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Devils off to rocky start

By Ray Dimonda Correspondent
Posted 6/1/23

WILLISTON - The Clay Blue Devils got off to a rocky start Thursday night as the team traveled across the state through cow country to Williston, taking on the Red Devils who last season won 10 games …

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Devils off to rocky start


WILLISTON - The Clay Blue Devils got off to a rocky start Thursday night as the team traveled across the state through cow country to Williston, taking on the Red Devils who last season won 10 games in a row with four shut outs, five games with 50 or more points, and only lost four seniors.

“Right now, no I’m not happy,” said Kennard as he reflected on the lows of the event. “We did some things we didn’t do all spring. Our first seven snaps we snapped the ball over the quarterback’s head five times. I haven’t seen that once this spring. We are very young, and have a lot of young kids playing, but then we rallied back and got back into it. Typical Spring game. They (the Red Devils) are really good at what they do, but we can’t shoot ourselves in the foot like that.”

Clay would suffer several snaps from center that skied over Landon Chadwick and Merrick Rapoza’s heads. Once the jitters were gone, Clay went on to show some muscle out of the backfield as well as some great grabs from Payton Dykas, one for a touchdown. It didn’t all go to plan for Head Coach Kyle Kennard, but the team showed flashes of brilliance as well as some stout inside defending over and over from Omar Goosby.

“We’ve got some players and a great group of really good kids, I just wish they could get a little more angry,” said Kennard. “We have potential, we have the kids, we just have to get tougher and more physical. Stronger and faster.”

After giving up a quick two points on a Safety following two sky high snaps over Chadwick’s head into the endzone, it was the Clay defense taking the field to see what they could do. Williston had a quick inside option that stumped Clay early. It took three sets of Red Devil offense for the Clay Blue Devil defense to key on where the ball was going and how to attack. Goosby was the first to figure out the inside attack followed quickly by Dominic Swilley, Javarius Roberts, Jason Goflin, and Aaron Stacey all jamming up the inside. Goosby seemed to be in on nearly every tackle and will be one to keep an eye on.

Clay’s defensive backs had some great highlights with an outstanding noteworthy stop in the second quarter on a deep endzone pass broken up by Floyd Reed with an arm inside and helped with a sandwich tackle by Xavier Branch. It wasn’t all highlight reels for the defense backfield as the Red Devils broke several runs around the corner that the safety needed to find a way to prevent a touchdown. The tools are there, it all just needs refining.

The offensive bright spot of the night was wide receiver Payton Dykas. When he wasn’t stealing a ball away from a defender to score on a deep 30 plus yard pass, he was coming out of the backfield for a quick out or taking a pitch or shovel pass. Dykas will be another one to keep an eye on for some productive play.

Freshman Landon Chadwick started out at quarterback for Clay, suffering through the high snaps and taking one heck of a hit in the endzone, covering the ball for the safety. His actions kept it to only a two point score for Williston. Once Chadwick could get the ball in his hands, he showed good composure in the backfield allowing plays to develop and not afraid to tuck the ball and run.

“Now I kind of know where we are at and where we need to go,” said Kennard. “That team (the Red Devils) is going to go three or four rounds deep. I knew what we were getting in to because I like playing good competitive teams who are really well coached so we can measure and see where we are at. It’s obvious I see where we are at right now.”

After several sets, Merrick Rapoza, who just gave up pitching and playing first base for Clay baseball 10 days prior, jumped into the driver’s seat at quarterback, and had his first snap go to the sky. Rapoza showed he didn’t lose any ability to scramble to either take off for the sidelines or to allow Dykas time to get open. Rapoza did suffer a strip fumble and will need to find a way to prevent costly turnovers.

Special teams seemed ready with no issues while not dealing with the rush. Kicks all had no contact. Punting had one notable with the snaps going high and taking time to get back to the kicker. All easily correctable and not bad for such a short period of practice for one game.

As of June 1st, Clay only has 85 days until they travel to Fleming Island for the class of 2024 season opener against the Golden Eagles on August 25.