Published September 18, 2013
By THOMAS P. WEAVER, HORIZON Editor
GAINESBORO-If there’s one way to put a 55-6 beatdown and an 0-3 start behind you, it’s going on the road this Friday night and knocking off what has historically been one of your most heated rivals throughout history–a feat that would also give you a pretty good shot at making the postseason.
That’s what Clay County head coach Chad Barger and his bulldogs are working towards this week after getting stung by a superior top-10-ranked Upperman Bee team in Celina last Friday night as they prep for their upcoming conference battle here at down-river rival Jackson County (3-1).
“This is a process for us–we can’t take our eye off the prize right now even though we lost a little bit of our fire with the injuries and other adversity we’ve been through so far this season,” Barger said Monday. “I don’t want to say this game is our season, but it’s huge as far as playoff implications go. Our guys know that and know how much this rivalry means.
“This is a big game for us and this group won’t just shut down and I’m proud of them for the way they’ve handled the adversity so far. They don’t accept losing and I think they are looking forward to getting us back in the playoff hunt Friday night.”
As a part of the newly formed District 7-A, a Bulldog win this week and one over Pickett County later in the season are a must for the team to get an automatic bid to the playoffs.
Barger said his team deserved a “signature win” after “going through what they’ve gone through” so far this season.
“We lost four starters last Friday night on top of the injuries we already had,” the coach explained. “The fact these kids still go out there and give it their all after going through that is a testament to their character.
“A win down there would be huge for them and they deserve it.”
To add fuel to the fire, the Blue Devils’ scheduled the Bulldogs for their homecoming game this Friday night.
“Don’t think I’m not going to use that as motivation this week,” Barger said with a smile. “We know we’re the underdog going in and that they are a good team, but I feel like we’ve got a good shot because of this team’s resiliency.
“It should be a good one.”
Gametime here in Jackson County is 7 p.m.
Upperman showed why they are ranked in the Class AAA Tennessee Associated Press top 10 as they dominated Clay County scoring on eight out of 10 of their possessions in the game.
“They are the best team we’ll see this year,” Barger said. “I felt like overall the kids played hard, I was just hoping not to be so beat up coming out of it.”
The coach said seniors Taylor Strong and Chris Nagy, along with junior Latrone Bowman and sophomore Dalton Smith, went down in the game and were not expected to play this week.
“We will probably dress just over 20 guys this week,” Barger said. “Number-wise, that makes it tough.”
The Bees got off to a quick start taking a 7-0 lead on their first drive and the Bulldogs had no answer going three-and-out on their first possession, but they did show some toughness when Upperman made their second advance.
After getting the Bees into a fourth-and-long situation, a botched punt handed Clay County the gift they were looking for–the ball on the Upperman 21-yard-line.
“We had our shot early, but we didn’t take advantage,” Barger said.
Senior Jayar Fraga had two quick-hitters setting up a big fourth-down with two yards to go and junior quarterback Brandon Stewart kept it for the conversion down to the 11-yard-line.
There, the Bees stuffed the Dawgs on three straight plays and kicker Baltazar Sebastian came on to try his first field goal. With the holder Nagy out, Sebastian missed his mark and the Upperman rout was on.
The Bees scored on their next five possessions to take a 42-0 halftime lead.
Fraga gave Clay County a bit of a spark to open the second half as he returned the kick-off 67 yards eluding tacklers and scatting down to the Upperman 30-yard-line, but a Stewart interception quickly ended the threat.
The Bees then pushed their margin to 55-0 on their next two drives.
Late in the fourth quarter the Dawgs did get on the board as Stewart found sophomore tight end Wyatt Mabry in the endzone from 27 yards out, but a failed PAT left the final score 55-6.
Clay County ran 41 plays covering a total of 52 yards in the game. Five completions accounted for 74 yards through the air, but a negative (-22 yds) rushing total cut the final tally. CCHS did notch eight first downs in the game.
The powerful Upperman attack racked up 449 yards of total offense and 19 first downs, with 349 of those yards coming on the ground. Three penalties cost the Bulldogs 15 yards on the night and they turned the ball over twice (INT, fumble), while the Bees had eight for 80 yards and no turnovers.
Stewart was responsible for the Dawgs’ only positive yards going 5 for 14 for the 74 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
He found Clay Copass twice for a total of 31 yards, Latrone Bowman for a pair covering 16 yards, and Mabry for the 27-yard touchdown.
Stewart also had eight carries for 4 yards, Jayar Fraga had six for three yards, Harley Smith ran twice for five yards, Chris Nagy had one for two yards, Matt Fraga rushed five times for -3 yards, and Bowman carried twice for no gain.
Jayar Fraga led the Bulldog defense with 8.5 solo tackles, Dalton Smith had 4.5, and Matt Fraga made four stops. Stewart and Nagy had three each, while Mabry made two. Getting on the board with a tackle were Smith, Bowman, Copass, Jordan Collins, Matt Maxfield, Heagan Caldwell, Noah Caldwell, D.J. Laureigh, Carl Ledbetter, and Austin Goad.
On specials teams Ledbetter punted five times for 155 yards (31 avg), Jayar Fraga returned five kick-offs for 198 yards (39.6 avg), and Baltazar Sebastian went 0-2 missing both a PAT and a field goal.
Historical numbers compiled by coach Daniel Strong from newspaper archives* show the Bulldogs have fared well against Jackson County in the past, only loosing to the Blue Devils 18 times in 57 meetings.
The series record between the teams is 38-18-1 in Bulldog favor, but Clay County has lost the last four contests to JCHS, including last year when the Dawgs were blown out by their down-river rivals 42-0.
Single-game statistical leaders against Jackson County over the years include high rushers Jimmy “Crank” Hull, Junior WIx, Curt Cherry, and Gary Davis.
Hull had a huge game against the Blue Devils in 1983 rushing for 204 yards, scoring 3 touchdowns, and tying Rodney Langford (1996) for the longest TD run against the team when he broke an 80-yarder in the same contest.
Wix wasn’t far behind with 179 yards in 1978, Cherry ran for 152 in 2011, and Davis busted loose for 151 and three touchdowns in 1994. Craig Ogletree tied both Hull and Davis for the TD-mark with three of his own against JCHS in 1985.
Michael Adams (164 yards in 1991) is the only Bulldog quarterback in history to break the 100-yard mark through the air against the Blue Devils, but Gary Eads (1980) did throw for three touchdowns to claim that record. Darryl Reecer holds the scoring mark for receivers against Jackson County with a pair of touchdowns in 1980.
Quarterback Jon Weaver arguably had the best all-around game in history versus JCHS by taking the longest passing touchdown record with a 73-yard hookup with Josh Cloutier, notching the longest (85 yds) kickoff return for a touchdown, and tying the mark (65 yds) for the longest punt return touchdown with Ricky D. Barlow (1977)–all in the same game in 1996 en route to destroying the Blue Devils that year.
On the defensive side, in 1970 Dale Beaty dominated Jackson County with 20 tackles and John Tom Buford had 16 stops in 1978, while Billy “Teakettle” Smith picked off two passes in the 1980 game with the Blue Devils.
*(most pre-1976 and 1996-2009 stats not yet available)
How they fared
Eight of Clay County’s nine other opponents this year played in Week 3 and finished the weekend with an unimpressive 2-6 record last week.
Lancaster Christian Academy (LCA) and Clinton County, KY (CCHS) were the only two victors. LCA (3-0) knocked off Houston County (1-3) by a score of 40-29, while the other CCHS (1-2) blew out Jenkins High, KY (1-2) 46-6.
Conference foes Jackson County (3-1), Monterey (1-3), and Pickett County (1-3) all suffered defeat. The Blue Devils lost a shootout to Oliver Springs (3-1) 38-35, the Wildcats fell to Gordonsville (3-1) 34-18, and the Bobcats got blasted 35-0 by Stone Memorial (3-1).
East Robertson (1-3) lost to Harpeth High (4-0) 26-21, Red Boiling Springs (1-3) fell to Cannon County (1-2) 28-25, and Whitwell (1-3) dropped their matchup with Harriman (2-2) 27-18 to round out the defeated list.
Macon County (1-2) had the week off.
Clay County’s 10 opponents now have a perfectly even .500 combined record of 19-19 on the season.