Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Edmonson County senior Clay Walden made sure to leave his mark on the field during 2020 senior night against Clinton County in the first round of the KHSAA Class AA Playoffs, as his big night led the way for a 26-12 win over the Bulldogs.
Walden has earned respect as one of the area's top kickers, but his defense tonight led to one of the biggest Wildcat plays of the year, which was an end zone steal from the Bulldogs and a 102-yard touchdown that stunned Clinton County and shifted all the momentum back to the Cats
It was a long time coming, as Wildcat football was back after nearly a month without games as a result of the coronavirus. Edmonson County had to pause the season due to quarantining, losing three games in the process. An extra week was added to the season statewide, as KHSAA hoped coronavirus numbers would improve.
Wildcat senior Isaiah Johnson got things started off well for the Cats with a big 50+ yard run, but Edmonson County was unable to score. On the Bulldogs' next play, Clinton County senior quarterback Chase Stines connected with Bryson Cross for an 8-yard touchdown. The two point conversion was no good and Clinton led 6-0 with 5:29 in the first.
Edmonson County once again tried getting into the end zone but took the field goal opportunity with 3:05 left in the first as Walden connected on a 30-yard kick, which cut the Bulldog lead to 6-3.
It would be Walden again early in the second quarter as senior quarterback Jon Smith connected with him for a 35-yard touchdown. The Wildcat two-point conversion was no good but the Cats took their first lead of the game at 9-6 with 9:29 to go.
With time running out in the second quarter, the Bulldogs got into the red zone. A pass went into the hands of a Clinton County receiver while he was airborne in the end zone, but he never gained control of it and Clay Walden snuck right in and snatched it away. Rooster tails flew from the senior's cleats as he blistered the entire field for not only a pickoff, but also a 102-yard touchdown run as the Bulldogs did their best to try to figure out what just happened. What should have been a 12-9 lead for Clinton County was quickly transformed into a 16-6 lead for the Wildcats after Walden's extra point kick with 30.3 seconds left in the half.
Edmonson County never trailed again.
The Wildcats scored again on a 6-yard touchdown run from Logan Davis and the extra point from Walden made it 23-6 with 3:07 in the third.
Walden wasn't finished as he came close to the school field goal yardage record, with a 43-yard kick that extended the Wildcats lead to 26-12 with 4:59 left in the game. The record currently stands at 46 yards, which was accomplished by WildcatsLive broadcaster Granville Meredith in 1988.
Edmonson County held on for the 26-12 win, which also secured a home game advantage for the district finals in the second round of the playoffs against Metcalfe County.
Head Coach Nathan Smith discussed the big win and Walden's huge play that helped seal the deal.
"Anytime you get a playoff win after taking a six-week break from football, I think that's a pretty big deal," he said. "It looked like the kid had the ball and bobbled it a little bit, Clay went over the top and just took the ball right out of his hands. 102 yards. That has to be close to a school record. I don't know what it is, but I'd say it's right there. You can't get much farther, can you?"
Smith then discussed the seniors on the team and what they've meant to not only him, but also the football program over their years of service.
"This senior group, I've been coaching some of them since they were in the 6th grade," he said. "I'm pretty proud of them, and I'd like to just go through the list if you want me to," he said as he then discussed each one.
Edmonson County improves to 4-3 on the season and will face the Hornets next Friday night at 7pm for the District Championship game at ECHS, a title that the Wildcats hope to defend.