By Rory Sharrock
It's been a rough week for Stockbridge on as well as off the field and the last thing it needed was to play against a talented team like North Clayton.
However, the show must go on and the Eagles (7-1, 6-0) provided the entertainment by routing the Tigers (1-8, 0-6) 30-6 Thursday night at Tara Stadium to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2004.
"We're excited. I'm a little disappointed by the way played, but at the same time, you're proud of the kids," said North Clayton head coach Rodney Hackney. "Sometimes when you play a team that's 1-8, it's kind of hard for our kids to get up. I'm excited to be back in the playoffs. I haven't been since I coached at Mays (2005)."
North Clayton bruising running back Clarence Jackson had his was versus the Tigers' defense by rushing for four touchdowns to pace his squad to victory.
"We're a good team and I feel like we played harder than them. Either way it goes, whoever we play, we're going to play hard. Even though we clinched a playoff, we're still to bring it," said Jackson.
Stockbridge's offense struggled to sustain a drive all night long, which resulted in two lost fumbles, an interception and two safeties - one which was recovered behind the goal line by the Tigers while the other came from the punter being gang tackled near the back of the end zone.
The Tigers didn't reach the red zone until 11:53 remaining in the fourth quarter. Their lone score came when after being sacked on third-and-four, Kevin Burke pulled down a 21-yard reception that cut their deficit to 22-6 following a failed 2-point conversion.
Stockbridge's trials on the field pale in comparison to its in-house issues as former offensive coordinator Jake Monden fills out the season as interim head coach.
"We didn't make any plays when we needed to make them. It's a tough loss for us," said Monden. "The kids played hard in the first half, things just didn't go our way tonight. "The kids have been through a lot. We're going to keep fighting and hopefully come back in two weeks (Nov. 7) against Jonesboro and get the victory."
Monden replaces first-year coach Don Vandygriff, who was dismissed as head coach earlier this month. No accurate details were given as to why Vandygriff, who took over for current Union Grove head coach Steve Collins, was relieved of his coaching duties. Along with Vandygriff, defensive coordinator and secondary coach Kevin Cobb is no longer with the Tigers.
While Monden was promoted from being offensive coordinator, the entire staff at Stockbridge is still in tact.
"I'm on an interim basis. I really can't discuss what happened. It's a private thing we can't discuss and they'll make it public when they want to. The remainder of the staff is still in tact, we just moved some guys around. Coach (Brandon) Mallow, coach (Elred) Taylor and coach (Alan) Clarke are still running the offense. They've been on the offensive staff all year. Coach (Dewayne) Kelley and coach (James) Thorton are running the defense. We're doing a few things different and the kids like it. We just didn't capitalize when we needed to."