Clinton opened the 2015 football campaign by returning to Southwest Onslow for a rematch of last year’s 2-A Eastern Finals. The Stallions had hopes of avenging last years one-sided loss to Clinton and the Dark Horses were itching to get the season underway and answer the questions about how they would respond to the loss of so many seniors off last year’s squad.
Both teams started a little shaky with Southwest Onslow turning the ball over on their first possession, giving Clinton the ball at the Stallion 39 yard line. Clinton was unable to move the ball and turned it back over to the Stallions on downs. The Stallion offense took over and seemed to be gaining some traction, moving the ball across midfield until Kavon Dessus stepped in front of a Southwest pass and took it back to the Clinton 40 yard line.
The Dark Horses methodically marched the ball down field on fine runs by Rayquan Faison and Tyion Wright, with quarterback Kris Williams carrying the ball over the goal line for Clinton’s first score at the 3:10 mark of the first quarter. The PAT attempt failed on a botched snap, leaving Clinton with a 6-0 lead.
The scoring drive did not come without costs for the Dark Horses as Kavon Dessus left the game with a leg injury sustained on his interception, and fullback Rayquan Faison was carried off after injuring his knee on a run that pushed the ball inside the Stallion’s two yard line. Dessus would later return for a few plays in the first half, but both players spent the majority of the game on the sideline.
The Dark Horse defense continued to shut down the Stallions forcing a couple of punts, improving field position with each kick. The Horses’ next score came midway through the second quarter, when on the first play after taking possession on a a punt at their own 37 yard line, Kris Williams tossed a screen pass to wideout Jeremiah Pope, who took the ball 63 yards up the Clinton sideline, out running several Stallion defenders on his way to the end zone.
Tyion Wright ran the two point conversion in to give Clinton a 14-0 lead with 6:41 remaining in the half.
The Horses were not ready to close up shop for the half as the defense held Southwest Onslow on a three and out, forcing a punt and giving the ball back to the Dark Horse offense.
Clinton wasted little time lighting up the scoreboard again when Emari Oates, took a handoff and scampered 55 yards for the third Dark Horse score. When Southwest Onslow was penalized on the PAT attempt Clinton opted to go for two. Ryheem Skinner ran off tackle taking out Southwest defender at the goal line to put the Horses up 22-0 at the 3:09 mark of the second quarter.
On Southwest Onslow’s ensuing possession the Clinton defense once again came up big, stopping the Stallions on three plays and forcing a punt with just over a minute to play. The Horses took over on their 26 yard line where they handed the ball to Ryheem Skinner who went on a weaving 73-yard run down to the Stallion’s 1 yard line. Skinner broke 8 tackles on the exciting play before being tripped up inside the five yard line.
Kris Williams ran the ball in from the 1-yard line with 49 seconds remaining to give Clinton a 28-0 lead and after a failed PAT kick. Clinton took the impressive 28-0 lead into the locker room after Southwest was content to run out the clock to end half.
Clinton’s Tyion Wright returned the opening kick of the second half back to the Dark Horse 45-yard line setting the offense up with good field position. The Horses efficiently moved the ball across midfield on several running plays. Ryheem Skinner exploded up the middle for a 30-yard touchdown run to cap off the 55 yard drive, giving Clinton the 35-0 lead at 9:26 in the third quarter after Chandler Perry’s successful PAT kick.
The two teams traded punts for most of the remainder of the quarter until Clinton turned the ball over to the Stallions on a busted play. The ball, mishandled on the handoff, rolled around on the ground, was picked up by a Dark Horse running back who was quickly stripped of the ball by a Stallion. The turnover set Southwest Onslow up at the Dark Horse 29 yard line giving them the best field position of the night.
Southwest drove the ball into the end zone capitalizing on the Dark Horse turnover, scoring the touchdown from a yard out on the first play of the fourth quarter making the score 35-7 with 11:57 remaining in the game. The Stallions seemed to draw life from their first score of the season as the defense forced a Clinton punt on the next possession. The Southwest returner took the punt down the sideline for 46 yards setting the Stallions up first and ten at the Dark Horse 20-yard line.
The Stallions were however unable to take advantage of the short field as the Dark Horse defense made a goal line stand, stopping Southwest at the one yard line on fourth and goal. The stop effectively put an end to any hopes the Stallions had for mounting a comeback. The Horses took over and ground out several first downs to run out the clock and take home their first win, by a comfortable 35-7 margin.
After the game, Clinton coach Bob Lewis praised his team’s composure early in the game saying, “we lost two guys early in the game, probably in the first 10 plays, and things were looking a little shaky. A couple of guys stepped up for us and played big tonight. Emari Oates had a nice run for us and Skinner carried us again with 229 yards and a score. It is a good win for us, a good start.”
Clinton racked up 427 yards of total offense with 368 of those yards coming on the ground. Ryheem Skinner led the Clinton attack with 229 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 touches. Emari Oates had 6 carries for 80 yards and one score, Kris Williams added 21 yards on 8 carries with two touchdowns and Rayquan Faison had 4 carries for 14 tough yards before leaving the game with an injury. Kris Williams was 2 for 4 passing the football for 59 yards. Jeremiah Pope caught one pass for 63 yards and a touchdown, Ryheem Skinner had a catch for negative 4 yards.
Defensively, A. J. Williamson led the charge for Clinton with 14 tackles with Herbert Farrior adding 9 stops. Isaiah Page had 8 tackles and recovered a fumble for the Horses. Albert Deaver recovered a fumble and Kavon Dessus had a pass interception. The Dark Horse defensive unit held the Stallions to 151 yards of offense and limited them to only one score.
The win over Southwest Onslow gets the Horses out of the gates at 1-0 on the young season. Clinton will play host to Smithfield-Selma next Friday at 7:30.