Fresh start for Bulldog football kicked off last Friday night at rival Jackson County

By THOMAS P. WEAVER
HORIZON Editor
Clay County High School Football team, coaches, and cheer squad

Clay County High School Football team, coaches, and cheer squad

GAINESBORO-With a new head coach, a new schedule, and several new players, the Clay County High School football team is set to make a fresh start here at downriver rival Jackson County this Friday night at 7 p.m.

With first-year head coach Matt Bates at the reins since spring, the Dawgs have shown some promise in the preseason and the former Stone Memorial High School offensive coordinator showed his excitement about his new team’s debut this week.

“I like where we’re at as a team and we will be ready Friday night,” he said.  “I’m excited to get going, the players are excited, and the school is excited—it should be a fun night.

“A lot is at stake this year.  I’ve promised the seniors something special, not if we win, but when we win.”

Bates already understands what the rivalry with the Blue Devils means and has used it as motivation for his team.

“They’ve been reminded of it,” he said of the nine-game losing streak the Dawgs have to Jackson County.  “I told the guys they are responsible for ending it and starting a new streak—somebody’s gotta end it, why not them.”

He also said a victory bell has been constructed to be passed back and forth between the schools, depending on who came out on top; and explained Friday night would be a “white-out” with the Dawgs wearing all white uniforms and fans wearing white shirts the team has for sale featuring the rivalry.

“With all of that and the fact we match up with them pretty well, I like our chances,” Bates said.  “I’m nervous, because we don’t have much to go on film-wise, but we are going to be who we are, coach us, and be good at what we do.

“We will make adjustments and we will play a chess and checkers game on Friday night.  Whoever makes the best moves is going to win this thing.  It’s going to be fun.”

Defense

Bates said his 50-scheme defense, along with the entire team, is led by senior inside linebacker Dylan Maxfield and explained his experience, along with that of eight other seniors, would be key Friday night.

“He leads by example and the entire team feeds off him,” he said.  “All of our seniors are so unselfish and just want to win.”

Maxfield is joined in the linebacking corps by classmate James Short, but he may not be available Friday night due to injury.  If not, sophomore Will Ogletree will start.

Up front, the Dawgs are led by senior tackle Eli Watson, along with sophomore Wesley Huff (T) and freshman John Copeland (NG) as starters.  Seniors Joseph Short and Cole Pennington, along with juniors Derek Beckner and Alex Combs, will back them up.

Bookending the line will be starting ends Hayden Cherry and Zach Strong—who are both juniors, while first-year players Seth Ogletree (Senior) and B.J. Emberton (Junior) will both start at safety.

Juniors Jared Marcom and Clark Donaldson will play corner, along with reserve defensive backs Gabe Henson (Junior), Matt Jacoby (Senior), and Bryson Burchett (Freshman).

Offense

Bate’s wing-T attack will be orchestrated by new sophomore starting quarterback Jake Ashlock, who won the job over senior Seth Mackey.

Ashlock will be joined in the backfield by fullback Will Ogletree and wings Seth Ogletree and Marcom.  Mackey, Henson, and Jacoby will also see action there.

Outside, Emberton will be the lone wideout, while Cherry will hold down the tight end position.  In a multiple receiver set, Seth Ogetree, along with a mix of Henson and sophomore Wyatt Burks, will move out on the perimeter.  Junior Kamden Boles is the backup tight end.

The offensive line is anchored by Maxfield at right tackle, while Joseph Short starts at center, and Watson at one guard.  The other guard will be a combo of Combs and James Short, and the other tackle will be played by both Strong and Beckner.  Senior Joseph Jolin will also see time up front.

New schedule

With the recent TSSAA realignment, the Bulldogs are no longer a part of the what many described as the toughest Class A region in the state, but they still have to face the new Region 4-A “Big Three” of Gordonsville, Jo Byrns, and Monterey—who were Murphy Fair’s top three preseason picks.

The Dawgs were picked to finish fourth over Red Boiling Springs, who they will face as their first conference opponent next week at home (August 25).

Republic—who Clay County plays third on September 1 in Celina, and Pickett County round out the seven-team region.

On September 8 the Dawgs travel to Mt. Juliet Christian, before returning home on September 15 to face region foe Monterey.  They then hit the road for East Robertson (Sept. 22), host Jo Byrns on September 29, and play Sale Creek at home on October 5, before enjoying a bye week during fall break.

They end the regular season with a two game stretch of Pickett County away (Oct. 20) and Gordonsville at home on October 27.

Playoffs

In order for Clay County to make the postseason, they have to finish where they were picked by Fair—in the top four of the region.

“If we can win the first region game I like them,” Bates said when asked how he felt about his chances of making the playoffs, ”and if we can win the second region game I really like our chances.

“You need to win four to feel great and if you win three your probably in.”

Gametime at Jackson County is 7 p.m.  See next week for full results, along with news about the Celina Junior High Bulldog team.