Bulldogs look to overcome offensive woes heading into first conference battle at TTU; CCHS drops opener to East Robertson 14-0
Published September 4, 2013
By THOMAS P. WEAVER, HORIZON Editor
COOKEVILLE-Clay County head coach Chad Barger is hoping his team can shake off their opening 14-0 loss to East Robertson last Friday night as they travel to the campus of Tennessee Tech University (TTU) this week to face Monterey here on Overall Field in their first District 7-A matchup of the year.
“Losing the first one was definitely disappointing,” Barger said Monday as he laid out scouting reports in front of each player’s locker in the Russell Richardson Doghouse Tuesday afternoon before practice, “but we’ve got to put it behind us and get ready for our first district game Friday night.
“It’s always one of the biggest games of the year and I think this team is looking forward to it, especially at this venue.”
TTU’s Tucker Stadium will be the site of all of the Wildcats’ home games this season since the school is awaiting a new building/campus and Barger believes playing at such a place will not be a factor for his team.
“We are approaching it like any regular road game,” the coach said. “It’s a great opportunity for us because nobody expects us to win and we are using that for motivation to go out and win on the big stage.”
In order for the Dawgs to do so, they will have to figure out a way to move the ball against the Wildcats–a feat they struggled mightily with in their opener.
Despite holding East Robertson to just a pair of scores, the Bulldog offense was shut out, only mustering an offensive total well shy of the 200-yard mark.
“We played well enough defensively to win the game,” Barger said, “but we just couldn’t get anything going offensively.”
Senior feature back Jayar Fraga was held to a total of nine yards rushing on the night after producing the lion’s share of the Dawgs’ ground attack last season.
“Our power wasn’t working and we just couldn’t get a push going to bust him loose,” Barger said. “We ended up trying to get the ball to him out in space in order to get him some touches, but it wasn’t enough.”
His brother Matt finished as the leading rusher on the night and the leading tackler on the defensive side of the ball.
“Matt is as tough as they come,” Barger said. “He’s hard-nosed and we ended up leaning on him Friday night and will a lot more as the year goes on.”
One bright spot in Clay County’s attack came at the quarterback position. Junior Brandon Stewart, who had been alternating at the position with senior Chris Nagy, won the starting job going 10 for 13 on the night for just under 100 yards.
“He threw the ball well,” Barger said of his new signal-caller. “He will be the starter this week and probably for the rest of the year.”
The coach said the move will also improve his offense in other ways.
“With Stewart under center, we can move Nagy around and give us some different looks,” he said. “He’s a good athlete and we want to get him the ball on the edge when we can.”
Clay County began the East Robertson game in the hole as they watched the Indians take the opening kickoff and drive nine plays to paydirt. After a made extra point, the Dawgs were down 7-0 as quickly as the game began.
“Going in we knew we had to tackle and we didn’t do it on that opening drive,” Barger said. “That put us in a hole right off the bat.”
CCHS started their first drive with a bang as Jayar Fraga burst for a quick nine-yard gain, but a penalty stalled the advance and resulted in the first of two consecutive punts.
The Bulldog defense did their job the rest of the first half, but two more Clay County drives also left the team empty handed.
Matt Fraga kept the first one alive with a 14-yard third-down scamper and his brother then hauled in a pass from Stewart securing the next first down, but after converting a fourth-down try on another pass to Jayar Fraga from Nagy, the drive stalled at the Indian 13-yard-line as Clay County turned it over on downs to end the threat.
The Bulldogs again bowed up on East Robertson forcing a three-and-out and giving the Clay County offense another shot before the half.
Stewart ran for 10 yards and then found sophomore wideout Wyatt Mabry on a corner route for 25 more taking the ball back to the Indian 13-yard-line, but time ran out before the Dawgs could find the endzone leaving them down 7-0 at the break.
Matt Fraga opened the third quarter with another 14-yard gain, but again the CCHS attack bogged down and had to punt.
The Indians then put together a string of plays deep into Bulldog territory and threatened to score again before senior Harley Smith picked off an East Robertson pass, but Clay County’s offensive woes continued as another three-and-out possession gave the ball back to their opponent.
Unfortunately for Bulldog fans, this time they took advantage as the Indians marched down the field on nine straight rushes to put the game away.
“The were a lot bigger than us up front and they wore us down,” Barger said. “The writing was pretty much on the wall at that point.”
The Bulldogs did make another effort as Stewart hit Nagy for 13 yards and Mabry again for 28, but an interception on a desperation heave closed the books on Clay County’s first game as the fell 14-0.
“We looked at it as a game we could win,” Barger said when thinking about the loss this week. “Overall we didn’t play bad… we just didn’t execute on offense.
“When you give up seven points in three and a half quarters you should win the game.”
Barger said he was working on adapting his offense this week in order to make it more successful.
“We are going to open it up some and see what happens,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to move the ball if we are going to go down there and beat Monterey.”
The coach explained his group of seniors had never enjoyed such an accomplishment.
“Our seniors have never beaten them,” Barger said. “We want to change that.”
The game kicks off Friday night at Tucker Stadium at 7 p.m.
Clay County ran 40 plays covering a total of 168 yards in the game, with 63 coming from 26 rushes and 105 coming through the air on 11 completions, while East Robertson racked up a total of 227 yards. The Bulldogs only had one penalty for 15 yards and one turnover on the night.
Stewart was 10 of 13 for 95 yards and an interception, while Nagy was perfect on the night with a completion for 10 yards.
Mabry was the leading receiver with three catches for 50 yards, while Jayar Fraga (5-30 yds), Nagy (1-13 yds), Clay Copass (1-9 yds), and Matt Fraga (1-5 yds) accounted for the rest of the yards through the air.
Matt Fraga was the leading rusher with 49 yards on seven carries and his brother Jayar ran 10 times for nine yards. Other ball carriers included Latrone Bowman (3-7 yds), Nagy (2-4 yds), Harley Smith (1-1 yd), and Stewart (3-(-7)yds).
Defensively, Matt Fraga was the leading tackler with 7.5, Jayar Fraga had 7, and three others (Nagy, Mabry, and Dalton Smith) had 5 each. Six others got on the board, including Harley Smith (2, INT), Bowman (1), Jordan Collins (1, fumble recovery), Carl Ledbetter (1), Brandon Owens (1), and Copass (.5).
Historical numbers compiled by coach Daniel Strong from newspaper archives* show the Bulldogs have dominated Monterey in the past boasting a 44-20-2 all-time record against them, despite their recent three-game losing streak to the Wildcats.
The 66-game series dates back to as early as 1937 and Clay County (CCHS) or the former Celina High School (CHS) has played Monterey every year since 1958 making Friday night’s matchup the 55th straight.
History shows the Bulldogs have stifled the Wildcat offense several times including pitching 23 shutouts in the past, but they have also had their way with the ball in their hands.
All-time CHS leading rusher Gary Davis racked up 276 yards and 4 TDs in 1993 to claim the top performance by a Bulldog rusher against the team, while Craig Ogletree wasn’t far behind in 1984 with 183 yards and 4 TDs. Current coach and former Bulldog quarterback Daniel Strong is the holder of the record for the longest rushing touchdown (90 yds in 1999)) against the Wildcats.
Other Bulldog signal-callers also had big games over the years against Monterey, including Roger Short back in 1976 who had the biggest. He threw for 265 yards and 4 TDs and receiver William Collins hauled in right at half of that total (132 yds, 2 TDs), putting himself at the top of the receiving list. Johnny “Booger” McLerran also benefited from Short’s big night racking up 129 yards receiving in the same game.
Three other quarterbacks fared well against the Wildcats in the past. Alex McLerran in 2012 (230 yds), Steven Arms in 1987 (192 yds), and Thomas Weaver in 1992 (173 yds), but the longest touchdown pass didn’t come off the arm of any of them. Jon Weaver hooked up with Kevin Rich in 1994 for a 76-yard TD to claim that record.
Two names mentioned last week for their historical efforts against East Robertson also made waves against Monterey on the defensive side of the ball in the past. Kenny Garrett had the most tackles (18 in 1987) against the Wildcats and Ricky Barlow picked off a pair of passes against them in 1977, but Bobby “Toopy” Kerr topped that in 1988 to take the record with a trio of interceptions.
Other defensive highlights against Monterey came from James Bartlett (15 tackles in 1978), Stevie Key (15 tackles in 1987), Ronnie Buford (13 tackles in 1976), William Meadows (13 tackles in 2011), Brian Burchett with the longest interception return (80 yds) in 1989, Brian Halsell with the most sacks (3) in 1984, and Neal Bartlett with the longest kick-off return (85 yds) in 1978.
*(pre-1976 and 1996-2009 stats not yet available)
How they fared
All of the Dawgs’ nine other upcoming opponents had Week 1 match-ups and they combined for a 5-4 record last week.
Upperman (2-0), Jackson County (2-0), Red Boiling (1-1), Lancaster Christian Academy (LCA) (1-0), and Clinton County, KY (1-1) came out victorious, while Monterey (0-2), Pickett County (1-1), Whitwell (1-1), and Macon County (0-2) suffered losses like the Bulldogs.
The Bees blew out the Wildcats 57-16, the Blue Devils blanked Cannon County (0-2) 36-0, RBS beat Sale Creek (0-2) 47-6, LCA outlasted Jo Byrns (0-1) 38-36, and the team from Albany dropped Trimble County, KY (0-2) 13-6.
The Bobcats fell to Oakdale (2-0) 32-6, Whitwell lost a 53-50 barnburner to Midway (2-0), and Macon fell to Westmoreland (2-0) 29-12.
The nine teams are a combined 9-8 heading into Week 2.