Last week resulted in a 3-0 record, pushing the overall record to 43-11. Clinton dominated South Granville, Lakewood crushed Princeton and Union’s season ended with a loss to Wallace-Rose Hill. This week, we are down to two county teams in the State Playoffs. Lakewood faces a 1A powerhouse, while Clinton welcomes a familiar opponent.
Clinton hosts Northside for the second time this season in Dark Horse Stadium on Friday night. The Dark Horses, with a win over South Granville last Friday, moved to 13-0 on the season. One of those 13 wins came over Northside back on Sept. 9 in a 35-16 victory in the early season showdown.
Northside Jacksonville comes into the game with a 10-3 record, all three losses coming to playoff teams that are still alive — Clinton, Havelock and East Duplin. The Monarchs have averaged 236 yards on the ground while passing for 108 yards per game out of their spread package. Defensively, Northside is stingy, only allowing 11 points per game.
Clinton has allowed fewer than 7 points per game on average this season, pitching five shutouts this season. The Dark Horse defense is led by seniors Prentice Murphy, Mike Kramer and Devonte Smith, who have combined for 334 tackles this season. Murphy did not play in the first matchup with the Monarchs and he can be a difference maker on both sides of the ball.
When the Dark Horses have the ball, look for Kris Williams to hand the ball to Ryheem Skinner, Tyion Wright, Isaiah Page and Jalen Smith for the bulk of the yardage. The wild card in this game may be the Clinton passing game. Coach Bob Lewis has shown great confidence in the passing game of late and Williams has proven to be a very accurate passer, completing over 71 percent of his throws for 878 yards and 15 touchdowns to only three interceptions. Don’t be too surprised to see the ball in the air five or six times on Friday night.
This one has the makings of a real barnburner, and it could go down to the wire. The Clinton defense has improved throughout the year and will need to come up big again against a very good offense. As long as the Dark Horses can limit mistakes and execute in the running game, they should be capable of holding off the Monarchs one more time.
Final: Northside 21, Clinton 28
In the Game of the Week, Lakewood hosts Wallace-Rose Hill in a battle to advance to the Eastern Championship. The last time the Leopards and the Bulldogs met was back on Sept. 14, 2012 in Wallace, where the Bulldogs took a 27-24 win. The Leopards last win over the Bulldogs was a 20-14 game on Oct. 17, 2008 in Wallace.
The Bulldogs come into the game with a 12-1 record, with their one loss coming to the Dark Horses. Wallace has outscored opponents this year 516-109 and fly to the ball on defense. The Bulldog offense features a talented, strong armed quarterback in Aliza Carter, who has averaged 89 yards per game through the air, completing 50 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns. Carter is equally dangerous when he pulls it down, averaging 50 yards a game rushing. The Leopards will have their hands full defending the versatile Bulldogs.
The Leopards defense has only allowed an average of 12 points a game this season, forcing four shutouts. The defense kept the Lakewood in games early in the season, while the offense found its stride and has been steady all year long. Lakewood will need a near-perfect performance from their defense to stop the speedy Bulldogs, who have four backs that have rushed for over 475 yards apiece this season, with Desmond Newkirk leading the way with 831 rushing yards.
Lakewood will need to find a way to get the Bulldog defense off balance to neutralize the speed and aggressiveness of the Wallace-Rose Hill defenders. Quick hitting runs mixed with a screen pass here and there may be the prescription for success but no matter what the play-callers brew up for the Leopards, near perfect execution will be a must.
If Lakewood takes care of the football and keeps the Bulldog defense on the field for long stretches they will make it tough for the visitors. Look for a hard-hitting defensive battle in this one, and points will be hard to come by. Lakewood keeps it close and thrills the home crowd, winning on the final play of the game to end the Bulldogs string of Eastern Championship game appearances at three.
Final: Wallace-Rose Hill 17, Lakewood 20