New-look Dawgs dominate Blue Devils 32-7

1st-year players help secure first win over JC in 9 yrs.

By THOMAS P. WEAVERHORIZON Editor

GAINESBORO-The drought is over and Bulldog football is back!

Not only did Clay County beat arch-rival Jackson County for the first time in almost a decade, but they did it with a 32-7 domination of the Blue Devils for all to see—inspiring the entire Bulldog Nation.

“It was a huge statement game,” new CCHS head coach Matt Bates said.  “People knew we would be better, but I don’t think they knew how much better.

“It was a big validation for what we are trying to do.  I think the kids believed in what we were doing, but I think the community was a little skeptical, and there was no reason for them not to be, but I think we proved it Friday night.”

Though it was only one game, the statement the Dawgs made here on the banks of the Cumberland River last Friday night was one for the ages.

“I’m proud for our kids, the school, and the community to finally get that win,” Bates said.  “It’s a win they’ve needed for several years now and we finally got em!

“That’s what rivalries are all about, I was speechless when it was over, I really was.”

First-timers

Though Clay County’s roster sports nine seniors, it was first-year players Bate’s encouraged to join his team who really made an impact, and it wasn’t just one.

Senior Seth Ogletree—who arguably had the biggest overall game, sophomore starting quarterback Jake Ashlock, and freshman nose guard John Copeland, all of which were not with the team a year ago, helped secure the Dawgs’ first win over Jackson County in nine years.

Ogletree was not only the team’s leading rusher (12/65 yds/TD), but he also caught a one-handed 65-yard touchdown, snared a huge interception, and came up from his safety position to make multiple tackles—all in his first-ever football game at any level.

“He had never played a down of football,” Bates said of Ogletree—who is a veteran of the CCHS basketball program.  “He changed the game Friday night.  He, himself, changed the game.

“He did it all and I’m just blessed to have that type of kid on my team.”

Ashlock, who did start behind center his eighth-grade year—but didn’t play as a freshman, had possibly the best debut ever by a Bulldog quarterback.

He jumped into the record books with one of the greatest performances on record against Jackson County, completing six of 11 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions.

“He’s a special kid,” Bates said of his signal-caller.  “To start your career by breaking records and he was so calm, cool, and composed.

“That’s special.”

Then on the defensive side, Copeland dominated.  In his first varsity start, he tallied a safety, two sacks, a tackle for loss, and made a living in Jackson County’s backfield.

“He’s a wrecking ball,” Bates said.  “He’s just John.  He’s got speed, he’s strong, and he’s gritty.”

Add in another huge night from senior middle linebacker Dylan Maxfield, and the Dawg defense completely shut down Jackson County’s offense, holding them to a meager total of nine yards rushing.

“He had some nasty hits, too,” Bates said.  “He set the tone for us on that side of the ball.”

Quick start

Junior end Hayden Cherry also had a big night on both sides of the ball, with a pair of interceptions and the same number of touchdown catches from Ashlock.

He first found the end zone from 19 yards out midway through the first quarter after Ogeltree put Clay County in striking distance with a 32-yard run—giving the Dawgs the quick start they were looking for.

“The first score was huge,” Bates said.  “It set the tone for the rest of the game.

“I think they started to lose their composure a little bit after that.”

Junior Jared Marcom, who controlled the tempo with a good night on the ground (13/45 yds.), added the two-point conversion and the Dawgs were off and running 8-0.

Cherry got his first interception on the ensuing Jackson County possession, but a field position battle ensued as the teams traded punts.

Clay County then gained traction with a sustained drive in the second quarter, highlighted by a senior Matt Jacoby 19-yard run and Ashlock finding sophomore fullback Will Ogletree out of the backfield for 17 more yards.

Ogletree then pounded ahead positioning his team for the score at the two-yard-line, but Ashlock coughed up the ball going in on a quarterback sneak.

Undeterred, Copeland gave Clay County the spark they needed when he fell on a loose ball in the end zone for a safety to make it 10-0 with 3:38 remaining in the half.

“We needed something and he gave it to us,” Bates said of Copeland.  “It was a heck of a play and started to break their will early.”

After the free kick, Clay County began another march—which ended with Ashlock lofting a perfect pass down the seam to Cherry for his second score.  This time it was for 39 yards and Will Ogletree ran in the conversion, changing the scoreboard to 18-0 with 32 seconds left before the break.

“That was the score that sent them into the half beat down and the first time in the game where I felt like we had a good chance to win it,” Bates said.

The third quarter began with a Maxfield forced fumble, recovered by senior defensive end Zach Strong—but the Clay County drive stalled and coach Bates took a gamble.

“I’ll take full responsibility for that,” the coach said of the botched punt fake.

Poor execution led to junior Gabe Henson being stopped short of the first down and the Blue Devils took advantage by scoring their only touchdown a few plays later to make it 18-7.

The Dawgs went on to answer, as Ashlock laid it out there, Seth Ogletree pulled an Odell Beckham Jr., snatched the ball out of the air with one hand, and raced 65 yards to paydirt.

“Jake may have threw it six inches too far, but he’s just an athlete making a play,” Bates said of Ogletree, “and you’re not going to catch him.”

The highlight-reel catch, paired with an Ashlock sneak for two, took the tally to 26-8 in Bulldog favor heading into the fourth quarter, before Ogeltree added an exclamation point.

With Jackson County driving, he picked off a Blue Devil pass in the end zone and returned it 70 yards.  Four plays later, Ogletree crossed the stripe from 10 yards out to account for the final margin.

“That was the dagger that ended it,” Bates said.  “I knew we needed one more to put the final nail in their coffin and kinda break their spirits and we did.”

Bulldog battle

Clay County hosts their first region game this Friday night versus neighboring-county rival Red Boiling Springs (RBS), but Bates doesn’t want his players to get caught up in the “Battle of the Bulldogs.”

“Our goal is to be 1-0 this week, forget last week, and don’t worry about next week,” he said.  “If we get out of here Friday night at 1-0, we’ve done our job.  That’s all that matters.”

RBS has a three-game win-streak over the Dawgs and Bates said that is another drought he would like for his team to break.

“It’s a region game and that’s what matters to us,” he said.  “This is step #1 to get to the playoffs.  It’s a big game.

“We win and we are well on our way to going where we need to go.”

Bates said RBS was a similar team to his own, running the wing-T and a 50 defense.

“They are similar to us, but if we protect the football and get turnovers again like we did Friday night, I think we will take care of business,” he explained.

The coach also said he was hoping for a big crowd.

“I hope its packed out,” he said of Joe Neal Eads Stadium in Celina.  “The kids deserve it and, after beating Jackson County, and doing it the way we did, we need the place filled to the rim and rocking.”

The game will also be a “black-out,” with the team wearing all black and fans encouraged to follow suit.

Game time is 7 p.m. and pregame on the Horizon Sports Network will begin at 6:15 p.m.  Visit www.dalehollowhorizon.com to listen live.

Stats

Offensively, Clay County racked up 331 yards on 52 plays, 147 of which came on the ground and 184 through the air off Ashlock’s arm (3 TDs).  Jackson County only mustered 107 total yards, 9 on the ground and 98 passing.

Seth Ogletree was the leading rusher (12/65 yds/TD), Marcom (13/45 yds.), Jacoby (3/29), Will Ogletree (5/16), Henson (1/1), Seth Mackey (1/0), Clark Donaldson (1(-1)), and Ashlock (5(-8)).

Seth Ogletree caught the one 65-yard TD, Will Ogletree had three catches for 61 yards, and Cherry had the two TD catches for 58 yards.

Defensively, Maxfield was the leading solo tackler with 9 (FF), Will Ogletree 5, Cherry 3 (2 INTs), Marcom 2, Joseph Jolin 2, Eli Watson 2, Copeland 1(2 sacks, safety), Seth Ogeltree 1 (INT).