By Phil Albert
Special to the Daily
North Clayton is really enjoying the friendly confines of Tara Stadium this season.
Two interceptions by Daamon Cooper sparked another strong defensive display by North Clayton in Friday night's 13-0 region 4A-AAAA victory over Forest Park.
Two streaks continued, as the Eagles (2-0, 1-0) have not been scored upon in eight quarters this season, while Forest Park (0-2, 0-1) has not scored in eight quarters.
Both Eagle victories have come at Tara.
The Eagle defense stymied the visiting Panthers, while the offense continues to sputter for coach Don Shockley's squad. Both touchdowns came as a result of turnovers in the second half.
Cooper started the scoring with a 34-yard interception return untouched down the left sidelines with 4:42 remaining in the third quarter. He added a nearly-50-yard interception return to the Panther 22-yard line in the fourth quarter.
Cornerback Sedrick Singletary added the Eagles' other touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 49-yard fumble return. A bad snap on fourth down for the Panthers was fumbled by Xavier Keller. Singletary scooped up the ball and followed his blockers to the end zone with 10:47 remaining in the game.
Cooper, a senior captain, had a night to remember with his two interceptions. He's optimistic that the offense will eventually catch up to the defense in productive play.
"It's a team game," Cooper said. "We can be a lot better. Coach (Don) Shockley said that defense wins championships. We stress defense and the team feeds off the defense until the offense clicks."
North Clayton outgained Forest Park, 135-129, in total offense, with 115 of the Eagle yards coming in the second half. But finding the end zone continues to be a problem.
In the first quarter, the Eagle defense caused a Panther fumble at the Forest Park 18-yard line with Rayshun Casey recovering the fumble. Three plays later, the Eagles fumbled as Chad Ivery made the recovery for the Panthers inside the 10.
A 27-yard punt return by Cooper gave the Eagles a first down at the Panthers 30 in the second quarter. The Eagles lost 14 yards in three plays and had to punt.
On its first possession of the third quarter, North Clayton moved the ball well on an 11-play drive, only to stall at the Panther 17. Brad Ellison was stopped for a nine-yard loss on fourth down.
In the fourth quarter, the Eagles had first and goal at the Panther 1. A loss and penalty moved the ball back to the 10, but an eight-yard pass moved the ball to the 2. Two running plays stalled just short of the goalline. In two games, the Eagles have scored five touchdowns, three by the defense.
The Panthers were stymied by a swarming Eagle defense. They were held to only four yards on the ground. They had 20 running plays on the night, but eight were for losses.
Forest Park junior quarterback Reginald Lewis finished 13-of-38 with two interceptions for 125 yards, and he had 10 yards rushing to lead the ground attack. After three consecutive running plays to open the third quarter produced loss of yardage, Lewis went to the air 16 times in the next 18 Panther plays, including 14 consecutive, before the fumble return by Singletary. Following the fumble, eight of the next nine Panther plays were passes.
For North Clayton, quarterback Milton Artis finished 6-of-13 for 73 yards through the air, 68 coming in the second half. The running attack produced 62 yards, 47 in the second half. Jamal Bennett finished with 66 yards rushing.