It rained at Wilder Stadium on Thursday night but seldom poured. Sometimes it was steady. Sometimes it drizzled. Sometimes it stopped.
Clinton’s 32-26 overtime victory over Emerald was like that. In their opening game, the Region 3-3A opponents combined to lose five fumbles. The Red Devils led 13-7 after running three offensive plays, none of which had anything to do with the scores. Both teams missed field goals and two extra points.
Emerald’s Ean Ryans took the opening kickoff and returned it to midfield, setting up a quick 45-yard drive. Clinton’s Jykorie Gary took the second kickoff and returned it 90 yards for a score.
The Red Devils took the lead on when Ryans fumbled a punt and C.K. Vance picked it up and ran it in from 25 yards.
Off to the races they ran, and while the game was frequently imperfect, it was never boring.
The first game of Corey Fountain’s second season was the first overall for the Vikings’ Tad DuBose across the way. Even though the season didn’t start until the 25th evening of September, the teams entered the game with the least practice time in recent history. Football season is running late because COVID-19 did, too, and Fountain’s feeling after surviving was probably better than it would’ve been had Clinton won by two touchdowns.
“A close game helps a young team,” he said. “It helps a team gain confidence, learn how to win and handle adversity.”
That is, if the team wins.
“Every day, we found something different, this protocol or that protocol that we had to follow,” Fountain said. “There’s been adversity the whole summer. We have to break for three weeks. Then we’re trying to get everybody back on for three weeks. These guys worked on their own. That was awesome, and that showed because we were in better shape at the end of this game.
“The first half, they were running through us like water.”
In that first half, Clinton went without offense so long it seemed as if the Red Devils didn’t need it.
They did. In the first quarter, Emerald put up 156 yards to Clinton’s 4. The score was tied at that point, but the Vikings led 20-13 at half.
The second half was vastly different. Clinton (1-0) outgained Emerald (0-1) 182-107.
After Jaylen Foster’s 23-yard scoring run put Emerald up 26-20 – the conversion failed – Kimon Quarles tied it on a 3-yard run with 6:53 to play, and the game continued into overtime because the Clinton kick failed, too.
It looked like the Red Devils won twice. The Vikings got the ball first. After Foster lost 5 yards on first down, Emerald wound up facing 4th-down-and-10, and Billy Pruitt’s field-goal attempt was blocked and returned for a would-be touchdown. Only the referees told Fountain that what is a touchdown in regulation is a dead ball in overtime.
So Quarles scored again on third down from the Emerald 8, setting off a final celebration that wasn’t premature.
At halftime, Fountain said, “We made adjustments … and we seemed still fresh in the second half.
“Now we need to go back and look at our mistakes. This was a great win for us, but we’ve got to get better.”
E – Zacoyeis Elmore 8 run (Billy Pruitt kick) 9:17 1st
C – Jykorie Gary 90 kickoff return (J.P. Snelgrove kick) 9:02 1st
C – C.K. Vance 25 fumble return (kick failed) 4:01 1st
E – Elmore 18 run (kick blocked) 1:21 1st
E – Jaylen Foster 1 run (Pruitt kick) 11:14 2nd
C – Shy Kinard 1 run (Wyatt McWatters kick) 3:04 3rd
E – Foster 23 run (kick failed) 8:40 4th
C – Kimon Quarles 3 run (kick failed) 6:53 4th
C – Quarles 8 run (no kick) OT
Rushing – Emerald, Foster 26-166, Elmore19-130; Clinton, Kinard 20-121, Quarles 9-54, Gary 8-37.
Passing – Emerald, Nathaniel Parks, 1-1-0 11; Clinton, Austin Copeland 6–8-0 25, Quarles 0-1-0 0.
Receiving – Emerald, Ryan Halloway 1-11; Clinton, Quarles 3-17, Zechariah Johnston 1-10, Gary 1-6, Wilson Wages 1-(8).