Smithfield: Sports

Clayton defense shines against South Johnston

In order to continue its current rate of weekly improvement, Clayton’s defense would need to score 14 points of its own next week. That’s the benchmark a team gets left with when it shuts out a rival – like the Comets did South Johnston, 45-0, Friday night.

Clayton, now 3-0 and ranked ninth in the N&O poll, had allowed 29 points to Cleveland in its opener, then 14 last week against Corinth Holders. Friday against South Johnston (0-3), the Comets intercepted three passes and had five other pass breakups.

The defensive rush was there as well with five sacks and eight other tackles for losses. Senior linebacker Rashan McKey had three sacks for Clayton.

“We were just flying to the ball and if we had a chance to make a play on the ball we did,” said Clayton senior defensive back Eric Hoy whose 48-yard return of an interception set up a 1-yard scoring drive that pushed the Comets ahead 21-0 with 4:42 to play in the first half.

“I’ve felt like, defensively, we’ve been playing well all year long,” said first-year Clayton coach Randy Pinkowski. “The kids have adjusted well as we’ve asked them to do some things they’re not used to doing. We played much better technique- and alignment-wise tonight. Now it’s just a matter of getting smarter and recognizing what to do when we have to play situational football.”

Senior fullback Jace Brown keyed the Clayton rushing attack with 131 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. The Comets put up 381 rushing yards on the night.

Hoy scored twice on offense as well, pulling in a 65-yard pass from Sam May in the Comets’ 24-point second quarter then on a 2-yard run in the second half. May, Von McFarland and junior Rodney Rowe also had scoring runs.

Rowe ran for 114 yards on seven carries, all in the second half.

Clayton’s defense held South Johnston to a net loss in rushing until the final two minutes of the game.

Two fumbles, recovered by South’s Toronte Howard and Caleb Robinson, stopped Comet drives in the first quarter.

Despite Clayton’s excellent defense, Trojans’ quarterback Garrett Smith threw for 211 yards, completing 22 of his 33 throws. Devin Harris caught eight passes for 101 yards on the night.