The Clinton Dark Horses took a tough loss to end the regular season, losing big at home Friday night, 41-21. They were yet another victim for the conference champions East Duplin Panthers.
Not only did the Panthers claim the conference title, they also finished the regular season blemish-free, remaining an undefeated 11-0 overall and 6-0 in conference play.
The first quarter was all East Duplin, putting up 14 unanswered points to get the early lead in this contest. The rushing attack led the way for the Panthers with Clinton barely able to contain them. Both touchdowns came from the ground, one early in the first and one toward the end.
They would strike first at 8:23 left in the first quarter on a big run right up the middle for the go-ahead score. The second came with 1:14 left in the quarter, this time on a goal line carry. Both extra points were good and the Panthers controlled the game with a 14-0 lead.
Clinton showed some life at the start of second quarter on their first drive, putting their own points on the board. Kris Williams connected with Zion Autry on a long touchdown pass less than two minutes in at 10:52. Chandler Perry tacked on the PAT and the Horses came within one score at 14-7.
The Panthers dominated from this point on, scoring twice more before halftime — once on the ground and the other through the air. The rushing touchdown came at 2:42 on yet another huge carry for chunks of yards, however the PAT failed, bouncing off the goalpost.
A huge penalty turned costly for the Horses in the final minute of the half, with an unsportsmanlike penalty called that set East Duplin up on the Horses’ side of the field. With decent field position, the Panthers opted to try and extend the lead going into halftime.
With 25.3 seconds left, they found the end zone again on a deep pass. A successful two-point play brought the score to 28-7 to end the half.
There would be no grand comeback for the Horses, as East Duplin ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown to start the second half. The extra point made it 35-7.
The rest of the second half was quiet for both teams. The Panthers would score again on a goal line run, missing the extra point to leave the margin at 41-7. Knowlydge Evans managed to score two rushing touchdowns for Clinton, both on goal line runs later in the fourth — the first with 4:48 left and the second at 2:31 — narrowing the final margin a bit.
A late East Duplin touchdown was negated on a holding call for the 41-21 final.
The Dark Horses ended the regular season 5-5 overall and 4-2 in the conference. They now wait to see whether they will make the playoffs.
Reach Michael Hardison at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @SampsonInd.