SARDIS—Senior Sammie Ray received the game ball for Clarksdale High School after his performance at North Panola Friday where the Wildcats came from behind three times to win the season opener 22-20.
Ray, normally a running back, played quarterback in the Wildcat package late in the fourth quarter. He capped off a 10-play drive with a 7-yard touchdown run with 2:21 remaining on the clock to give Clarksdale the lead.
“We just found something that we can do,” said Wildcats coach Henry Johnson. “It’s a closeout for us and we call it the Wildcat.”
After senior starting quarterback Tamera Allen threw an interception with 5:58 remaining in the first quarter, the Cougars scored a 2-yard touchdown with 4:46 to play in the period and made the 2-point conversion to take an 8-0 lead.
Senior cornerback Jamarius Dorsey was called for a pass interference on the possession.
Johnson told the official, “That’s offense.”
Ray ran for a 9-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive with 2:21 remaining in the first quarter. Allen ran in the 2-point conversion to tie the score at 8-8. A 35-yard pass from Allen to senior receiver Josh Hollins set the score up.
North Panola scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass with six minutes to play in the first half, but sophomore safety Kelley Jones broke up the 2-point conversion.
Ray scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and ran the 2-point conversion in with 3:34 remaining in the first half to give Clarksdale a 16-14 lead.
“A lot of heart. Big heart. He got the game ball,” said Johnson of Ray.
Junior running back Solomon Kemp had a 35-yard run to set up the touchdown.
North Panola dominated field position most of the second half junior DeMarius Riley and senior De’meric Strong had back-to-back sacks to halt one scoring opportunity.
Jones stopped the Cougars on their last opportunity with an interception.
“Our defense showed a lot of heart,” Johnson said.
Ray had two runs for first downs after Jones’ interception to seal the victory.
“We never gave up,” Johnson said. “We never quit. Backs to wall, never quit. I’m proud of them. Win for the Clarksdale Wildcats.”
Clarksdale is at Cleveland Central Friday night. Cleveland Central gave Clarksdale its first loss of the 2019 season.
“We’ve got to play ball,” Johnson said.
When asked what the Wildcats have to do to win, Johnson said, “I don’t know, but we’ve got to play ball.”
Clarksdale will only have one district opponent this season. Gentry High School canceled its season about an hour before kickoff between Clarksdale and North Panola Friday.
That means Yazoo City will be the Wildcats’ one Region 3-4A opponent. Clarksdale is at Yazoo City Oct. 2 and the winner will take the district championship.
However, that is not Johnson’s focus. He is looking forward to opening at the new stadium against South Panola at the high school Sept. 18.
“We’re trying to get back to that new stadium 2-0,” Johnson said. “That’s all we’re thinking about. We’re trying to get back to our new stadium in Clarksdale, Miss., that we paid $8 million for 2-0. The way we do that is one game at a time. We’ve got to go beat Cleveland Central and that’s it.”