By Danny C. Davis
After a historic first-ever win over South Panola at Batesville, the Clinton Arrows are now focusing on meeting #1 ranked Brandon on Friday night, September 2, at Brandon.
Clinton was ranked #2 after beating South Panola 38-26 on August 18 on the road. The win was the first for the Arrows over South Panola since defeating the Tigers in 2001 at Roy Burkett Field and snapped a five game losing streak to the Tigers dating back to November 2004.
Arrows senior quarterback Cam Akers, accounted for all five of Clinton’s touchdowns and led the Arrows offense to 450 yards against the Tigers, who had won five Class 5A or Class 6A championships over the past ten seasons and who have been considered a powerful defensive team for the past twenty years. In five previous losses, the Arrows scored a total of 40 points, and the highest point total for CHS was 14 in 2006.
Akers threw touchdown passes of 41, 14 and 58 yards and ran for touchdowns of 70 and 65 yards.
It didn’t take Akers long to put Clinton ahead for good. On the Arrows’ second offensive play, Akers dropped back to pass, pulled the ball down and ran 70 yards up the middle – untouched – to put CHS ahead 6-0 with 10:53 left in the first quarter. Sophomore kicker Tucker Barefoot hit the first of 5 extra points. After stopping the Tigers’ opening drive, Akers faced a 3rd and 26 at the Tigers’ 41 and found Kam ron’ White open in the end zone with a touchdown pass to put CHS up 14-0 with 1:31 showing left in the first quarter.
“I was able to get open and waved my hand up, and Cam just did a good job getting it to me,” said White.
After South Panola’s Patrick Shegog threw a 44-yard TD pass to Jordan Strong to cut the Clinton lead to 14-8, Akers moved the Arrows 60 yards in eight plays and put the Arrows up 21-8, finding Jordan Patton wide open in the end zone with an 18-yard TD pass with 4:18 left in the first half. Shegog hit Strong again this time for a 24-yard TD pass to make it 21-14.
But it took only 21 seconds for Akers to give Clinton a two-touchdown lead again when, on the Arrows’ next offensive play, he found Darius Maberry for a 58-yard scoring play to give the Arrows a 28-14 advantage at intermission.
On Clinton’s first offensive series of the third period, it was Akers again this time with a 65-yard run to put the Arrows with a three-touchdown advantage, 35-14 with 9:50 left in the third period.
Shegog scored twice in the third quarter on runs of one and 13 yards to cut the lead to 35-26, but the Arrows defense made some big stops in the fourth period, holding the Tigers scoreless in the final period. Barefoot added a 25-yard field goal with 2:41 left, putting the game out of reach for the Tigers.
One of the things that pleased first-year offensive coordinator Blake Pennock was the play of young receivers by the Arrows. Akers completed 14 passes to six different receivers. Maberry lead the way with five receptions for 117 yards and a TD, Kam ron’ White had two receptions for 49 yards and a score. Reginald Landing had four receptions for yards, Christian Johnson had a reception for 17 yards, Jordan Patton a 14-yard TD reception, and Desmyn Baker had a 26-yard reception.
Even though the Clinton offense had 450 yards, a lot of credit should go to the Arrows defense that came up with big plays to keep the Tigers scoreless in the final period. Senior linebacker Michael Thompson, seeing his first significant playing time at linebacker, recovered Shegog’s fumble with six-and-a-half minutes left to stop a drive; and then, on South Panola’s last possession, Akers, playing defense, batted away a fourth down desperation pass to seal the win.
“At times, we had up to nine guys playing that had not played last year,” said Arrows head coach Judd Boswell. “We had a lot of young guys come in and play well for us that helped us win this game. It is a great win for us, but we’ve got to put it behind us and get ready for three more tough non-district games and try to get some injured guys we have back.”
“I am super proud of how our defense played,” said Arrows defensive coordinator Devin Cooper. “We were playing eight guys on defense that did not play last year, some sophomores and some seniors, and they made the plays we needed to win. Kam ron’ Whites interception and Michael Thompson’s fumble recovery were big turnovers for us.”
Arrows senior linebacker Jacobi Hearn, a starter since the ninth grade for CHS, agreed. “We had a lot guys make big plays for us on defense tonight,” said Hearn. “I think our defense grew up a lot tonight, but we’ve got a long way to go; and we will get better every week.”
And Arrows offensive coordinator Blake Pennock had praise for the Arrows offense. Not only for Akers, but for the entire unit.
“This is early in the season, and it was hot, and we knew we would have guys going both ways,” said Pennock. “That just shows how much fight we had against a big defensive team like South Panola. And it was big that we did not turn it over on offense, even though we had two turnovers on special teams. We aren’t any where close to where we want to be, but this is a big win and something to build on.”
So, one game a season doesn’t make, but beating perennial state champion South Panola on the road is a great way for the Arrows to start a season.
South Panola head coach Lance Pogue, who has now only lost eleven games in ten years as the Tigers head coach, had praise for the Akers and the Arrows.
“Clinton with Akers healthy is going to be hard to beat this year,” said Pogue, after losing his first game ever to Clinton. “If Clinton can keep everybody healthy, they have a good chance of making it to the state championship game this year.”