Hawkinsville beat Clinch, 23-8
from playoff with
Hawkinsville scored all the points they needed in the first quarter, as they eliminated the Clinch County Panthers in the second round of the Class A public school playoffs Friday at Donald Tison Field, 23-8.
The Red Devils led 9-0 at the end of the first period, and 23-8 at half, and held on in a scoreless second half to advance to the playoffs' third round, where they'll play Marion County. Clinch County ends its season at 8-4.
Red Devil fullback J.D. Burden had the first half of his career against the Panthers, rushing for two touchdowns and 182 yards on 11 carries. In the second half, the Panther defense held the junior to 16 yards on 10 carries.
"Hawkinsville just outplayed us in the first half," said Clinch head coach Jim Dickerson. "Our defense didn't show up in the first half, but I thought played well in the second half. That's on me. I just don't think we were as prepared as we should have been."
Clinch helped the Hawkinsville cause in the first half, mishandling two snaps in the first quarter.
The first errant snap occured on the Panthers' initial possession, as they fumbled the ball away at their own 32. Hawkinsville couldn't take advantage of the turnover, but did punt the Panthers into a hole, starting their second possession at their own 7.
On second down from the 7, another errant snap sailed over the head of Clinch quarterback Octavis Johnson and out of the back of the endzone for a safety.
The ensuing kickoff was returned to the Hawkinsville 47. A 33-yard run by Burden took the Red Devils to the Clinch 2. Quarterback Dakota Sloan then scored on a 2-yard keeper with 5:05 left in the first quarter. Esequil Reyes made the PAT to give the visitors a 9-0 lead at the end of the first period.
Hawkinsville then added to that lead on a long drive early in the second quarter, finished by a Burden 8-yard touchdown run. Reyes' extra-point boot was good for a 16-0 Red Devil lead with 9:39 left in the first half.
Clinch answered on their next possession. On 4th-and-5 from the 13, Octavis Johnson scored on a scamper with 6:48 left in the second quarter. Billy Kelsaw ran in the two-point conversion to cut the Red Devil lead to 16-8.
The eight-point lead was short-lived, as Burden broke five tackles on ensuing first play from scrimmage for a 75-yard touchdown run. Reyes' PAT was true for a 23-8 Hawkinsville lead with 6:27 left in the first half.
Clinch had two more scoring opportunities – one in the first half that stalled at the Hawkinsville 16, and another in the fourth quarter that died with another fumbled shotgun snap.
Burden led the game's rushers (198 yards on 21 carries), while Johnson led the Clinch ground attack with 110 yards on 21 carries. The Clinch defense was led by freshmen Marcus Hodges with 10 tackles, and Keynan Gainey's eight stops.
"I hurt for our seniors," said Dickerson, whose team won the Region 2-A this season after going 4-6 in 2012. "But they went out as region champs. Our future is bright, but that doesn't stop the bleeding for our seniors."
Clinch graduates 12 seniors, but also had 24 freshmen on its 49-player roster.
The two other teams from Region 2-A still in the playoffs – Irwin County and Charlton County – both advanced to make the Class A public school semifinals.