By Danny C. Davis
It would be an understatement to say that this was one of the toughest football seasons in the 103 years that the Clinton Arrows have fielded a football team. Clinton only won one game all season, and the last time that happened was 1954.
But never, at least in the 48 years that I have covered Arrow football, have I seen so many injuries to key starters for a team that did not get a break all season. Not a single one.
Clinton still had a shot at the playoffs, despite a one-win season, when they played at Madison Central on November 3. But, like eight other games this year, this one was another injury disaster, with the Arrows falling to the rival Jaguars 35-3 to end the season.
Things looked pretty good for CHS early. Arrow QB Sam Semi completed a 47-yard pass on the Arrow’s third play to Jaydann Holllins to the MCHS 25. But Clinton lost yardage and turned it over on downs. MCHS scored on their next possession to make it 7-0 with seven minutes left to go in the first period.
Clinton had a nice drive going to tie the game up. That is when everything fell apart.
Clinton had a third down at the MCHS 48 when Semi fumbled, and Madison Central not only recovered the fumble, but Semi and the only Arrow QB backup QB available, Veshone Malone, were both knocked out of the game – Semi with a concussion, and Malone with a shoulder injury. So, now Clinton did not have a healthy QB to finish the game, and Malone was also Clinton’s best defensive back.
The only option Clinton had was to insert ninth-grade QB Aric Beasley, who had only practiced with the team a couple of weeks.
Beasley did the best he could, and the Jaguars took advantage of Malone’s absence in the secondary and threw for 108 yards in the second quarter. Madison Central scored three second-quarter touchdowns to take a 28-0 halftime lead.
The Jaguars had 251 first half yards of offense, compared to Clinton’s 78.
To the Arrows’ credit, the defense played a lot better the second half, not giving up any offensive scores. But Madison Central went up 35-0 with 5:23 left in the third quarter, scoring on a blocked punt in the end zone.
After that, the officials went to a running clock with no time stoppage, and the game ended quickly.
The Arrows’ only points came on Hayden Wolfe’s 31-yard field goal with 7:31 remaining in the game, to make it 35-3.
Wolfe was a bright spot for the Arrows, kicking both of his kickoffs out of the back of the end zone and having no punts returned, including punts of 40, 45, 40, 48 and a 56 yarder.
Jakobe Williams led the Arrow offense with 63 yards rushing on nine carries.
Leading the Arrow defense was Jaiden Jefferson, Michael Johnson and Donavan Coleman.
“This was a very tough season with a lot of injuries this year,” said Arrow head coach Judd Boswell. “Our injuries started the first quarter of the first game and continued every game. We never got one single break. Not one. But I am proud of how hard our kids played every week and never gave up in any game. We had adversity, and that helps to build players for their future life.”
CHS has played their best football over the previous two games at Arrow Field against Germantown and Tupelo. The Germantown game could have sealed a playoff spot, but CHS fell just a little short 42-35.
Clinton outgained the Germantown offense with 420 yards to 396 in the heartbreaking loss.
“I thought we played our best offensively those two games,” said offensive coordinator Tyler Peterson. “We had two or three bad plays that hurt us. [Semi] played his best game throwing and running. All our guys played hard. We just needed to find a way to make one more play in the game and win.”
For the second week, just a couple of plays with turnovers was the difference in the outcome.
Germantown successfully executed an on-side kick to start the game and scored on their second play with a 48-yard pass from Jackson Hood to Ny Johnson to take a 7-0 lead with 11:10 left in the first.
Arrow QB Sam Semi, only making his fifth start in a game this season after an early-season ankle injury, enjoyed a career-best game, completing fifteen of eighteen passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns and rushed eleven times for 79 yards and a touchdown.
“It was a tough loss for us,” said Semi, after the Germantown game. “We are just now coming together as a team and jelling.”
Semi hit Veshone Malone for a 37-yard touchdown on Clinton’s first possession to tie the game 7-7, and senior kicker Hayden Wolfe made the first of five extra points.
Germantown’s Jackson hit Traeden Stevenson with an 18-yard TD pass to make it 14-7. Clinton’s offense countered with Semi’s 8-yard TD run to make 14-14 with 2:40 left in the half. Hood’s 33-yard TD pass to Johnson put the Mavericks on top 21-14 at the half.
But Clinton came right back and tied it up again 21-21 on Jakobe Williams’ 2-yard TD run after a Maverick fumble with 11:03 left in the third.
So, the game continued to be back and forth. Germantown went up on Johnson’s one-yard run midway in the third to make it 28-21. Then Semi hit Veshone Malone again, this time for a 19-yard TD pass to tie the game once again 28-28 with 2:40 left in the third.
Johnson scored again on Germantown’s next possession, to go up 35-28.
With Clinton driving to tie the game once again, Semi was intercepted by the Mavericks’ Darrell Gross, who returned it 45 yards for a touchdown to make it 42-28.
But the Clinton offense answered again, this time with a little trickery. Facing a fourth and long, Semi threw a short half back pass to Jaylen Hollins, who connected with Malone for a 33-yard touchdown pass to pull Clinton to within seven points, 42-35, with only 3:13 left.
But an onside kick was not successful, and Germantown ran out the clock to win 42-35 and secure a playoff spot.
Malone had a career-best four pass receptions for 119 yards and three touchdowns.
Hollins had eight receptions for 72 yards. Jakobe Williams rushed ten times for 59 yards and a touchdown.
“We gave it all every play tonight,” said Williams, a junior. “Our offense has gotten better every week.”
Defensively for the Arrows, Jaiden Jefferson led the way with eight tackles. Chad Holiday and Chase Harper had five solo tackles, and Donovan Cole had four stops.
A week earlier, the Arrows also lost a heartbreaker on two costly turnovers.
CHS led Top 10-ranked Tupelo 28-21 until the end of the third period, when Semi fumbled at the Arrow two yard line. Tupelo scored to tie it 28-28 when the third period horn sounded.
Then Jakobe Williams fumbled the ensuing kickoff at the Arrow 18. Tupelo scored a couple of plays later to go up 35-28 ,and added a late TD to win 42-28.