The Bobcats scored on their first and last plays from scrimmage, with only a field goal to show for the 45 minutes, 22 seconds, in between. Nevertheless, Seneca (8-3) eliminated the Red Devils, 18-14, on Coach Tom Bass Field Friday night.
After spotting Seneca a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, Clinton came roaring back. Mark Wise, who rushed for 178 yards, broke loose for a 57-yard touchdown sprint, and quarterback Konnor Richardson hit Layne Cunningham for a 15-yard touchdown pass. Both scores came in the final three minutes of the first half.
Clinton (4-7) could have all but nailed down the upset, but Kris Holmes’ fourth-down option pass from the Seneca 20 fell incomplete with 4:28 remaining.
“We weren’t in field goal range,” Clinton head coach Andrew Webb said. “It wasn’t really an option. We felt that was the best play we had in our playbook. We had a chance to complete it, and their kid made a play. I’d call the same thing again in the same situation.”
The Red Devils may have been able to run out the clock when the Bobcats lined up in punt formation at their own 19 with 3:07 remaining.
Both teams called timeouts. The Bobcats changed their minds. Quarterback Cole Bay hit Aireez Alexander with a 17-yard completion. Seven plays and two Clinton penalties later – one for a facemask and the other for interference -- Shawn Holden ran seven yards for the winning touchdown, and Holden also scored Seneca’s final points on a conversion pass from Bay.
It was heartbreaking. The fourth seed from Region 3 almost upset the top seed from Region 1. The fourth seed outrushed the top seed by 93 yards, outgained them in total yards by 52, held the ball for 11 minutes, 10 seconds more … and nonetheless lost.
The effort was noteworthy. A Clinton defense that had yielded 332 points in the first 10 games gave a performance that was astonishing, from the moment Jeremiah Mackey ran 66 yards on the Bobcats’ opening play to the seven by Holden on the last one.
“We played the best we’ve played all year on defense, particularly in the second and third quarters,” Webb said. “And 10 minutes of the fourth quarter.”
As Webb discussed the events of the evening afterwards, several of his players wept unashamedly nearby. The Red Devils, against all odds, came to win and expected to do so. The effort merited it.
“I couldn’t fault their effort all year,” Webb said. “We knew we would get their best effort. Ultimately, we didn’t finish a drive on offense in the third quarter, and we didn’t finish a drive at the end. I’m real proud of our guys, but we didn’t take advantage of opportunities.
“We battled our butts off.”
Seneca will host Palmetto in round two.
S – Jeremiah Mackey 66 run (Hunter Pearson kick) 10:01 1st
S – Pearson 40 FG 4:08 1st
C – Mark Wise 57 run (Sam Tiller kick) 2:56 2nd
C – Layne Cunningham 15 pass from Konnor Richardson (Tiller kick) 0:53 2nd
S – Shawn Holden 7 run (Holden pass from Cole Bay) 0:37 4th
RUSHING: Clinton, Wise 20-178, Kris Holmes 23-51, Totals 48-233; Seneca, Mackey 13-117, Holden 11-47, Totals 32-139.
PASSING: Clinton, Richardson 3-7-2 32, Holmes 0-1-0 0; Seneca, Bay 9-14-1 74.
RECEIVING: Clinton, Elijah Campbell 2-17, Cunningham 1-15; Seneca, Coleman Smith 5-43, Aireez Alexander 2-24.