 20 yard line before a false start penalty moved them back to the 25. Two incomplete passes brought up a 3rd and 15 situation. Morgan, who is an excellent runner, was flushed out of the pocket by Cort Bagley. Bagley chased Morgan down for just a 2 yard gain. On fourth down, safety Ryley McDonald batted away Morgan’s pass to Connor McGaha to end the threat.
Amos returned to the ballgame, which gave the Yellowjacket offense renewed life. After three runs by Caleb Bowman, Sky Davidson took a handoff 60 yards for the kill shot touchdown, his fourth of the night, to cap the scoring 48-27.
Sky Davidson rushed 20 times for 209 yards and four touchdowns, while fellow senior Caleb Bowman added 122 yards on 15 carries and 1 touchdown. Weston Amos finished the game having completed both of his passes to Austin Drake for 54 yards and a touchdown, and added another rushing touchdown on 52 yards rushing. Ethen Drake followed up his career performance last Friday night against CAC with 52 yards rushing on 7 carries.
Defensively, Caleb Bowman led the way with 14 tackles. Austin Drake added 9 stops, and Cort Bagley recorded 8 tackles from his nose tackle position. The defensive staff moved Derek Russell from safety to outside linebacker this week, and it paid big dividends as he recorded 5 open field tackles on the perimeter.
Davis Morgan completed 21 of his 38 passing attempts for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His leading receiver was Connor McGaha, who caught 8 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown.
Next week, Clinton travels to Melbourne in another big 3A-2 conference showdown. Kickoff will be a 7 pm, and the game will be carried live on KHPQ 92.1 with Jeff Hall and Mike Hawley.
Game Notes: Captains for the game were Cort Bagley, Kelley Collins, Sky Davidson, and Caleb Bowman… Sky Davidson set career highs in carries (20), rushing yards (208), total offensive yards (208), and touchdowns (4)... Caleb Bowman set a career high in rushing yards with 122… The Clinton offense set its season high with 485 total offensive yards and 24 first downs… Clinton has now won 17 regular season games in a row, and 11 conference games in a row.
3A-2 Scores and Standings
Team Conference Record Overall Record
Clinton 1-0 4-0
Melbourne 1-0 3-1
Mountain View 1-0 1-3
Marshall 0-0 0-4
Harding Academy 0-1 2-2
Yellville-Summit 0-1 1-3
Cedar Ridge 0-1 1-3
Clinton 48, Harding Academy 27
Melbourne 47, Yellville-Summit 14
Mountain View 44, Cedar Ridge 8
Mountainburg 54, Marshall 26