From that point on, the Red Devils dominated the Rebels, winning its home jamboree, 18-7.
Three factors entered the equation.
Thurmond marched down the field but didn’t score. A 33-yard field goal was wide. The hum was “whew.” The game turned. At some level, the Red Devils raised their level of aggressiveness and physicality.
Zay Bennett intercepted a Jaquan Harris pass and returned it 58 yards down the Rebel sideline to put Clinton up, 6-0. A symbolic light much brighter than the dim ones at Wilder Stadium switched on.
Senior lineman Jishon Payne said, “The interception gave us life. All of a sudden, on offense, we had all the motivation. We had all the momentum.”
Clinton’s offense switched to the wishbone and basically pummeled the Rebels into submission. Boom. Boom. Boom. Mark Wise. Kris Holmes. Darien Bailey.
“The interception gave us a spark,” Red Devil head coach Andrew Webb said. “A lot of times in these jamborees, we don’t really know what the other team is going to do. There’s a mindset our guys have that we need to take advantage more of as coaches.
“There’s a mindset this group gets into when we go to the wishbone, and I think you can see it. You can see it and you can sense it. The interception and the wishbone changed the game for us.”
Wise put the Rebels away with a 27-yard touchdown with 3:24 remaining in the 24-minute exhibition. He rushed for 84 yards in eight carries. Holmes scored on a two-yard run and finished with 47 yards in 12 carries. Bailey ran the ball only three times but gained 18 yards.
Thurmond’s standout runner, Jaquan Edwards – yes, the quarterback and the running back were both named Jaquan – gained 59 yards in his first five carries and six in his last three. Harris rushed for 84 and passed for 38.
The Rebels racked up 120 of their 144 net rushing yards in the first quarter. The Red Devils rushed for 97 of their 134 in the second.
Clinton’s quarterback Konnor Richardson completed three of his pass attempts, all in the first quarter, mainly the pre-wishbone segment of the evening.
In the opening half, Woodruff defeated Ben Lippen, 14-12.