Edmonson County Defeats Clinton County 17-13
Darren Doyle, story and photos:
The Wildcats claimed the Class 2A District 3 Championship title at home against Clinton County 17-13 in a gritty contest Friday night to advance in the playoffs. It's the furthest Edmonson County football has gone since 2008.
Two well-matched teams took the field in low 30s to high 20s temperatures as the Bulldogs looked to get revenge from the mud-bogged contest the Wildcats took from them earlier in the season, 13-0. The Wildcats also had another chip on their shoulder as according to the coaching staff, the team was contacted by Clinton County prior to tonight's game asking them if it was ok to have their own pyrotechnic guy there tonight to shoot off fireworks "after they won." There were no fireworks in Edmonson County tonight.
Both teams defenses looked good early and the first quarter ended in no score.
Edmonson County made a good run late in the second as the Cats got into the red zone and quarterback Jon Smith scored the first touchdown of the game, which was a 2 yard run. Clay Walden's extra point was good and the Cat led 7-0
Edmonson County got into the red zone once more with time winding down in the half, but after three tries at a TD with less than 5 yards to go, Walden punched a 25 yard field goal through the posts for a 10-0 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs fell victim to a huge penalty to start the third as they fumbled Edmonson County's pooch kickoff, which the Cats recovered. On the next play, Smith hit Chance Lucas with a 40 yard touchdown pass and Walden's extra point extended the Wildcat lead to 17-0 with 11:49 to go in the third.
Each team continued trading possessions, but the ball stayed in between the 45 and 55 yard line through the remainder of the quarter until the Bulldog quarterback came inches of being sacked, but was able to shimmy up the left sideline for a first down that rejuvenated Clinton as they were able to score a TD on the possession. The Bulldogs cut the lead to 17-7 after an extra point with 1:22 left in the third.
With the momentum shifting slightly in Clinton County's favor, the Bulldog crowd began to thaw and come alive as noisemakers and cheers began to ring out from across the field and the Bulldogs were able to score another touchdown to cut the lead to 17-13. The ball was bobbled on the extra point attempt and it was no good.
Turnovers were key in this game as Edmonson County picked off three passes during the game; one from Isaiah Johnson, who picked a huge pass late in the game, and two more from Andy Lindsey. However, the biggest defensive play of the game came with 1:49 to go with the Bulldogs on the ropes. Clinton County tried a 30-something yard pass on 4th and 23, but was disrupted by Wildcat senior Eddie Acosta, who made an incredible leap to get his hands on a pass that not only prevented a first down, but it caused a turnover on downs for the Bulldogs.
Edmonson County was able to burn out the clock after they took possession to claim the title and advance into next week's playoff game.
The Wildcats turned a 1-5 start to the season into a 6-6 record with a new district championship trophy to put in the case, all without pyrotechnics.
"The whole time, I thought we were a good football team, I just knew we were," said Head Coach Nathan Smith. "We were banged up, we were injured, we had some things just no go our way in a couple games right there, but our seniors, our captains stuck with us. We healed up a little bit and we kinda figured out what our recipe was for winning football games and they stuck to it, got better every week, and I'm proud of them. Proud of all them."
Matt Shaw had another solid performance for Edmonson County tonight. His charge in last week's game was the difference against Green County and that momentum carried into tonight, Coach Smith said.
Smith attributed the late season success to having a team with no jealousy. He said the guys are teammates that do what's needed to win, not put stats on the books.
"Nobody on the field is jealous and this is rare for a football team," he said. "I've coached a lot of football teams and this is the first one that I can truly say no one cares who's getting the ball, who's scoring touchdowns, as long as the team is winning, that's what they're about. You can ask every single running back, quarterback, it doesn't matter. They want Matt Shaw to have the ball. If he's got the hot hand, that's who we're gonna feed."
Smith also said a good week of practice, including working out in the snow, led to good preparation for the game tonight. His players had a different attitude, a different look, and a different energy (without pyrotechnics) than they'd had in previous games.
"They were focused, they were locked in, in practice, there no problems inside the locker room. I had a feeling we'd come out and play pretty well. We made some mistakes and we let them get back in the game, it could've been a bigger victory, but I'll take it however we can get it. I'm not picky."
Edmonson County is set tentatively to take on Mayfield (11-1) at 7:30pm on the road next week as they continue to the next round of the playoffs. We will update that schedule when more updates are available.