By Danny C. Davis
For the last five years, the Clinton Arrows may have been known as an offensive team, but in the season opener at Batesville, MS, it was the Arrow defense that helped pull off the big 14-7 overtime win over perennial state champion South Panola. It marked only the second time in team history that the Arrows walked off the field in Batesville a winner.
On a night when the Arrow offense was struggling to get into rhythm, the Clinton defense held the home Tigers to just seven points and created three turnovers. Clinton didn’t have much offense but didn’t much with the defense playing lights out and a superb effort with from senior punter/ kicker Tucker Barefoot.
” This win was all about endurance,” said Arrow head coach Judd Boswell, the only Arrow coach to ever win at South Panola. “We just endured and got stronger in the fourth period and overtime when it counted. I am so proud of our team. Our seniors may be the only players who can say they beat South Panola two times on their home field.”
“Our guys played so hard every snap,” said Arrow defensive coordinator Hammer Morgan, like Boswell who was a former head coach at Class 3A Forest. Morgan declined to single anyone out on defense. We had eleven out there helping make plays. We created three turnovers and that was big.”
South Panola only had a couple long plays from scrimmage. The Tigers had an 80 yard drive including a 38 yard burst by SPHS running back Janari Dean , who scored with 7: 02 left in the half to put South Panola ahead 7-0. That would be the Tiger’s only score of the night.
Clinton tied up early in the third period thanks to a fumble recovery by the Arrows at the Tiger 6 yard line. Three plays later, the Arrows lined up in the old I- formation and sophomore running back Montavious Warren scored on a yard run up the middle. Tucker Barefoot’s extra point tied it up 7-7 with 9:42 left in the third period. That was the way things stood for the remainder of regulation. Time after time the Arrow defense lead by seniors linebackers Ryan Davis, Delawrence Butler stopped the Tigers in key situations along with sophomore safety Jeremy Mack. Davis had 11 tackles , Butler had 10 tackles and a fumble recovery. Mack had 10 tackles and defensive back Bryce Turner had 9 stops.
Then there was the punting of Barefoot. Late in the game with Clinton backed up inside its own 10 yard line Barefoot punted about 55 yards out of the end zone to the Tiger 45. That proved to be big in the end.
With the game tied 7-7 the Arrows pushed the game to overtime. On Clinton’s first possession, the Arrows lined up again in the I formation and Warren behind a big surge by the Arrow offensive line scored on a four yard run. Barefoot ‘s extra point put Clinton ahead 14-7.
Then it was up to the Clinton defense to keep the Tigers out of the end zone. On third and goal from the six, Ryan Davis stuffed Janari Dean causing the fumble and the upset win belonged to the guys from central Mississippi wearing red helmets with the Arrow on the side of the helmets.
“I was not nervous and knew at some point in the game I would get some carries,” said Warren playing his first varsity game. “We just had very good blocking down close to goal and was able to get in and score. It feels great.”
“We still have a young offensive line and did not play a jamboree,” said Arrow offensive coordinator, Blake Pennock. “So this was our first live action against another team. “We still have to develop our running game. We just kept trying different things until we found something that worked lining up in the I formation and running the ball up the middle.”
“Our seniors just were not going to lose this game,” said senior Des Baker who started both ways at wide receiver and linebacker and played almost every snap. This really motivates us for this season getting a big road win at South Panola, ” said Baker led the Arrow offense with 3 receptions for 45 yards.