YAZOO CITY—Only two teams in Region 3-4A did not cancel their football seasons after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Those two teams played on the same field Friday night with everything on the line. Clarksdale High School pulled away in the second half to win at Yazoo City 41-14.
The Wildcats (4-1, 1-0) are the district champions. It is Clarksdale’s first district championship in Henry Johnson’s eight seasons as head coach.
“My first one,” Johnson said. “I’m going to take it, too, because I don’t want to hear nothing about COVID-19 because we’re out here dealing with COVID-19.”
The Wildcats had their share of struggles in the first half and trailed 14-13 with 10:21 remaining in the second quarter following a 3-yard Indians touchdown on a quarterback keeper.
The score came after Yazoo City had the ball near midfield thanks to a short punt from senior Josh Hollins. The Indians’ other score came as a result of special teams on an 85-yard kickoff return in the first quarter.
Clarksdale senior Vincent Sims recovered his first of two fumbles at the Yazoo City 33 with 6:20 remaining in the first half, but the Wildcats could not capitalize.
“We struggled a little bit,” said Johnson of the first half. “I don’t know if it was the weather or not, but we struggled a little bit in the first half.”
Hollins, who finished with two touchdowns, 75 yards receiving and four tackles, caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from senior Tamera Allen on a fourth down and goal with 6:06 remaining in the first half. On a quarterback keeper, Allen ran to the left side in the end zone for the 2-point conversion to give Clarksdale a 21-14 lead.
“That was the play of the game right there,” Johnson said.
Hollins was also 3-for-5 on PATs after missing both of his extra points the previous week.
Yazoo City took the ball inside the Clarksdale 10 on the ensuing drive, but turned the ball over on downs.
Sophomore Kelley Jones intercepted a pass and ran it back for a 79-yard touchdown on the second to last play of the first half. The touchdown was called back thanks to an illegal block in the back against Clarksdale, but Johnson still felt the interception was key.
“That was a big play going into the half, the interception with Kelley, even though it was called back,” Johnson said. “We took some momentum going into halftime.”
Johnson let his team know, if mistakes were corrected in the second half, the result could be better.
“We just missed some opportunities in the first half that we feel like we should have had,” Johnson said. “We just had to come back out and correct those.”
Clarksdale scored three touchdowns in the second half, while Yazoo City went scoreless.
Sims, freshman middle linebacker Keban Gilmore and junior safety and linebacker Jordan Allen all recovered fumbles during the second half for the Wildcats. Allen also had a sack in the first half.
Wildcats senior safety Milton James created another turnover on an interception. Senior running back Sammie Ray scored the first touchdown on the second half on the ensuing drive with a 20-yard run with 5:20 remaining in the third quarter.
Setup by a nearly 30-yard pass from Allen to Hollins, Ray had a 14-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper. When Clarksdale runs the Wildcat formation, Ray plays the quarterback position.
Ray also had a 4-yard touchdown run.
“We came back and executed pretty well in the second half,” Johnson said.
The first two touchdowns of the game for Clarksdale came on an Allen 15-yard pass to Hollins and a 14-yard run from senior DK Bays.
The Wildcats have two weeks off and two changes in the schedule to close the regular season.
Clarksdale added Greenville High School to the schedule at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23. That will be senior night. The home game against Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill was moved to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30 to close the regular season. That will be CHS’s homecoming game.
Deion Sanders is finishing the year as Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill’s offensive coordinator before beginning his duties as Jackson State head coach. Sanders’ son, senior Shedeur Sanders, is the quarterback.
The Wildcats will host the No. 4 team in Region 1-4A in the first round of the playoffs Friday, Nov. 6.
“They didn’t have any cancelations,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he appreciates the community’s support and being the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs will help his team achieve its goals.
“That’s what we need,” Johnson said. “I think we’ve got a good ball team. I really do. I think we’ve got a real solid football team. I think this team can go and win a state championship. If we stay focused and keep working hard, I think we can get it.”
The Wildcats will be able to get some rest the next two weeks.
“I’m going to give the kids two days off every week. We’re going to practice three days a week, both weeks, give the coaches some time off, give the kids some time to heal up a bit,” said Johnson after Friday night. “We’ll get some practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday next week and be off Friday. We’ll do the same thing the following week.”