Straughn breaks away from Clarke County in second half, 44-18

Published 10:51 pm Friday, September 15, 2023

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Straughn bent but did not break and scored 21 unanswered points for a 44-18 senior night win over Clarke County in its first home contest of the season Friday night.

SHS Head Coach Ashley Kilcrease felt his team played a very physical opponent.

“Clarke County was a very big and physical football team. We have about nine guys down right now with injuries, and I’m thankful to get out of here alive. It helps us to play these guys in non-region play because they won the state championship two years ago. I’m proud of our effort and the way we responded in the second half after a terrible first half. We have a long trip to Ashford next week, but we will need to be ready to play and get well,” Kilcrease said.

Straughn (3-0) began the game at its own 30-yard-line and quickly picked up nine yards on the ground. Grant Barnes converted a third-and-1 with an 8-yard run for a first down. Layne Grantham then moved the chains again with a 40-yard pass to Parker Black who made an acrobatic catch at the visiting 9-yard-line. Clarke County (1-3) forced fourth and goal, but Brenden Bartholomew booted a 32-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 7:04 left in the opening stanza.

Camryn Chapman had a huge kickoff return as Jeremiah Toole tackled him at the home 16. Back-to-back holding penalties then sent the ball back to the 26. Jamarcus Washington picked up a 12-yard run before the Bulldogs faced fourth-and-3. Andre Ezell kept the drive alive with a 4-yard scamper and scored from six yards out three plays later. The PAT was no good and left the score 6-3 at the 3:07 mark. The Tigers responded with an 8-play, 68-yard drive and recaptured the lead at the end of the first quarter. Grantham got just enough on a third-and-10 for a first down before Barnes had an 11-yard run into opposing territory. Grantham connected with Black on a 36-yard pass inside the red zone and capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. The PAT was no good and left the score 9-6.

Clarke County earned consecutive first downs with passes from Tamyus Pugh to Damyon Horn and Chapman early in the second. After a 7-yard run, Pugh threw an interception to Barnes who scored a pick-six. Bartholomew added the PAT for a 16-6 lead before Straughn struck again two seconds later on an unusual play. The kickoff went untouched as the ball came to a rest near the goal line. As a defender went for the ball, it was pounced loose into the end zone where Clark Gay recovered it for a touchdown. Bartholomew was true again for a 23-6 lead with 10:05 left until halftime.

The two teams traded punts on their next two possessions. The Bulldogs took over and earned a first-down run by Ezell. Pugh then found Horn open on a 13-yard pass and Chapman for a 17-yard strike. Ezell finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run and cut the deficit to 23-12 with 1:58 to go. The Tigers held on the two-point conversion as neither side scored again in the half.

Clarke County started its first drive of the second half with good field position at the 45-yard-line. Camryn Mitchell hauled in a 7-yard completion for a first down before Pugh had a 20-yard run. Pugh threw a 21-yard pass to Horn, and Ezell scored from a yard out. The PAT failed and brought the score to 23-18 with 8:39 left in the third. Kolton Cauley sparked the offense with a 24-yard kickoff return. Following a 3-yard run on first down, Barnes moved the chains on back-to-back run plays. Grantham found an opening and raced 46 yards to the end zone after breaking free of several tackles. Bartholomew split the uprights as Straughn took a 30-18 lead.

The home defense continued to apply pressure and forced a turnover on downs at the opposing 48-yard-line. Barnes earned 14 yards on two carries, and Grantham used his feet yet again with a 28-yard touchdown run. Bartholomew’s PAT pushed the lead to 37-18 with 2:33 remaining in the third. Pugh had a 25-yard completion to Horn as the Bulldogs were poised to close the gap. Nothing came to fruition as Ezell was stuffed on fourth down for another turnover on downs. Barnes had a 62-yard run to the visiting 30-yard-line on the final play of the third quarter.

Several holding penalties pushed the ball back before Grantham had a 26-yard run inside the red zone. Black found an opening around the right side and scored on a 4-yard touchdown run. Bartholomew added the PAT for a 44-18 lead and ended the scoring.

Straughn will resume region play on Friday, Sept. 22, at Ashford (1-3, 0-3).