ELKINS, AR - Just a week before, Caleb Bowman found himself at the center of a pivotal moment in the football game against Melbourne. Just after halftime, Bowman suffered respiratory distress and had to be carted off the field. His teammates rallied behind him to pull away from the Bearcatz for a huge win. After a week of uncertainty, Bowman was finally cleared by doctors to play. Fast forwarding to the beginning of the fourth quarter Friday night, Bowman once again found himself in the middle of what may be the season’s biggest play. Just minutes before, Clinton had taken a commanding 34-12 lead, only to watch it evaporate after Elkins answered with a touchdown on their next drive to cut the score to 34-20. The Elks then recovered their onside kick which led to another touchdown to cut the lead to 34-28, then recovered a second consecutive onside kick. Facing third down deep in Clinton territory, Elkins quarterback Quinn McClain, who had carved up the Yellowjacket secondary, dropped back to pass, spotting Chance Jones breaking into the middle of the field. Bowman, who had dropped back in zone coverage along with fellow linebacker Sky Davidson, lunged at the ball and got his hand on it, popping it up in the air. Davidson came down with the interception, which would be the only turnover in the game. That play took the air out the Elks comeback, and Clinton would finish the game with 15 unanswered points to earned a hard fought 49-28 victory. The win puts Clinton on top of the 3A-1 standings, and with games against Marshall, Yellville-Summit, and Mt. View, gives the Yellowjackets a strong opportunity to outright win the conference and earn the number one seed in the playoffs.
Going into the game, the Clinton coaches expected an offensive shootout, something the Yellowjackets (7-0, 4-0) had not been a part of all year. It did not take long for that prediction to come to fruition. Elkins received the opening kickoff, and promptly found the endzone on a 44 yard pass from McClain to Chad Graham to give the Elks an early 6-0 lead. The Clinton offense, needing to be really good on the night, answered the call. Facing 3rd and 5 on their 3rd play from scrimmage, Charlie Sowell took the handoff on a counter play and raced through the Elkins secondary to the end zone for a 46 yard touchdown run. Matt Gonzales broke the tie with an extra point to give the Jackets a 7-6 lead. At this point, the question would be which defense could get the first stop.
Clinton answered that question on the next Elkins possession. McClain found Lee Evans for a big 40 yard gain to set the Elks up in the Clinton red zone. McClain’s next pass to Chance Jones got the Elks to the 2 yard line for a first and goal. McClain’s quarterback keeper on the next play was stuffed by Sky Davidson (4 tackles, 1 interception). Bowman threw Chance Jones for a three yard loss on the next play, and Austin Drake broke up a pass to Chad Graham at the corner of the endzone setting up a fourth and goal. McClain, scrambling for the endzone was upended by Jonathan Carter just short of the goal line to give the Jackets a huge stop.
The Jackets’ next offensive possession would be the longest of the season. Starting at their own 1, Clinton marched down the field, picking up big plays from Weston Amos on an 18 yard quarterback keeper, Sky Davidson on a 12 yard run, and Austin Drake on a 16 yard reception from Amos. Just before the end of the first quarter, however, the Jackets were penalized for a block in the back to get behind schedule. Facing 4th and 6, Amos forced Elkins to jump offside on a hard count, making it a more manageable 4th and 1. After picking up the first down, Clinton’s John Riley Hinchey bulled his way up the middle for a 4 yard touchdown run. The PAT was no good, but Clinton had the lead at 14-6.
The Jackets forced Elkins into a 3 and out, and Quinn McClain, who doubles as the punter, shanked a 17 yard kick to give Clinton excellent field position on the Elk 46 yard line. The Jackets put together another methodical drive, highlighted by a 14 yard run by Hinchey (86 yards, 2 TD) that moved the Jackets inside the 10 yard line. Two plays later, Amos would sprint around two defenders and find pay dirt to give Clinton a 19-6 lead.
Elkins needed to make a big play to stay in the game, and they did. McClain found Easton Fields behind the Jacket secondary for a 54 yard reception to set up 1st and goal. After to incomplete passes and a false start, McClain appeared to have his second touchdown pass of the night when he found Cole Wilhite on a 14 yard pass. But a holding penalty negated the play, setting up a 3rd and goal from the 28 yard line. McClain stood tall in the pocket and found Graham on a post route for the touchdown on the very next play to cut the lead to 19-12 with 4:32 to go in the first half.
Clinton’s offense remained perfect with a time-consuming 12 play touchdown drive to close out the first half. The Jackets started the drive by methodically moving down the field with their power run game. However, with time running short and the ball just outside Elkins’ red zone, the Jackets found themselves needing to throw. After an intentional grounding call, and a negative run play, Amos found himself under center with :12 remaining in the half. Pressure by the Elkins defensive line forced Amos up in the pocket and to his left. He found Austin Drake streaking up the left sideline and hit him perfectly for a 35 yard touchdown strike. Davidson tacked on the 2 point conversion to give Clinton a 27-12 lead at the half.
The Yellowjackets opened up the second half with yet another touchdown drive, highlighted by a 25 yard run by Amos. Sky Davidson capped off the 11 play, 67 yard touchdown drive with a 1 yard touchdown run. Gonzales tacked on the PAT to extend the Clinton lead to 34-12.
Elkins answered with McClain’s touchdown pass to Layne Evans. The pair hooked up on the two point conversion to cut the lead to 14. After recovering the onside kick, Elkins needed 5 plays before McClain found Chance Jones for a 20 yard touchdown strike. McClain’s PAT run was good, and all of the sudden Clinton found itself in a one possession ballgame (34-28). Elkins recovered another onside kick, and quickly moved back into the Clinton red zone, before Sky Davidson’s interception ended the threat.
The fourth quarter was all Yellowjackets. After spending 9 minutes on the sideline, the Jacket offense went to work where it left off. Ethen Drake outflanked the Elkins defense for a 23 yard gain, and Weston Amos followed that up with a 16 yard scamper. Six plays later, Amos scored his second rushing touchdown on quarterback sneak. Ethen Drakes PAT run was good, making the score 42-28.
The Jacket defense would own the fourth quarter. On the opening play of the ensuing drive, Dylan Hayford, a senior defensive back turned defensive end, raced around the left tackle and sacked McClain for a four yard loss. Charlie Sowell and Austin Drake broke up a halfback pass by Chance Jones. Two plays later, Elkins turned the ball over on downs with an incomplete pass.
Clinton’s offense made it a perfect seven for seven on the next drive. Sky Davidson ran behind the right side of the offensive line for 27 yards on 5 carries. Facing fourth and 1 from the Elkins 3, John Riley Hinchey rammed his way into the endzone for his second rushing touchdown of the game. Gonzales’s extra point was good to give the final margin of 49-28.
At the 3:24 mark, Clinton linebacker Mason Dowell (3 tackles) was blindsided on a block. Dowell had to be carried off by medical personnel after laying motionless on the turf for about 10 minutes. After precautionary tests, Dowell was released from an area hospital.
The Jackets rolled up a season high 433 yards, behind the balanced rushing attack of Weston Amos (98 yards, 2 TDs), Hinchey, and Davidson (80 yards, 1 TD). Sowell added 60 yards on 5 carries and a touchdown, and Ethen Drake added 50 yards on 5 carries. Amos complete 3 of 5 passes for 55 yards and touchdown.
Quinn McClain torched the Clinton secondary for 381 yards on 24 completions and 4 touchdowns. Chad Graham caught 5 passes for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns. Layne Evans made 7 catches for 112 yards and 1 touchdown. But the Elks failed to produce anything in the running game, tallying only 19 yards on 15 carries.
Next week, Marshall visits Jim Tumlinson Field for a 7 pm kickoff. The Bobcats are 0-7, 0-4 on the season. The game can be heard on KHPQ 92.1 with Jeff Hall and Mike Hawley calling the action.
Game Notes… Captains for the game were seniors Nate Lonnon, Dylan Hayford, Clint Bagley, and Charlie Sowell…Head Coach Chris Dufrene notched his 100th victory with the win… The Clinton offense notched season highs in points (49), yards (433), rushing yards (368), plays (69), and touchdowns (7)… The Clinton offense scored touchdowns on its first 7 possessions. During the final possession, Clinton’s offense kneeled on the ball to run out the clock… The Jackets were 5/5 on fourth down in the game, and now 12/17 on fourth down for the season… Dylan Hayford recorded his first 2 career sacks…After Sky Davidson’s fourth quarter interception, the Yellowjackets are +11 on turnovers for the season… The Yellowjackets allowed Elkins to score on 3 of 5 red zone possessions. For the season, Clinton’s opponents have scored on 8 of 17 possessions in the red zone (47.1 %).