Nothing underscores the uncertainty of this high school football season more than the circumstances of Thursday night’s game at Wilder Stadium between Clinton and Emerald.
The Red Devils were supposed to visit Union County until the Yellow Jackets had to suspend activities due to positive COVID-19 tests. At various times this was supposed to be: (a.) an open date, (b.) a visit to Chapman, and (c.) a visit to Union.
The scrambling isn’t over in this season on the fly. The Emerald game came about because the Greenwood school had to postpone a game at Broome because of positive virus tests there. Clinton’s home game with the Centurions is still scheduled for next week, on Friday, Oct. 2.
But it will be impossible to swap Union County with Emerald later in the season. Clinton will likely have to play the Yellow Jackets late in the year and replace a non-region game with it. Nothing is official, and what is official might eventually not be.
Such is this season like none other.
Emerald, 1-9 last year, is coming off back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 2009-10, and Tad DuBose, a longtime Abbeville assistant, has taken over and hired six new assistants.
“Tad brings that Abbeville culture,” Clinton head coach Corey Fountain said. “[Emerald] is establishing a winner’s mentality, and that makes it a tough game for us.”
Clinton entered practice with five returning starters in the offensive line, but only three of them, at best, will be in the lineup against the Vikings. The defensive front is Emerald’s strength, thanks to the return of seniors Cameron Gordon (6-0, 253) and Robby Harrison (6-3, 268).
Jaylen Foster and Damaruis Morton anchor the Vikes’ running game, and Nathaniel Parker and Kareem Goode are both likely to see action at quarterback. Emerald only averaged 9 points a game last year and hasn’t won since a 23-0 victory over Ninety Six in the 2019 opener.
“They’re strong up front on defense, and the linebackers are also good,” Fountain said. “We will have to get our running game established. This game will be won in the trenches.”
Clinton’s quarterback, Davis Wilson, is out for at least two games with a high-ankle sprain, and Austin Copeland will get the call, as was the case in last week’s Greer jamboree, where Riverside defeated the Red Devils 21-13 in a half.
“We’ll have to have some young guys step up,” Fountain said. “There are a lot of things we have to improve on. We’ll have some new faces on offense and defense due to injuries, but if we do our job, if we can line up and know our assignments and execute … run or pass, our guys have to execute. We didn’t execute against Riverside, but it’s a learning process, just a matter of alignment and execution. To have a chance, we have to execute.
“It’s a learning process. Our guys have seen themselves on film, and they know where we need to improve. … This will be a challenge for us.”
Radio coverage of the game is available on WPCC (AM-1410, FM-96.5), beginning on Thursday at 7 p.m., and Saturday Morning Rewind, from Whiteford's Drive-In in Clinton, begins at 9 a.m. and runs through 10:15, followed by a replay of Thursday night's game.