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Blue Devil offense rocks for 500 yards

Clay 42, Ridgeview 12

Randy Lefko
Sports Editor

Posted 12/31/69

GREEN COVE SPRINGS - Merrick Rapoza and Landon Chadwick executed Clay’s two-quarterback system to perfection as the host Blue Devils rolled over Ridgeview 42-12 on September 1.

Chadwick, a …

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Blue Devil offense rocks for 500 yards

Clay 42, Ridgeview 12


GREEN COVE SPRINGS - Merrick Rapoza and Landon Chadwick executed Clay’s two-quarterback system to perfection as the host Blue Devils rolled over Ridgeview 42-12 on September 1.

Chadwick, a sophomore with a reputation for a strong and accurate arm, completed 10 of 11 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 28 yards and another score. Rapoza, the 6’2”, 210-pound battering ram who evokes memories of the University of Florida’s Tim Tebow, ran for 117 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, and completed four of seven passes for 54 yards. No matter which signal caller was behind center, the Clay offense dominated. After their initial drive stalled, the Blue Devils reached the goal line on their next seven drives.

The two-quarterback system works because each player supports the other and has bought into the idea of sharing the job. Rapoza said he likes the rotation because it keeps both him and Chadwick fresh. Chadwick noted the problems it presents for opponents.

“It keeps defenses on their heels,” said Chadwick. “They do not know what is coming, because we have different skill sets.”

At times, both quarterbacks are in the game at the same time, meaning that defenses do not know who is going to take the snap until the Blue Devils line up. Rapoza caught two of Chadwick’s passes.

Clay racked up 502 yards of total offense, a staggering 357 of them in the first half as the Blue Devils raced to a 35-12 lead at the intermission. Clay scored on its only possession of a slower-paced third quarter and ended the game at the Panthers’ five-yard line on their only drive of the fourth quarter. Head Coach Kyle Kennard had harped on execution in practice the week of the game and was pleased with the near-flawless offensive performance.

“Our kids were more physical than they were, they finished through the whistle, and they executed,” Kennard said.

Clay’s offensive line, consisting of Josh Hetz and Cody Mobley on the left side, center Donovan Davis, Jr. and brothers Maki Iscoa and Eli Iscoa on the right side, consistently opened holes for the running game. Aside from four incomplete passes, the Blue Devils gained positive yardage on every play they ran, and did not allow a sack. The physical domination was laid bare in the second quarter when Kennard called three consecutive quarterback sneaks for Rapoza, who barreled over right guard for six yards to convert a fourth down, moved the pile for four yards on the next play, and quickly pushed past the Panthers for a two-yard touchdown run to cap a 67-yard drive. Rapoza, a Tebow and the Gators fan, said he prefers to go through tacklers rather than evade them.

“I want to make them [tacklers] not want to hit me,” he said. “Every time they hit me, they are going to feel it.”

The offensive line made life easier for freshman Iyen Addison, who took all the carries from the running back position because starter Gino Addison sat out the game with a sore ankle. Iyen Addison ran for 171 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.

Ridgeview had chances to make the game competitive but failed to score on two drives that advanced to the Clay 26-yard line and two trips to the red zone. Already trailing 35-12, Panthers head coach Bryan Arnette turned down a field goal opportunity with two seconds left in the first half and the ball at the Clay 14-yard line. Instead, Ridgeview quarterback Travon Malone was hit as he threw by Clay’s Jay’shawn McCloud, causing an errant pass that was intercepted by cornerback Chandler Thomas as the clock expired.

A fourth-quarter drive that had reached the Clay 5-yard line stalled when a shotgun snap went over the head of running back Rayhn Hutchinson and was recovered at the 15-yard line by McCloud.

McCloud was playing his first game at middle linebacker after Kennard and Clay defensive coordinator Craig Nosse decided to switch McCloud and Brayden Ringer, who had been playing linebacker. The change worked beautifully, as McCloud had two sacks, two tackles for loss and the fumble recovery.

“McCloud is very explosive, and he plays much better in space,” explained Kennard.

Hutchinson was a bright spot for Ridgeview, as he had been in Week 1 against Pedro Menendez. The senior, who in past years had played defense for the Panthers, ran for 130 yards on just eight carries, scoring both Panthers touchdowns. One of the scores was an 80-yard sprint around the right end, taking a direct snap from the wildcat quarterback position. The other was a 29-yard jaunt that brought the Panthers within 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.

“The kid has come so far,” Arnette said of Hutchinson, whose family’s house burned down last year. “Two years ago, he would have lost his cool, but tonight he showed a lot of poise and heart and embodies what we want our program to be.”

Arnette was also pleased with the play of Malone, who was playing just his second game of organized football after not playing football since elementary school. Malone showed off an ability to extend plays by moving around in the pocket and completed 11 of 18 throws for 104 yards.

Kennard and Arnette are close friends who talk to each other almost every day and whose families socialize together. Kennard did not enjoy beating his friend but did not want to suffer the alternative.

“It sucks to play each other,” he said. “But if one of us has to lose, it is going to be him.”

Payton Dykas had two touchdown receptions for Clay, now 1-1. The Blue Devils travel to Orange Park on September 8 for what will be their third consecutive game against a Clay County rival. Ridgeview hosts Kissimmee Gateway that night in what Arnette views as a critical game for his young Panthers, who do not play on September 15. Gateway, like Ridgeview, is 0-2.

“A win would be huge,” he said. “You want to make sure that morale is high leading into a bye.”