Miscues doom Clinton in playoff loss to 3A power Prescott
JIM TUMLISON FIELD - When the AHSAA announced the state football brackets in early September, the Clinton football coaches realized that a return trip to the quarterfinals and beyond would be treacherous. After dispatching perennial power Charleston 49-0 in the opening round, the Yellowjackets faced off against a highly regarded Prescott Curley Wolves team that finished second in the 3A-5 due to a 21-20 loss to Smackover. Coach Dufrene felt like the Jackets would need to minimize mistakes in order to advance. Unfortunately, a series of untimely penalties, a critical drop, and 3 turnovers resulted in a season-ending 45-27 loss.
Clinton won the toss and elected to receive the game’s opening kick. Facing an athletic defense and a big defensive front, the Jackets offense drove the field in 9 plays using punishing runs by Caleb Bowman and Sky Davidson to set up second and goal from the 1 yard line. Quarterback Weston Amos dove into the endzone to give Clinton a 7-0 lead.
Matt Gonzalez recovered his own onside kick on the following play, giving Clinton great field position and the ball once again. However, an illegal block in the back penalty negated a 14 yard run by Ethen Drake, and put the Jackets behind the chains. Facing 3rd and long, Amos threw to Keaton Gresham down the post, but the pass fell incomplete, forcing Clinton to punt the football to Prescott.
Prescott’s Quarterback Ryan Johnson, a Purdue commit, showed off his athleticism on the Curley Wolves’ opening drive. Johnson had runs of 10 and 30 yards, and completed an 18 yard pass to Cameron Cox before finding the end zone on a 4 yard touchdown run to tie the score at the end of the first quarter.
Clinton’s offense answered with a 9 play 61 yard drive that included a 10 yard run by Amos, an 11 yard carry by Sky Davidson, and a 16 yard run by Caleb Bowman. Bowman capped off the drive with a 7 yard touchdown run to put the Jackets back ahead 14-7.
Prescott’s Derriun Thompson returned the kickoff to the Clinton 44 yard line to give the Wolves a short field. Four plays later, Johnson sprinted through the right side of the Clinton defense for a 26 yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14.
Clinton missed a huge opportunity on their next possession. Facing 3rd and 21 courtesy of a holding call, Amos rolled to his right and saw Austin Drake wide open behind the Prescott defense, but Drake could not handle the pass, and Clinton was forced to punt. The Jackets’ defense came up with a huge stop on its next possession with Ryley McDonald breaking up a third down pass from Johnson to Cameron Cox.
Prescott’s defense came up with a huge play once again as Jacobi Nolen sacked Amos for a 12 yard loss. Unable to do move the football, Clinton punted back to the Wolves with 1:15 left in the first half. Right before the half, Johnson lofted a pass to Cameron Cox, who won a jump ball situation and sprinted into the end zone to give Prescott the lead 21-14 going into the locker room.
Prescott, receiving the second half kick, picked right up where they left off on offense. Johnson had carries of 19 and 12 yards, before handing off to Alex George for a two yard touchdown to give Prescott a two touchdown advantage. On Clinton’s first snap of the second half, Weston Amos led receiver Sky Davidson just a little too much, and his pass was intercepted by Johnson. The Jackets forced a Prescott fourth down, but kicker Luis Rabadan nailed a 37 yard field goal to make the score 31-14 deep in the third quarter.
Clinton went hurry-up on the ensuing possession, and moved the ball down the field quickly. John Riley Hinchey broke through the Prescott defensive line for a 21 yard gain down to the 1 yard line, and two plays later Sky Davidson punched it in to make the score 31-21.
Clinton got the stop it needed, forcing a punt to start the fourth quarter, but Amos was intercepted by Keonte Franklin at the 50 yard line. Franklin returned the interception to the 10 yard line, and three plays later Ryan Johnson scored his third touchdown of the ballgame, effectively putting the game out of reach at 38-21.
Prescott’s defense would score its third interception of the night on a tipped pass intended for Austin Drake. Three plays later, Alex George went untouched 34 yards to the end zone for the kill shot. Clinton was able to score a late touchdown when senior Ryley McDonald found fellow senior receiver Nathan Ross on a halfback pass to make the final margin 45-27.
Amos finished the night 5 of 12 passing for 39 and 3 interceptions. He also rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown. Senior Sky Davidson closed out a stellar season and career with 64 yards rushing, 9 yards receiving and 8 tackles (including a monstrous hit on Ryan Johnson). Fellow senior Caleb Bowman finished his brilliant high school career with 51 yards and a touchdown on 7 carries and 14 tackles.
Ryan Johnson led the Prescott attack with 154 rushing yards, 103 passing yards, an interception and 4 combined touchdowns. Alex George added 81 yards and 2 touchdowns on 13 carries, while Cameron Cox caught 4 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown.
The season ending loss closes a chapter on one of the most storied classes in Clinton football history. This senior class, comprised of Derek Russell, Mason Dowell, Ryley McDonald, Keaton Gresham, Jacob Hagerman, Nathan Ross, Travis Williams, Caleb Bowman, Sky Davidson, Cort Bagley, Reuben Dawson, Caleb Kirkpatrick, Chris Toller, Ty Parker, Kelley Collins, and JoJo Jones, won 31 combined games, 2 outright conference titles, and a share of a third conference title. They also led Clinton to 3 Battle of the Little Red wins, 3 playoff appearances, with wins against Fouke, Harmony Grove, and Charleston, and losses to Centerpoint, Junction City, and Prescott. This class will also likely be honored with several All-Conference and All-State awardees, which will be announced at the conclusion of the playoffs. Most importantly, these young men represented Clinton High School and the Clinton community with class all three years. Thank you for three wonderful years of football!
Game Notes: Captains were Kelley Collins, Cort Bagley, Caleb Bowman, and Sky Davidson… The Yellowjackets trailed at the half (21-14) for the first time all year… Matt Gonzalez finished the season hitting 25 consecutive extra point attempts… Caleb Bowman’s 14 tackles tied a season high… The game was Head Coach Chris Dufrene’s 199th game as head coach.
3A State Playoff Scores
Booneville 41, Walnut Ridge 13
Camden Harmony Grove 47, Glen Rose 28
Lamar 32, Harding Academy 13
McGehee 42, Newport 21
Osceola 53, Mansfield 24
Prescott 45, Clinton 21
Rison 62, Mayflower 20
Smackover 49, Danville 35