Rivals Clayton and Smithfield-Selma traded big yardage plays Friday night. Clayton just made a few more of them, emerging with a 38-21 victory over the Spartans.
The Comets (3-1) jumped out to a 14-0 lead, then answered Smithfield-Selma’s only first-half touchdown with three scores to push ahead 36-7 at the half.
“We saw some signs of good things, got a lot of people some work,” said Clayton coach Randy Pinkowski. “SSS played hard for the whole 48 minutes and showed some good things as well.”
Down 14-0 after short TD runs by Clayton’s R.J. Thorpe and Eric Hoy, Smithfield-Selma converted a fourth-and-18 for a score to get back within a touchdown. Chris Tappin made a leaping grab just short of the end zone on a pass from Raequan Smith. Tappin sidestepped a defender after the catch, stepping into the end zone to cut the lead to 14-7 on the first play of the second quarter.
Clayton, which won its third straight, answered with Hoy and Thorpe combining on a TD. Hoy avoided a solid Spartans rush, going to his right and finding a wide-open Thorpe in the back corner of the end zone.
Hoy, who finished at 53 yards rushing on eight carries and 8-of-11 passing for 136 yards and two TDs, scored on a 19-yard quarterback draw on the next Comet drive to go up 28-7 with 3 minutes, 13 seconds to play in the quarter.
Clayton got the ball back with less than 45 seconds to go in the half and Hoy went deep to junior Blake Joyner. Joyner outleaped a Spartan defender who tipped the ball, pulled it in one-handed, then turned and bolted for the end zone. Joyner broke a tackle attempt at the 20 then tightroped the sideline to complete a 74-yard scoring play. The two-point run by Hoy put the Comets up 36-7 at the break.
“We had a talk at halftime about getting knocked down and how it’s important to keep fighting after that happens,” SSS coach David Lawhon said. “I was very proud of our effort in the second half. We were lights-out defensively. We made a few adjustments and the guys battled.”
The talk worked. The Spartans held Clayton, who used backup quarterback Joseph Whittington for much of the second half, without any offensive points in the final two quarters. (Brooks Verona pulled down the SSS quarterback in the end zone for a safety for the Comets’ final two points.)
Smithfield-Selma (1-3) scored on a pair of 90-yard plays in the second half.
Felipe Ornelas picked up a Clayton fumble at the 10-yard line and ran away for the first touchdown with 6:11 left to play in the third quarter.
The second score came after SSS’s defense forced another fumble deep in Clayton territory. Running back Tyler McDougle broke through an open seam in the Comet defense and bolted away on a 90-yard touchdown run to cut the final margin to 38-21.
“We came in trying to do some different things, getting into the third or fourth play of the playbook,” Pinkowski said. “Work on our short passing game and then we get into trying to sub people out and you get into unfamiliar situations for guys. We just need to clean up on our execution.”