JIM TUMLINSON FIELD - The Yellowjackets forced Melbourne into 5 turnovers and 4 sacks to shut down the high powered Bearcatz offense en route to a 39-12 homecoming victory. Charlie Sowell had one interception, a 79 yard touchdown reception, and 32 yards rushing to help Clinton (6-0, 3-0) stay atop the 3A-1 conference standings.
Clinton won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. Sky Davidson’s 18 yard run moved the Jackets into Melbourne territory, but the drive would stall at the 14 when John Riley Hinchey was stuffed on 4th and 3. After forcing a three and out, the Jacket offense went to work. After picking up the initial first down of the drive, Charlie Sowell scampered to the 14 yard line for a 28 yard gain. Caleb Bowman finished the drive off by running over a Melbourne defender and rumbling into the endzone. The extra point by Matt Gonzalez was no good giving Clinton an early 6-0 lead.
Melbourne found an offensive rhythm on their second drive. Bearcatz quarterback Gabe Lawrence completed four passes to move Melbourne to a first and goal on the Clinton 7 yard line. However, Caleb Bowman stuffed Blake Howard for no gain on first down, then Sky Davidson sacked Lawrence for a ten yard loss. Lawrence’s next pass to the corner of the end zone was picked off by Charlie Sowell and returned to the 18 yard line. Two plays later, Weston Amos found Sowell all alone for a 79 yard touchdown pass. Amos’s two point run was good extend Clinton’s lead to 14-0.
Lawrence once again led the Bearcatz offense on a long drive to the Yellowjacket red zone, but miscues snuffed out the threat. Facing 2nd and 4 from the 15 yard line, Lawrence mishandled the snap and was tackled by defensive end Reuben Dawson before he could gain any yards. Lawrence’s pass to Alex Bray was incomplete forcing a fourth down. Following a timeout, Lawrence’s pass to Hunter Jennings fell incomplete to give the ball back to the Jackets.
Clinton, unable to get anything going on offense, punted the football back to Melbourne at the Clinton 34 yard line. Lawrence’s pass to Andrew Pitts moved the Bearcatz into the red zone for a third time on the night. The Yellowjacket defense rose up again, with Sky Davidson forcing a fumble by Stone Runyan on a screen pass with just over 2 minutes left in the half.
The stop was short lived, as Davidson was stripped of the ball on the Jacket’s second play of the drive. Blake Howard recovered the fumble for Melbourne at the 23 yard line. Melbourne fed the Jackets defense a steady dose of Silas Motes, a bruising tailback. The Bearcatz, facing fourth and goal from the 6, finally found paydirt when Lawrence found Bray on a slant route. The extra point was no good, and Clinton held a 14-6 lead at the half.
The Bearcatz received the second half kickoff, but Lawrence was sacked by Davidson on the first play of the second half. Davidson forced a fumble that was recovered by Cort Bagley, who returned it to the Melbourne 18 yard line. Three plays later, Sky Davidson went around right end for a 3 yard touchdown run.
Before the PAT attempt, a scary moment happened at Jim Tumlinson Field. Caleb Bowman stumbled off the field having trouble breathing. He collapsed on the sideline and was quickly surrounded by coaches. The EMT personnel from Southern Ambulance service were extremely slow to respond to Bowman, forcing the Clinton coaches to run a stretcher onto the field. Bowman was loaded onto a stretcher and taken to Ozark Medical Center, where he reportedly underwent tests and was sent home to recover.
Clinton’s football team responded with an emotion-filled second half that could only be described as dominating. The PAT run by Weston Amos was no good when play resumed, but Clinton still had a 20-6 lead.
On Melbourne’s next possession, senior safety Nate Lonnon jumped a post route and intercepted Gabe Lawrence, returning the football to the Melbourne 31 yard line. John Riley Hinchey rumbled for 18 yards on the first play, and then had a touchdown run of 13 yards that was called back by a hold. The penalty only delayed the inevitable. Two plays later, Sky Davidson sprinted around the right side for a 19 yard touchdown run, his second of the game. The PAT was no good again, but Clinton was in control with a 26-6 lead.
Melbourne responded with their best drive of the night. Tyler Dudra made a 43 yard reception from Lawrence that was almost picked off. Instead, the Bearcatz set up in the Yellowjacket redzone. Facing fourth down once again, Lawrence finished off the drive with a 3 yard touchdown run to cut into the Jacket lead (26-12). Melbourne’s conversion attempt was no good.
Melbourne’s onside kick was recovered by Keaton Gresham, and Clinton mixed in a 17 yard end around by Ethen Drake to go along with the power run game. Ten plays later, Hinchey would find the end zone from five yards out to give Clinton a 32-12 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Melbourne would make one more trip into Clinton’s red zone, but Lawrence’s incompletion on fourth down turned the ball back over to Clinton. Melbourne’s final two possessions were not successful either. Facing fourth and one on their next possession, Lawrence was sacked by Clint Bagley to end the Bearcatz’s drive. Two plays later, Kadance Sowell ripped off a 50 yard touchdown run. Gonzalez tacked on the extra point to extend Clinton’s lead to 39-12.
Defensive end Jayden Exzabe finished off an outstanding night by reading a screen pass perfectly and intercepting the Lawrence throw. With the lead and the ball, Clinton was able to kneel on it to finish the game.
Quarterback Weston Amos completed 5 of 7 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. Sky Davidson led all rushers with 75 yards and 2 touchdowns. Hinchey added 70 tough yards and a touchdown, while Ethen Drake finished with 48 yards on 5 carries. Charlie Sowell’s 70 yard touchdown reception led all pass catchers.
The stars of the night, however, belonged to the Clinton defense, which held Gabe Lawrence well below his season average for passing yards and completion percentage. The Jackets piled up 4 sacks, and forced 5 turnovers, while stopping Melbourne on four of six possessions in the redzone. Davidson recorded two sacks to go along with 13 tackles on the night. Cort Bagley added 7 stops. Clint Bagley and Mason Dowell also recorded sacks on the night. Nate Lonnon and Charlie Sowell each had an interception to go along with 5 tackles.
With the win, the Yellowjackets remain undefeated on the season and tied atop the conference standings with Elkins. The Jackets travel to Northwest Arkansas to take on the Elks (5-1, 3-0) in a showdown for first place in the conference. The Jackets are looking to avenge last year’s homecoming loss to Elkins. Game time is set for 7 pm. The game can be heard on KHPQ 92.1, with Jeff Hall and Mike Hawley calling the play-by-play action.
Game Notes: Captains for the game were seniors Nate Lonnon, Dylan Hayford, Clint Bagley, and Charlie Sowell…The Clinton offense set single game season highs in points (39), yards (386), and rushing touchdowns (5)… Amos’s pass to Charlie Sowell for 79 yards was his longest pass of the season… Clinton’s defense set a single game season high with 5 takeaways (3 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries) and sacks (4)… Clinton’s defense has recorded 16 takeaways this season (10 interceptions and 6 fumble recoveries)… Charlie Sowell’s interception in the end zone was his fourth of the season, while Nate Lonnon and Jayden Exzabe recorded their first interceptions of the season…