The Devil Sharks smelled blood in the water.
Clinton’s special teams unit hadn’t scored a touchdown in a while, and Head Coach Corey Fountain let them know about it. That, was enough.
Clinton swarmed Emerald on special teams so much that it was the deciding factor in Friday (Oct. 28)’s 37-6 Red Devils win that did three things – made Clinton undefeated in the regular season, made Clinton officially (as in earn it on the field) the Region Champions, and made Clinton the destination for Travelers Rest in this Friday (Nov. 4)’s first round of the Class AAA State Playoffs.
Fountain said they haven’t done anything yet.
“Everybody remembers December,” he said.
That’s a reference to the fact that state championship games will be played in South Carolina on Dec. 1.
“I mean, this is Clinton, they’re used to going deep into the playoffs and to state championships.”
The last time Clinton ended a regular season undefeated was 2000. The last time Clinton won a AAA State Championship was 2009.
But Fountain has won them, too, as mentor of powerful Lamar teams before coming to Clinton four years ago. Before Friday’s game he embraced the players who came in with him as rising 9th graders. “They’re the ones who put in the work,” Fountain said.
Clinton scored against Emerald with 10:11 to play in the first quarter, as Kadon Crawford blocked a punt with his helmet and Jishun Copeland took it in on a scoop and score. Bryson James added a touchdown run, after a Justin Copeland catch got the ball into scoring position. Emerald’s punter couldn’t handle the snap in the next series and Clinton got the ball at the Emerald 18 – Jishun Copeland took it in from there, with 53.2 seconds left until halftime. But Emerald fought back, scoring with 9 seconds on the first half clock – true to form, Clinton’s special team blocked the PAT.
Now up 21-6, Clinton took the 2nd half kickoff and played its grind it out on the ground game to eat up the 3rd quarter. Justin Copeland caught a touchdown pass from Bryce Young for Clinton’s fourth score. The teams traded fumbles, and Bryson James had a sack to put Emerald at its own goal line. The punter was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
Clinton turned the ball over on the kickoff return (the second special teams mistake since Emerald earlier had recovered an on-side kick), but the Red Devils got the ball back and set up Mr. Football in the State finalist Bryson James for a touchdown run – finishing Clinton’s scoring with 8:24 left to play. Clinton’s William Winbush ended an Emerald threat with a fumble recovery, adding to Eric Robinson’s two fumble recoveries.
Emerald outgained Clinton, 222 to 217, in total yardage. Clinton ran the ball 31 times to gain 155 yards. Bryce Young was 5 for 6 for 62 yards passing. James was the Red Devils’ leading rusher with 65 yards.
Clinton’s Varsity and Junior Varsity Football Teams accomplished undefeated seasons for 2022. It’s the first for the Varsity since 2000, a team that finished 12-1 and lost to Union in the 3rd round of the Upper State Playoffs. Last season’s team under Fountain finished 11-2 and lost to Daniel in the 3rd round of the Upper State Playoffs. - Vic MacDonald article and photos