The Clinton Dragons raced out to a 31-0 lead Friday and went on to drub visiting Chattanooga Central 51-21 in a non-region game.
Quarterback Joshuah Keith went 23-for-32 through the air for 258 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for another TD as the Dragons (4-2) avenged last year’s 20-15 loss at Chattanooga Central and bounced back from a loss to Powell on Sept. 16.
Lucas Kendall caught three of Keith’s touchdown passes and finished with four catches for 119 yards. Jeremiah Lee nabbed six catches for 38 yards and a touchdown, and Teegan Bolinger returned a fumble for a TD for Clinton’s final score. Jawan Goins led the Dragon ground game with 11 rushes for 74 yards and a TD, and Brandon Hollifield added 35 yards and a TD on five carries.
The mercy rule was employed twice as Clinton put up two second-half leads of at least 30 points. Chattanooga Central fell to 3-3 with the loss.
“I felt like tonight was a turning point; I felt like we exorcised some demons,” said Dragon head Coach Darell Keith. “In the past, I think we would have pretty much given up and let them come back and win, and every time we needed to make a response we did.
“Believe it or not, that’s a good football team. It’s athletic, and they’re well-coached. I think we got tired of losing tonight.
“What happened last year, we lost two big games to Powell and Oak Ridge, and we went on like a three-game skid. Remember this: if you change something today, something’s going to change tomorrow. Last year at this time we were 3-3. This year we’re 4-2 going into Campbell County. We’ve got some injuries that I don’t know what they’re going to be like. I’ll know more on Monday. But I like our chances of going to the playoffs.”
The Dragons head to Campbell County this Thursday for a big Region 3-5A game.
Keith liked the play of his quarterback son and senior Kendall.
“Keith was banged up a little bit, but I thought he played pretty good injured,” said the Clinton head coach. “He’s my son—it’s kind of hard for me to give him accolades, but week in and week out he amazes me. He amazes me with his athleticism, and his decision-making is just getting better and better every week. Lucas Kendall is special—I’m going to miss him tremendously [when he graduates]. Overall I thought we turned a corner tonight. It’ll be easier to wake up tomorrow.”
Clinton opened the game against the Purple Pounders with a nine-play, 68-yard drive for a touchdown. Keith scrambled for 13 yards and Hollifield added a 16-yard rush. Hollifield would score the TD on a 10-yard run. With kicker Jacob Prewitt out of the game, Clinton failed on a two-point conversion run, something it would do on its first four TDs.
The Dragons forced a fumble on the Pounders’ first drive, and Elijah Batiste recovered for Clinton at the Chattanooga Central 48-yard line. The Dragons scored in only two plays, getting the TD on a 44-yard pass to Kendall, who was wide open down the left sideline. Clinton led 12-0 with 7:20 still to play in the first quarter.
The remainder of the period would be scoreless, although Goins and Chauncey Felts combined on a fourth-down tackle to give Clinton possession.
Disaster struck for the Pounders early in the second quarter when a high snap on a punt attempt led to a 29-yard loss back to the Central 7-yard line. Clinton scored on the next play as Keith fought his way in for a TD and an 18-0 lead.
The Dragons forced a Pounder punt and went on a 60-yard scoring drive. Braylon Taylor withstood a big hit on a tackle for a 16-yard reception, and Goins reeled off a 28-yard run. Kendall made a one-handed catch in the end zone for the TD on a 20-yard play for a 24-0 lead.
Chattanooga Central put in lineman Perry Armour Jr. as a running back and made some gains into Dragon territory. William Taylor and Bryson Maddox stopped another Pounder runner for a 3-yard loss, and the visitors would ultimately stall at the Dragon 10-yard line without scoring as the half ended.
The Pounders had another bad snap on a punt to open the second half, with D’mon Marable making the tackle on the player who recovered the fumble. Clinton, needing to go only 23 yards, scored in five plays. Bolinger caught an 18-yard pass right before Kendall scored his third TD on a 5-yard Keith toss. Backup kicker Lee booted an extra point for a 31-0 Clinton lead.
Central responded with a 53-yard pass from quarterback Ronyé Watson to receiver Larry Henderson, and Watson ran in the TD on the next play from 5 yards out. Marquis Parson’s extra point cut the Dragon lead to 31-7.
After a Clinton three-and-out, the Pounders scored again, this time on a 66-yard Watson pass to Tristan Odom, who caught the ball on a deflection from a Dragon defender. The lead was down to 31-14 with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
Clinton failed to score on a nine-play drive, but Wesley Phillips broke up a Pounder pass on a risky fourth down to give the Dragons possession again at the Central 16-yard line. Clinton scored in only four plays as Lee caught an 11-yard TD pass on the left sideline of the end zone. Lee’s kick gave Clinton a 38-14 lead with 8:27 left in the game.
Central went on a 53-yard scoring drive, with Watson scoring on a 7-yard TD with 5:30 remaining.
The Dragons answered with a 60-yard drive, getting 50 of the yards on a Keith pass to Kendall. Goins spun off a tackler to score the TD on a 10-yard run. Lee’s kick made it a 45-21 game with 4:02 left.
On the ensuing kickoff, Watson fumbled on the return at the 3-yard line, and Bolinger recovered and scored for the Dragons for the final margin.