Published September 25, 2013
By THOMAS P. WEAVER, HORIZON Editor
GAINESBORO-Though the final 46-25 score may not reflect it, another hard-fought rivalry game played out here on the banks of the Cumberland River last Friday night as Clay County went toe to toe with a talented Jackson County (4-1) team in a barnburner of a conference matchup.
They may have came out on the losing end of the contest falling to 0-4 on the season, but a lack of effort was not to blame as the Bulldogs dug out of an early 14-0 hole to keep the game close until a fourth-quarter miscue handed the Blue Devils the final advantage they needed to put the contest away for good.
After an emotional goal-line stand, Clay County found themselves with the ball backed up inside their own one-yard-line down 33-25 with a quarter to play when disaster struck.
Instead of being down one score, the Blue Devil margin doubled with one snap of the football as Jackson County fell on a Bulldog fumble in the endzone.
The Blue Devils then crossed the stripe again on their next possession to account for the final 21-point margin.
“We get every ounce out of these guys,” head coach Chad Barger said. “I can walk away from Friday night feeling o.k. because we never rolled over.
“We fought back and got it to one score, stopped them on the goal line, and had the pressure on (Jackson County) at that point, but that play killed us.
“These guys left it all on the field and put themselves in the right situation to make a go at it, but after that play we were emotionally and physically spent and they tacked another one on to put the game away late.”
The game also took its toll on an already thin Bulldog lineup, as junior starting center Jordan Collins became the team’s latest casualty to go along with four other starters that have been sidelined so far this season.
He joins seniors Taylor and Tyler Strong and Chris Nagy, along with sophomore Tyson Flemming, on the injury list.
On a bright note, junior Mitchell Short returned to action against the Blue Devils playing well in limited snaps. He and fellow junior Latrone Bowman, along with sophomores Dalton Smith and Austin Goad, are expected to play in Friday night’s homecoming game with Red Boiling Springs.
“It will be good to have those guys back this week,” Barger said. “Hopefully they can help us get back on track and get our first win.
“The Red Boiling matchup has become a rivalry over the past few years and our kids are looking forward to it.”
Barger explained he would have to work hard to keep his team focused during homecoming week.
“It’s a necessary evil for a coach,” Barger said jokingly. “It does affect our routine and we will have to focus to be ready for the game, because I’m sure they are going to come in here ready to play.”
Not only would a win Friday night be the first for this year’s Bulldog team, Barger also said it could be a start to a good second half of the season.
“Being winless in the district is a tough spot to be in, but we’re still not completely out of it,” he said. “Five wins will probably be the magic number for a wildcard berth and that has now become our goal.”
Game time for the homecoming game Friday night is 7 p.m. and it can also be heard on 107.9 FM.
Jackson County came out fast going up 14-0 after their first two possessions, but Clay County responded on their second drive as feature-back Jayar Fraga got his game going with a 23-yard jaunt en route to more than breaking the 100-yard mark on the night, most of which came from a “wildcat” formation featuring the senior star.
The Dawgs got on the board on the next play as junior quarterback Brandon Stewart found tight end Wyatt Mabry for the first of his two touchdown catches from 57 yards out taking the score to 14-6 after a failed two-point pass.
Mabry finished the night with over 150 yards receiving, while his quarterback Stewart completed over 70% of his passes nearing the 200-yard plateau and throwing the pair of scores to the 6’5”/190-pound sophomore target.
Unfortunately Jackson County immediately answered Mabry’s first score by quarter’s end changing the scoreboard to 20-6 in Blue Devil favor.
Clay County’s next possession resulted in a Carl Ledbetter punt, but the Blue Devils were then turned away by a fourth-down stop at the Bulldog eight-yard-line.
From there, Clay County went to work and put together their best drive of the night to cut the margin back to a single score.
Jayar Fraga took a “wildcat” snap 51 yards downfield eluding tacklers as he skirted the sideline to convert the first third down, then Stewart found Mabry on a corner route for 30 more and another first down moving the ball deep into Blue Devil territory.
Thats when Matt Fraga took over catching a Stewart pass for nine yards and then racing across the stripe for a 12-yard touchdown run to cut the margin back to 20-12 after another failed conversion with just over two minutes remaining in the half.
Unfortunately, two minutes was more than enough for the Blue Devils as they drove 59 yards to paydirt before the halftime buzzer sounded taking the score to 26-12 at the break after another failed conversion.
Down a pair of scores, Clay County didn’t fold as they got the ball rolling again to open the third quarter.
Matt Fraga got it started with a good run and Jayar Fraga busted loose for another 17 yards, before hauling in a roll-out pass from Stewart setting the Bulldogs up inside the redzone.
The next play Stewart found his favorite target for another score. Mabry again beat the defender to the corner and pulled down his second touchdown on the night from 18 yards out. Baltazar Sebastian nailed the PAT and Clay County was back in striking distance, 26-19.
Jackson County again countered the Bulldog touchdown with one of their own eight plays later and also made the extra point to push their advantage back to 33-19, but the Bulldogs didn’t back down.
Two plays is all they needed to close the gap back to one score. Stewart found Mabry a fourth time for 31 yards and Jayar Fraga took another direct snap in for a 27-yard touchdown behind blocks from senior pulling lineman Ledbetter and Sloane Tiernan . The conversion again failed leaving the tally 33-25 with a quarter to play.
On the ensuing possession, Jackson County rang off eight more plays moving the ball inside the Clay County one-yard-line before the Bulldogs turned them away with the goal-line stand.
With the ball back and a score away from tying the game, the drama unfolded leading to the final margin.
After struggling to move the ball in their first three games, Clay County broke out of their slump running 33 plays covering a total of 327 yards in the game. Eight completions accounted for 192 yards through the air and 22 rushes for 135 yards made up the total. CCHS also picked up seven first downs in the game.
Jackson County countered the Bulldog attack with 461 yards of total offense and 22 first downs, with 273 of those yards coming on the ground. Six penalties cost the Bulldogs 30 yards on the night and they turned the ball over twice (INT, fumble), while the Blue Devils had four for 25 yards and no turnovers.
Jayar Fraga led his team in rushing with 138 yards and a touchdown on a dozen carries, his brother Matt picked up 18 yards on seven attempts and scored a touchdown, Harley Smith had one run for two yards, and Stewart carried twice for -4 yards.
Stewart did have a good night passing as he went eight for 11 for 192 yards, two TDs, and an interception.
Mabry was on the receiving end of both of Stewart’s touchdown tosses hauling in five receptions covering a whopping 157 yards, Jayar Fraga caught one for 23 yards, and Matt Fraga caught two for 12 yards.
Jayar Fraga was also the team’s leading tackler with 12. Short–who saw his first action of the season after returning from injury–had eight stops, while Matt Fraga and Matt Maxfield tallied seven tackles each. Mabry made five solos, while Stewart, Ledbetter, and Brandon Owens had 3.5 apiece. Clay Copass (3) and Smith (1) rounded out the tackle list against Jackson County.
On special teams, Ledbetter punted twice for 56 yards and Sebastian made his only PAT attempt of the game.
Historical numbers compiled by coach Daniel Strong from newspaper archives* show the Bulldogs have owned Red Boiling over the past 38 years, only loosing to the other Bulldog team three times since the series began back in 1974.
The all-time record between the adjoining-county teams is 35-3 in Clay County favor, with CCHS taking the last 11 meetings, including last year when the black and gold won 28-19.
Single-game statistical leaders against Red Boiling over the years include high rushers Gary Davis, Curt Cherry, and Ralph Andrews.
Davis shined against RBS two years in a row taking the rushing record against the team with 210 yards and five touchdowns in 1994 and also racking up 173 yards and three TDs the year prior in 1993.
Cherry ran for 178 yards against Red Boiling in 2011, while Andrews galloped for 171 yards in 1976.
Jimmy “Crank” Hull wasn’t far behind Davis on the touchdown list with four 10 years earlier in 1984, and he also made the list of backs crossing the goal-line three times against RBS in 1983, joining teammate Craig Ogletree who had three of his own in the same game, Davis (1993), Brian Burchett (1990), John Godwin (2004), Rodney Langford (1996), and Dewayne McLerran (1979).
Cherry holds the mark for the longest rushing touchdown against Red Boiling with a 95-yarder in his big game in 2011, while one of of Ogletree’s trio in 1983 also made the list covering 73 yards.
Ricky D. Barlow is the only Bulldog quarterback to pass for over 150 yards against RBS–throwing for 195 yards in 1977, and Corey Hamilton broke the receiving mark with 118 yards in 2010. He hauled in two touchdowns in the same game, tying Josh Cloutier (1995) for the receiver-scoring record.
Current player Jayar Fraga is the tackling leader against Red Boiling with 15 in 2012, while Al McLerran (1980), Kevin Watson (1984), Brian Plumlee (1995), and Corey Barlow (2004) all had a pair of interceptions to make that list. Jason “Narhead” Hamilton claimed the longest interception return record taking one back 55 yards 1986.
Davis also leads the special teams category against Red Boiling, claiming the top spot on the longest kick-off return TD list with a 90-yarder in 1992, but Dewayne Reecer was just a few yards shy of that mark in 1981 when he broke free for an 83-yard kick-off return touchdown.
Steven Arms sits atop the punt return touchdown list with a 60-yard return in 1988, while Barlow (54-yarder in 1977) and Mike Adams (50-yarder in 1991) also made the list.
*(most pre-1976 and 1996-2009 stats not yet available)
How they fared
Eight of Clay County’s nine other opponents this year again played in Week 4 and finished the weekend with a losing 3-5 record last week.
East Robertson (2-3), Monterey (2-3), and Lancaster Christian Academy (LCA) joined Jackson County (4-1) on the winners’ list.
The Indians beat Houston County (1-4) 14-13, the Wildcats downed Pickett County (1-4) 44-7, and LCA (4-0) knocked off Gordonsville (3-2) 58-35.
Losers included Red Boiling (1-4), Whitwell (1-4), Clinton County, KY (3-2), and Macon County (1-3).
RBS fell 41-7 to Watertown (1-4), Whitwell was blown out by South Pittsburg (4-1) by a score of 62-8, and the team from Albany, KY lost a close one (20-19) to Caverna, KY (1-4).
Clay County’s 10 opponents now have a losing 23-24 season record.