Special to the Times
Clinch County’s defense put on a show Friday night at Donald Tison Field in Homerville, holding the visiting Claxton Tigers to just 52 yards of total offense en route to a 30-0 blowout in a game that in turn was overshadowed by a fight late in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers got off to a slow start offensively but really took control of the game in the second quarter, as they controlled possession and pummeled the Claxton defense time after time on the ground.
Clinch finally got on the scoreboard when senior back James Core reached the end zone on a one yard plunge, and the Panthers added to their lead when senior defensive back Kenny LaShore intercepted a Cornelius Taylor pass and returned it for a touchdown.
On Claxton’s following possession, which started at the two-yard line due to a special teams blunder, Clinch sacked Taylor in the back of the end zone for a safety to push the Panthers lead to 16-0 at the half.
In the second half, Clinch absolutely dominated the time of possession, using James Core and senior quarterback Octavius Johnson in the ground game to sustain long drives that took several minutes off the game clock.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Core scored his second touchdown of the game from 3-yards out to cap off a drive on which he had 63 rushing yards. Core finished the game with 106 yards on 17 carries, while quarterback Octavius Johnson added 62 yards on 19 carries. Remarkably, the Panthers attempted only one pass the entire game, a three yard completion early in the first quarter.
Claxton posted similar numbers, as Cornelius Taylor attempted only five passes, completing only two and throwing two interceptions. The difference in the teams however was the ground game. Claxton simply couldn’t move the ball on the ground, as shown by the fact that the Tigers had a combined 29 rushes in the game but didn’t have a single rusher post more than 14 yards.
Things turned ugly late in the fourth quarter, however, as Clinch was attempting to run the clock out. After Clinch quarterback Zebulon Johnson carried the ball for a modest gain, players from both team engaged in a fight that saw both sidelines clear and included multiple ejections.
When the fight was broken up, Zebulon Johnson closed out the game with a 22-yard QB sweep with 36 seconds left. The win is Clinch’s seventh consecutive, as the region 2-A champs move to 8-3 on the season and move on to face a tough Hawkinsville team in Homerville next Friday night. Hawkinsville knocked off Mitchell County in their game Friday night, 17-12.