GREEN COVE SPRINGS – An “almost” pick-six interception by Lea Plante and a handful of glue-fingered pass catches from freshman Cierra Zino highlighted a thrilling Clay High 19-14 region …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – An “almost” pick-six interception by Lea Plante and a handful of glue-fingered pass catches from freshman Cierra Zino highlighted a thrilling Clay High 19-14 region semifinal flag football win over previously unbeaten Terry Parker High Friday night at Clay High School.
“I said to the girls that Clay football has a lot of history of winning close games on this field and they just put their name in that same hat with tonight’s win,” said Clay coach John Stilianou, a former defensive coordinator for the Clay High football team who stepped away from boys football to coach his daughter Alexis, a starter on the Clay flag football team. “I don’t know if they wanted to stamp out their own legacy, but they worked as hard as any of our boys teams to get to tonight.”
Clay (13-0) advances to their first-ever region 1-1A championship game on Tues., May 16 with a road trip to Choctowhatchee in the Florida Panhandle to take on the unbeaten Choctowhatchee High (13-0). The other two teams in the region bracket will be Brandon vs. defending Class 1A champions Robinson High of Tampa in Tampa.
In the Joseph Pinkos flag football statewide rankings, Robinson (15-0) is ranked number one with Clay (13-0) at three and Choctawhatchee (13-0) at five. Parker (12-1) was ranked sixth. Brandon is still unranked.
On defense, the Clay High secondary got an interception from defensive back Lea Plante late in the first half with Clay already leading 13-0 to set up a second touchdown from Zino.
“I’m so slow, any other girl who would have intercepted that pass would have scored,” said Plante, a standout soccer athletes for the Blue Devils. “I listened to coach Jay and stepped in front of the receiver at the right time.”
With Terry Parker dropping four would-be passes that could have created a different first half scenario, Clay coach John Stilianou was content to give Parker a shot in front of an umbrella defense set back about 10-12 yards off the line of scrimmage.
“I was going to give them the 8-10 yard route because of their potential speed,” said Stilianou. “Our girls are smart out there and we just had to get the flag pulls on those plays.”
In the first half, Xeno benefited from a long pass from quarterback Liz Fogarty to speed wideout Brooke Green that got Clay to the Parker two yard. From there, Fogarty found Xeno for the first score of the night with 7:15 still on the clock.
“We figured the defense would be looking at Brooke and Lea on offense for us,” said Clay coach Jared Moses. “Cierra has worked hard all season and had a great game as a freshman.”
Parker tried to respond to the quick score but was unable to get past the Blue Devil defensive coverage with Fogarty roaming the deep center safety position making two key pass breakups. Parker successfully moved the ball to a first down position at the Clay five yard line just before the two minute mark.
“We figured they would go to two girls in the end zone for the score,” said Plante.
Plante was right as she stepped in front of a pass attempt at the goal line then sped downfield to the Parker five yard line with just 1.8 seconds left in the half.
Fogarty made quick work of the time and found Xeno for a quick score at the halftime buzzer to push the Clay lead to 19-0.
In the second half, Terry Parker made up for the missed opportunities in the first half with quick passes setting up a Braves’ touchdown with 1:04 left in the third period and a 19-6 score.
Green tried to get a breakaway twice in Clay’s next drive, but was unable to find that last piece of open field.
Fogarty, getting chased a bit more in the backfield, was intercepted with eight minutes to go to breathe life back into Terry Parker’s offense and the Braves quickly took advantage with a run touchdown at 5:12 to go and a PAT run for the 19-14 score.
Green again nearly broke the game open with a quick drag pass nearly getting beyond the Braves’ defense, but to no avail.
Fogarty was intercepted a second time trying to drop a pass to Plante over the middle and the game suddenly shifted to a nailbiter.
“I just figured we had to keep the fans here,” said Fogarty.
On the Braves first play, Clay rusher Lynette Quinones dumped the Braves quarterback for an eight yard loss with defender Jenna Hill making two timely snags on the corners to thwart Terry Parker late-game efforts.