CLAYTON — Sam May had a simple message for his Clayton teammates at halftime Friday night. “Get off of the ball like you can,” he told his teammates.
The Comets did that and plenty more in a third quarter for the ages before a crowd estimated at 3,100 Friday night, scoring four touchdowns in an 11-minute stretch and rolling to a 53-29 win in their first meeting with Johnston County rival Cleveland in their debut under coach Randy Pinkowski.
Cleveland led 16-11 at the half but gave the Comets the ball four times in the third quarter. Each time, the Clayton offense not only got off of the ball, it got into the end zone.
“We weren’t getting off of the ball like we can,” said May, the Comets’ senior quarterback. “We were flat out getting beat off of the ball. We knew once we got that right, we’d create some lanes for our guys to run and we’d play like we can.”
May’s 14-yard run with 9:27 to play in the third started the scoring run. It was followed by a 30-yard TD run by sophomore wing back Blake Joyner, a 30-yard scramble for a score by May, then a 2-yard TD run by senior fullback Jace Brown for a 40-16 lead.
“We wanted to get Sam more involved in the offense in the second half. And we thought we would wear them down and have some chances to get around the end and hit the counter,” Pinkowski said. “We felt like we could catch them pressing up and overpursuing.”
Cleveland’s efforts were stymied by mistakes throughout the night. The Rams were penalized 22 times for 174 yards on the night and lost three turnovers, all of which led to Clayton touchdowns.
Joyner led the Comets with 107 yards on six carries and two touchdowns. May ran for three scores and threw for one.
Cleveland standout back Isaac Martin finished with 130 yards on 26 carries but didn’t have a run longer than 16 yards on the night.
Clayton took advantage of a couple of breaks – one of its own, one created by a Cleveland miscue – to jump out to an 11-0 lead in the first quarter.
Junior Eric Hoye returned the opening kickoff 68 yards to set up Clayton at the Cleveland 24-yard line. But the Rams’ defense held, forcing the Comets to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Nick Christensen.
Cleveland lost the ball on a bad option pitch three plays later and senior cornerback Anton Watson recovered it at the Ram 19-yard-line. Two plays later, Doug Edwards pulled in a spot pass from quarterback Sam May, split two Cleveland defensive backs and scored on a 20-yard TD reception. Hoye ran in the two-point conversion for an 11-0 lead with 6:55 to play in the first quarter.
Cleveland came back with a game-slowing drive, going 80 yards in 15 plays with Isaac Martin scoring on a 1-yard TD run.
The Rams’ Tyrone Jones blocked a punt for a safety on Clayton’s next possession, getting Cleveland within 11-9.
Junior quarterback Aaron Farmer pushed Cleveland ahead midway in the second quarter, keeping the ball on a read option up the middle, then cutting back twice to pick up blockers on the way to a 61-yard TD run. Paul Johnson’s extra-point gave the Rams a 16-11 lead with 6:48 to play in the first half.
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