CLINTON — In Newberry High School’s 41 past football trips to Clinton High since 1921, they had never reached the 40-point plateau until this past Friday night.
The Bulldogs scored 27 unanswered points in the second half as their 40-28 victory was the largest for Newberry in Wilder Stadium since a 20-0 shutout in 1990. The 68 combined points is the highest scoring game in the series’ 84-game history.
Neither team could get any kind of momentum in the first seven minutes of play but a Tysheen Nance fumble recovery at the 4:34 mark put Newberry only 42 yards from the end zone.
After an incomplete pass, quarterback Yafari Werts needed two plays to score as he took it in from his left side from 23 yards out for the 6-0 lead after Jose Lozano’s extra point kick was wide right.
This lead would not hold true for the final 4:12 of the opening stanza as Clinton finished a 66-yard drive, which came all on the ground in nine plays, with a Matthias Williams run from 28-yards out. Matt Craven’s kick gave Clinton a 7-6 lead with 1.8 seconds on the opening stanza clock.
Newberry was held to its third-of-four three-and-outs to start the game with Lozano coming in to punt at the 10:12 mark of the first half.
A fumbled snap was recovered by Clinton 18 yards from another potential touchdown. Clinton’s 19th straight running play of the game ended this drive three plays later with Breshaud Parks scoring from seven yards out.
Williams scored on the two-point run for the 15-6 Clinton lead with 8:53 left in the first half.
Newberry also kept the ball on the ground every single play of their next drive with Nance ending a 77-yard six-play drive with a four-yard run at the 5:49 mark of the second quarter.
Lozano’s kick was good as the Bulldogs were back into the game at 15-13.
Calling a time out after being held to a three-and-out, Clinton decided to attempt to convert a fourth-and-one from their 43 with just over three minutes left in the first half. Parks went the distance toward the south end zone for the touchdown and the 22-13 lead after the successful kick.
Werts threw his first interception of the season at the Clinton 16 with 61 seconds left in the first half. Newberry had a 183-to-172 first half advantage over Clinton in total team yardage.
Clinton punted on their first four possessions of the second half, seeing only two first downs in the process.
“We had not stopped them all night,” said Newberry head coach Phil Strickland. “We finally got excited about what we were doing when we started gang tackling. Making that first stop of the second half was very critical.”
Newberry had scored in at least their first possession in either half in all but one game in their past 15 games.
The Bulldogs came out with a rabid never-give-up style of play also offensively in the second half as this was proven on their first play.
Omar Sims’ run took him seven yards to midfield but the junior would not be brought down for another 11 yards as all 22 players on the field seemed to be in the huge pile surging forward.
Sims scored his first touchdown of the night five plays later as Clinton started seeing their lead slowly evaporate with the score now at22-20 and Newberry garnering all of the momentum.
“That was the turning point of the game I think,” noted Strickland of Newberry’s opening drive.
Newberry began its second possession of the second half at its 46. Five straight rushing plays ended this drive with Nance scoring from a yard out as even though the two-point pass play fell incomplete, Newberry had its first lead at 26-22 in just under 20 minutes of play.
Newberry had 126 yards of third quarter offense compared to Clinton’s 30.
The Bulldogs began the fourth quarter looking at a second-and-one 38 yards from another potential touchdown.
Sims scored seven plays into the fourth quarter as Lozano’s PAT started sending a few Clinton fans home as the scoreboard now showed Newberry with a 33-22 lead with 9:20 left in the game.
After Clinton’s last three-and-out of the night, Newberry found themselves at their 46 and 7:27 shown on the scoreboard and still holding onto an 11-point lead. Newberry would punt two minutes later.
Clinton fumbled over to Newberry’s K.J. Fields two plays later as the junior returned his recovery 40 yards to the one yard line.
Deuntray Gallman ended the Newberry scoring two plays later from three yards out before the Lozano PAT with 4:24 left in the game.
Jaylen Lindsay intercepted a Clinton pass two plays later but Newberry would fail to convert a fourth-and-eight with 2:01 showing on the scoreboard.
After three straight incomplete passes, quarterback Landon Allison aired out an 81-yard pass to Tay Cook for the touchdown as the two-point run failed with 96 seconds left in the game.
Having all of the “good hands” people on the field for the onside kick, Drew Ahrens preserved the win for Newberry as he fell onto the ball after it had traveled 18 yards. Werts took three knees to end the game.
Newberry is off to its second 2-0 start in three years. Clinton has not started a season 0-2 since 1990.
After starting a season with two games on the road for the first time since 1985, Newberry will open its home season Friday with the hosting of Berea, who is searching for its first win of their season.
“It will be good to be back at home,” said Strickland. “This was a good win for these kids and I am glad they got excited in the second half.”