UNION – Back and forth roared the Yellow Jackets and the Red Devils, and until the very end, the outcome of Friday night’s Region 3-3A game hung in the balance, but Union County prevailed, 28-21, and Clinton’s shot at the playoffs evaporated in the chill of defeat.
Clinton (2-3, 2-3 region) succumbed to the whim of a crucial call.
With the score tied, 21-21, the Red Devils rolled out an option pass, 63 yards from Kimon Quarles to Jykorie Gary to the Union 6, and scored, apparently, on the next play. An illegal-block penalty nullified the go-ahead score and pushed Clinton back to 1st-and-goal from the 20. Shy Kinard picked up 3 yards. Davis Wilson, who rushed for two touchdowns, threw incomplete, then lost 8 yards. J.P. Snelgrove came in to attempt a field goal. Another penalty, for delay of game, pushed the Red Devils back to the 30, and Snelgrove’s 47-yard attempt missed.
Union County (3-2, 2-2) took over and quickly took the lead.
In a 5-play, 80-yard drive, Union quarterback JaBryson Hunter hit KJ. McCluney for a 38-yard gain, Ke’Avis Savage rushed 13 yards to the 20, a Clinton penalty moved the ball to the 10 and two plays later, Savage, who rushed for 161 yards, scored his second touchdown with 2:43 remaining to give the Yellow Jackets the lead.
The Red Devils’ last gasp expired when Wilson’s 2nd-down pass from the Union 48 found the outstretched hands of the Yellow Jackets’ Willie Jeter.
Clinton didn’t get another chance. Savage gained 28 yards in four carries, making the Red Devils’ final two timeouts ineffectual.
Penalties were a crusher. Clinton committed nine for 151 yards. Union had one for 10.
“I thought we played hard,” Red Devil head coach Corey Fountain said. “Things didn’t go our way in the second half. We had some bad breaks, and we had some turnovers. You can’t turn the ball over against a good team. We just didn’t get it done.”
After trailing by a touchdown early, Clinton replied with a pair of scores to lead 14-7 at halftime. Kinard scored on an 11-yard run and Wilson added a 15-yarder.
Union tied the game in the third quarter and pulled ahead in the fourth, but Wilson sprinted 66 yards to pull the Red Devils even.
Then Clinton scored and it didn’t count, and the Yellow Jackets scored and it did.
“Our kids have been resilient all year,” Fountain said. “They got knocked down and got back up. They kept persevering. We just weren’t able to finish it out.
“When they took that score off the board, it was the back breaker. They (officials) were saying that the (Union) linebacker came from depth, but he was on the line of scrimmage and should have been considered a [defensive] lineman whether he was standing up or not. … That was just a tough call down there. It called back a score. There’s nothing we can do about that.”
Among other highlights were an acrobatic catch by Justin Copeland 26 yards, setting up the Red Devils’ first score, and punts of 40 and 48 yards by Snelgrove.
Next up is a home game against Strom Thurmond, followed, in the absence of a playoff game, by Laurens’ visit to Wilder Stadium on Nov. 13.
U – Ke’Avis Savage 3 run (Jay Sherbert kick) 4:52 1st
C – Shy Kinard 11 run (J.P. Snelgrove kick) 1:32 1st
C – Davis Wilson 15 run (Snelgrove kick) 4:36 2nd
U – K.J. McCluney 20 pass from JaBryson Hunter (Sherbert kick) 2:42 3rd
U – Desmond Herbert 35 pass from Hunter (Sherbert kick) 10:59 4th
C – Wilson 66 run (Snelgrove kick) 9:59 4th
U – Savage 8 run (Sherbert kick) 2:43 4th
Rushing: Clinton (38-252), Kinard 15-149, Wilson 9-85, Jykorie Gary 8-21; Union County (39-185), Savage 27-161, Hunter 12-24.
Passing: Clinton (5-14-1 148), Wilson 3-12-1 53, Austin Copeland 1-1-0 32, Kimon Quarles 1-1-0 63; Union County, Hunter 11-24-0 182.
Receiving: Clinton, Gary 2-77, Justin Copeland 2-58, C.J. Young 1-13; Union County, McCluney 4-112, Precott Lindsay 4-6, Herbert 2-56, Savage 1-8.