CITRA - Clay High football coach Kyle Kennard decided to “No Comment” on the officiating of the Blue Devils’ 39-13 district 4-5A championship loss to North Marion, but decided smartly to shoulder the blame on himself for lack of preparation for the environment that created a 7-7 game through three quarters of tough play before a fourth quarter comedy show of penalty flags; 12 flags in the fourth quarter, doomed the Clay hopes of a second district title.
“We don’t blame anything on the officials; 7-7 into the fourth quarter and we kind of imploded,” said Kennard, who still holds a strong shot at a region playoff grab despite the loss (see below). “We made far too many mistakes in the fourth quarter; turnovers, penalties just kind of caught us off guard. We didn’t make the plays we usually make.”
Clay had a MASH Unit looking set of players on the injured sideline with Hunter Huckleberry and Zack Fordham both in street clothes with injuries and Jarvis Lee not suited.
Clay’s first mistake took its toll just eight seconds into the game with Payton Dykas fumbling away the opening kickoff near the Clay 20 yard line.
North Marion opened with a 12 yard pass play followed by two consecutive scrums that saw Clay defenders Chandler Thomas and Errick Fryer both emerge from the fracas with the ball, but referees not seeing Clay’s intention.
On a third run play, that was undecided on whether it was third down or fourth down prior to the play, North Marion ran again and this time it was Clay cornerback David Smith holding the ball after the whistle.
A lengthy discussion ensued and North Marion was given the touchdown at 9:36 in the first quarter.
On Clay’s ensuing offensive series, two holding penalties pushed the Blue Devils back to a deep punt formation.
After a punt muff by North Marion, Brandon Peavy picked up the loose ball amidst another long discussion by officials.
At 1:28 left in the first, at Clay’s 38, Clay’s offense got a shot to close the game behind quarterback Jayden Jenkins who sparked some forward progress with elusive scrambles.
A Jenkins to Dykas pass play got a third and one that turned to a first down on an encroachment flag on North Marion.
With the second quarter beginning and Clay at midfield, Jenkins followed Combs to the North Marion 35 before Goldstein returned to the backfield.
A nifty hesitation move by Goldstein that got his blocking lined up, got a burst to the North Marion 25 on his first carry. Jenkins missed on a pass to D’Maurion Frazier in the end zone before being sacked to give North Marion the ball on downs.
North Marion blocked a Jered Mosley punt midway through the second quarter to put North Marion at the Clay 30, but the Blue Devil defense held behind Dominic Martin’s slashing tackles from his linebacker spot. Clay defensive end Jacob Coulson popped a fumble at 3:39 to thwart the drive with quarterback Billy Mobley hitting Frazier downfield, but officials deeming his feet out of bounds.
With the half ending at just 7-0, Clay went into the lockers thinking second half typical Blue Devil power half.
With both teams trading body blows through the third quarter, including a spearing flag on a Mobley scramble, Frazier, in the end zone with two defenders draped all over him, made a spectacular leap and grab to put the Blue Devils on the scoreboard just six seconds before the third quarter ended.
With the game tied at 7-7 on Tristan Haack’s PAT kick, the Clay fourth quarter mystique seemed primed for a showdown, but North Marion ended the quarter with a 45 yard kickoff return to open the fourth at midfield.
On their first down, North Marion hit for a touchdown bomb that came back on a penalty flag, then another, then another as jaw-boning was hindering the Colts progress.
With North Marion now at their own 20, first down, an offensive pass interference moved the ball back another 10 yards seemingly giving Clay a prime opportunity for a quick turnaround, but North Marion clawed back to midfield.
On a quick slant pass attempt in the end zone, Frazier nearly picked off a North Marion score attempt before a targeting flag kept the Colts in play in the Blue Devil red zone; the one yard line. North Marion would score at 7:59.
Still just a one touchdown game at 6:52, Clay needed a play and Fryer nearly snared an interception at midfield.
North Marion got a 30 yard pass play to the Clay 20 with a mismatched 6’-4” receiver against Clay’s 5”-7” Toshombee Jenkins before a quarterback scramble scored for the Colts at 5:26 to go; 19-7 to 21-7 with a two point conversion.
On first down with 3:58 to go, after Mobley got hit with an illegal pass (over the line of scrimmage), North Marion hit another touchdown pass over Jenkins to go up 26-7.
The bad luck kept hitting Clay as kick returner David Smith lost the ensuing kickoff and North Marion capitalized again with a quarterback draw to the one yard line.
Clay would score on the ensuing kickoff with Jonathan Rouw jogging unchallenged the length of the field as North Marion watched.
Region 1-5A RPI rankings
as of November 1 on FHSAA.com
(Note: District champions (*) get automatic advance to region playoffs with four highest RPI ratings to fill the eight-team field)
1. West Florida (75th in state, District 1-5A), 8-1-0. RPI .875 (Season done, lost to Wakulla)
*2. Baker County (110th in state, District 2-5A), 7-2-0. RPI .605 (Beat Suwannee and ED White, play 3A Baldwin)
*3. Raines (121st in state, District 3-5A), 6-2-0. RPI .596
4. ED White (142nd in state, District 2-5A), 6-2-0. RPI .578 (Beat Parker last week, Finish with 6A Riverside) (Note: Lost to Baker County)
*5. Wakulla (145th in state, District 1-5A), 7-2-0. RPI .577 (At Chiles, non-district) (ED White beat Wakulla, Wakulla beat West Florida)
6. Bishop Kenny (158th in state, District 2-5A), 6-2-0. RPI .566 (Lost to Baker County and Ed White)
7. Parker (180th in state, District 3-5A), 6-3-0. RPI .550 (Season done)
8. Clay (192nd in state, District 4-5A), 6-3-0 RPI .542 (Lost to North Marion; play 5A-Orange Park)
*9. North Marion (198th in state, District 4-5A champ), 6-3-0 RPI .540 (Beat Clay, play 1A Hawthorne)
10. Yulee (310th in state), 3-5-0 RPI .466
11. Suwannee (311th in state), 3-5-0 RPI .466
Baker County, Raines, Wakulla, North Marion (District champions)
West Florida, ED White, Bishop Kenny, Parker or Clay (Clay wins big over Orange Park?, could get the RPI bump)