E.A. Sports Today

Clay Central champs

Touchdown in final minute gives Volunteers Class 5A state title, puts Horn in seventh heaven

Clay Central coach Danny Horn brings the Class 5A state title trophy back to his team. (Photos by Jeremy Wortham)

By Jeremy Wortham
For East Alabama Sports Today

AUBURN – Quentin Knight’s 1-yard run and Clayton Yates’ PAT with 43 seconds to play – one play after a go-for-broke fourth-down conversion to prolong the season – lifted Clay Central to a thrilling 43-42 win over Vigor for the Class 5A state championship at Jordan-Hare Stadium Thursday night.

The lead changed hands six times in the game, four times in the second half. Vigor (13-2) rallied from a 28-16 deficit to take a 42-36 lead with 6:40 to play.

“It’s still kind of unbelievable in how far this group as come,” Clay Central coach Danny Horn said. “This group has come a long, long way.

“This means so much to us and the community. Seven years ago we (merged) and we couldn’t quite get over that hump, but this year we did … At one time during the season we were 3-3 and I was just wondering if we were going to make the playoffs, honestly. After that loss up at Mortimer Jordan, I could see this team start jelling and getting better every week. After the second round we saw the end of the tunnel, thinking we can do this.”

While the championship is the first for Clay Central as a school, it is the seventh for Horn. He directed Clay County to six titles (1994-96, 2000, 2002, 2005) and this one came in his first year back in their system, which merged while he was at Benjamin Russell. He is now 299-86 as a head coach.

“The good Lord has really blessed me to win some games and some championships,” Horn said, “but I just can’t remember one any better than this one.”

Knight’s winning touchdown capped an eight-play, 50-yard drive. The big play in the drive was a fourth-and-10 pass from Phillip Ogles to Shamari Simmons that went for 17 yards. Knight scored on the next play.

“It was open the play before and I just didn’t make the throw,” Vols quarterback Phillip Ogles said. “But the next time I had confidence. I think we all had confidence in making the play and got right back at it.”

In a game that saw seven touchdowns in the second half and the lead change four times, the Volunteers (12-3) put together their most important drive of the season to claim victory.

There was 2:18 remaining in the game and the Volunteers trailed 42-36. The upside to their dilemma was they had the ball, one final opportunity to put together their most important drive of their season and they had Horn calling the shots. This drive was for all the marbles in the bag.

The Volunteers took their final drive from the 50 with Ogles finding Javon Wood on a 24-yard pass three plays later to move the chains to the 18. Three players later, the Volunteers found themselves at fourth-and-10. This time it wasn’t the most important drive of their season, it was the most important play of their season. What was the season defining play to keep the Vols’ dream alive? It was the same pass play Horn called on third-and-10, only this time the ball found its mark.

“We had an open player before, I said heck let’s run it again,” Horn said. “Let’s just try to execute this time.”

Ogles connected with Simmons on a 17-yard pass to set up first-and-goal from the 1. Knight punched the ball in on the next play to tie the game at 42 with Clayton Yates adding the extra point to give the Vols the lead with 43 seconds remaining to hold off Vigor from any chance of a comeback.

There were three straight defensive touchdowns, the last two by Clay Central, and a punt return touchdown in the game. After recovering Vigor’s fumble on the first play of the game, Ogles scored from 1 yard out to give the Vols the early lead. Micah Garrett then got a 24-yard scoop-and-score with 2:47 left in the half followed by Tyius Tatum getting an interception on Vigor’s next possession and taking it 34 yards to the end zone.

The defense recorded another interception and fumble in the first while holding Vigor to crossing midfield just twice in the first half to take a 21-8 halftime lead.

“I just told my teammates before the game I would lay it all on the line,” Garrett said. “Big plays were in my favor tonight. I just made them.”

“We’ve been playing good defense all year long,” Horn said.

Vigor quarterback Kyle Walker completed 15 of 21 passes for 337 yards and a Super 7 Class 5A record four touchdowns. Artel Howell caught six balls for 200 yards.

Clay Central’s Knight finished with 55 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. Ogles completed 14 of 33 for 190 yards. Javon Woods caught seven balls for 77 yards and Simmons, the game’s MVP, caught six for 102.

“We didn’t only do this for us and our teammates, we did this for Clay County,” Simmons said. “We needed this bad … I knew we were a good team, we just needed that confidence to gel.Like Coach Horn said, I thank God that we lost to Mortimer Jordan in an embarrassing loss. It may be embarrassing, but we’re champs now.”

Clay Central 43, Vigor 42
Team stats Vig CC
First downs 16 17
Rushes-yds 26-57 40-53
Passes 15-21-2 14-33-0
Passing yds 337 190
Fumbles-lost 3-2 2-1
Punts-avg 4-24.2 8-29.1
Penalties-yds 14-117 9-58

Scoring summary
Vigor 0 16 14 12 – 42
Clay Central 7 14 7 15 – 43

C – Phillip Ogles 1 run (Clayton Yates kick), 10:14 1Q
V – JaMarcus Snow 0 fumble recovery (James Jackson run), 5:33 2Q
C – Micah Garrett 24 fumble recovery (Clayton Yates kick), 2:47 2Q
C – Tytus Tatum 34 interception return (Clayton Yates kick), 1:47 2Q
V – James Jackson 46 pass from Kyle Walker (Paul Jackson pass), 1:33 2Q
C – Quentin Knight 5 run (Clayton Yates kick), 7:21 3Q
V – Artel Howell 41 pass from Kyle Walker (pass failed), 5:18 3Q
V – Artel Howell 71 punt return (James Jackson pass), 4:11 3Q
C – Quentin Knight 11 pass from Phillip Ogles (Javon Wood pass), 10:34 4Q
V – James Jackson 20 pass from Kyle Walker (run failed), 9:50 4Q
V – Artel Howell 56 pass from Kyle Walker (pass failed), 6:40 4Q
C – Quentin Knight 1 run (Clayton Yates kick), 0:43 4Q

Quentin Knight dives into the end zone for Clay Central’s state championship-winning touchdown with 43 seconds to play. (Photo by Jeremy Wortham)

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