Clinton advanced to the third round of the NCHSAA 2-AA playoffs with a win over Wilson Beddingfield this past Friday night. The old adage, “be careful what you ask for”, may be very appropriate for the Dark Horses this week as they draw a very good fourth round foe in High Point T.W. Andrews.
The Dark Horses will have their work cut out for them as hit the road for the first time in this year’s playoffs. The Horses will be looking for the inside track to an upset bid over the number one seeded Red Raiders.
T.W. Andrews is the champion of the PAC-6 2-A conference and comes into Friday’s match-up with a 12-1 overall record including a 5-0 conference mark. Andrews boasts a powerful running attack on offense averaging 331 yards per game on the ground and a stingy defense that has allowed just under 9 points per game on average. The Red Raider’s lone loss of the season came in their opener against 4-A Southwest Guilford, a 28-21 loss.
Offensively the Red Raiders have five players that have rushed for over 450 yards on the season. They are led in that category by junior Travis Steele who has carried the ball for 1198 yards, averaging 99.8 yards per game. Andrews has passed the ball only 98 times all year, completing just a shade over 50% when QB Baily Willis drops back to throw. The Red Raider offensive attack has averaged 38 points a game and will give the Dark Horse defense plenty to worry about on Friday night.
Defensively the Red Raiders are led by 6’3” 250 lbs tackle Trevon Bonner and 5’10” 175 lbs senior safety Tyler Wilkes. Bonner leads the team with 65 tackles, with 18 for negative yardage. Wilkes has tallied 60 stops, 5 behind the line of scrimmage and has intercepted two passes. The Red Raiders defense will provide a stern test for Clinton’s offense and you should probably expect a fairly low scoring affair.
Clinton will rely on its three prong rushing attack of Ryheem Skinner, 1958 yards and 22 touchdown, Tyion Wright, 722 yards and 10 touchdowns, and Rayquan Faison, 711 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season. The Dark Horses will have to take care of the football and try to shorten the game and keep the Red Raider offense off the field as much as possible. A quick start will be key for the Horses, if they can get out to an early lead they may take Andrews out of their comfort zone and force the Red Raiders to pass more than they would like.
Defensively Clinton will need to cut down on the big plays. The Dark Horses have been plagued by big plays and poor tackling at times this season. Any hope of stopping the Andrews running game hinges on sure tackling and stopping the Red Raiders on third down. If the Dark Horse defense can limit the number of snaps and regularly give the ball back to Skinner and company it could be a long night for the home team.
This third round match-up seems to have the makings of a very good game. If the Dark Horse offensive line can give Skinner, Faison and Wright a few holes and keep the chains moving then Clinton has a good chance to pull off the upset. It is also a must for the Dark Horse defense to play its best football of the year. There can be no lapses and creating a turnover or two would go a long way toward putting the Red Raider offense on ice. If the Dark Horses can accomplish these task then a second consecutive trip to the Eastern Finals is a very good possibility.
Look for the Dark Horses’ young offensive line to take another step in their development on Friday night and the talented backfield trio will run roughshod over the Red Raiders. Defensively the Dark Horses will force a couple of turnovers and come up with the timely stops to give Clinton a win in a close game.
Prediction: Clinton 21 – High Point Andrews 18.