Clarksdale High School went into its Region 3-4A opener and homecoming matchup on a three-game losing streak as Yazoo City came to town Friday night.
The Wildcats (4-3, 1-0) were up to the challenge, got back on the winning track and ran away with a 40-16 victory.
“1-0 in district is all that matters,” said Clarksdale coach Henry Johnson after the win.
It was junior quarterback Tamera Allen’s first full week of practice with the team during the regular season. He missed the first five games with an injury and was cleared one day before Choctaw County came to town on Sept. 27.
Allen responded with his full week of practice by getting his first win as the starter. He was 5 of 10 passing for 81 yards and one interception and had six rushes for 41 yards and one touchdown. He also lost a fumble.
“He’s still a little rusty, but he’s young,” Johnson said. “He played well enough for us to win and we won. That’s what matters.”
Things did not start off smooth for Clarksdale as Yazoo City had a 2-yard touchdown run with 5:57 remaining in the first quarter to take an 8-0 lead.
Senior Queston Skipper, who had 13 rushes for 148 yards and two touchdowns, answered with a 24-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 8-6.
With the Wildcats ahead 14-8 in the second quarter, the defense created two turnovers that set up a touchdown.
Junior Milton James intercepted a pass with 8:23 remaining in the half, but the Wildcats could not capitalize. Junior Jamarius Dorsey came back with another interception with 6:40 in the first half at the Wildcats 41.
“We just had to make an adjustment on defense,” Johnson said. “After we made an adjustment on defense, we were able to shut them down.”
Four first half touchdowns helped Clarksdale take a 26-8 halftime lead.
Johnson’s only issue with the defense late in the game was, after the Wildcats took a 40-8 lead, it gave up a touchdown.
Senior Kaleb Brown and junior De’meric Strong led the Wildcats with nine tackles each.
Senior Zeilon Chestnut had one sack, while juniors Jordan Thomas and Vincent Sims had one sack each.
“Our pass defense is still terrible,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to get better on pass defense. We’ve got to get better overall as a team. We had a turnover tonight. We’ve got to continue to get better. We really do.”
Junior Sammie Ray finished with 15 rushes for 135 yards and two touchdowns, while junior Quintarius had two rushes for 20 yards and one reception for 38 yards.
Junior Josh Hollins had four receptions for 43 yards. He also connected on the last two extra points. The Wildcats have used different place kickers, but after Hollins’ PATs, he solidified his place in that spot.
“I’m very encouraged that he’s going to be our kicker for the next two years,” Johnson said.
Johnson said it was “very, very important” to have a kicker.
With the game well in hand for Clarksdale, some of the younger athletes saw action in the final minutes.
Sophomore quarterback Martez Williams was 0 for 1 passing, while sophomore Trenton Chess had three rushes for 24 yards.
“Always important to get the younger guys in,” Johnson said. “We were able to get them in on the last drive. Always a plus.”
Clarksdale will look to remain unbeaten in district play when it travels to Gentry High School in Indianola at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Johnson felt his team played better against Yazoo City than during the three-game losing streak, but he is still not satisfied going forward.
“I think we executed a little bit better, but we’ve still got to get better,” Johnson said.