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North Clayton comeback bid falls short

Eagles force four turnovers but lose 15-14

Photo by Kelvin Render
Stockbridge running back Malik Bryan (1) gets stopped by the North Clayton defense in the second half of the Tigers’ 15-14 win on Friday.

Photo by Kelvin Render Stockbridge running back Malik Bryan (1) gets stopped by the North Clayton defense in the second half of the Tigers’ 15-14 win on Friday.

STOCKBRIDGE — Stockbridge football coach Kevin Whitley found some small solace in knowing that his team had withstood a furious North Clayton second-half rally to escape with a 15-14 win at The Jungle on Friday night.

It was about all the good the Tigers coach could find after his team narrowly improved to 3-1, despite nine penalties and four costly turnovers.

“We won,” Whitley said. “We had four turnovers and just barely got out of here with a win. Normally, if you have four turnovers, you lose.”

Whitley had a few anxious moments at the game’s end, following a La’Darrius Mathis touchdown with 34 seconds left that brought the visitors to within a point after they trailed by 15 at the half.

The winless Eagles’ upset bid fell short, however, when they botched the ensuing onside kick that allowed the Tigers to run the clock out for the closer-than-expected victory.

“We’ll take it,” Whitley said, “but we can’t just come out here and think we can just beat somebody. We just can’t do it.”

Stockbridge will have to do considerably better next week when it visits Griffin.

North Clayton (0-4) is still looking for its first win, but coach Max Wiltz was pleased with the fire his team showed in fighting back and making a game of things against a team of the Tigers’ caliber.

“I don’t like losing, of course,” he said, “but the positive is that we came out in the second half and decided to play football.”

Mathis finished with a game-high 130 yards and two scores to pace North Clayton, which will host Locust Grove next week.

His 4-yard touchdown run with 2:13 left in the third period finally got the Eagles on the board at 15-6 and capped an impressive 15-play, 53-yard drive that consumed 8 minutes, 27 seconds.

Mathis’ final score came after the last of the four Tiger fumbles with 1:48 remaining.

North Clayton will be left to wonder what might have happened had it not consistently hurt its own chances with an array of costly mistakes of its own.

The Eagles committed 12 penalties for 85 yards, while also committing two turnovers. They also botched a point-after try following Mathis’ third-quarter touchdown that ultimately proved costly.

Stockbridge wasted little time wresting control of the game, needing just five plays to drive 80 yards for a touchdown on its first possession of the evening. Senior Shammua Harold capped the march when he scored from 3 yards with 4:40 left in the opening period to help the Tigers jump ahead, 8-0. Senior Trenton Earl accounted for the key play of the drive just two plays earlier, when he raced 49 yards down the left sideline on a quarterback keeper to set up the score.

Earl was effective all evening, directing the Tigers’ attack with crisp ball fakes that often left the Eagles defense guessing.

The senior added to his night’s totals in the second period, plunging in from a yard as the hosts extended their advantage to 15-0 at the break.