Photo by Brian Paglia / Locust Grove quarterback Keenan Wise gets off a pass just before North Clayton linebacker Martavius Harris (3) and defensive back Curdarius Boman (4) get to him.
JONESBORO — North Clayton coach Max Wiltz watched Friday as his players began to file off the field at Tara Stadium toward their buses.
Dripping with sweat, Wiltz was at a loss for words as he started to conduct his postgame interview.
“We are making too many crucial mistakes at the wrong time,” Wiltz said.
The second-year coach didn’t call Locust Grove players Keenan Wise and Cortez McDowell by name, but acknowledged that they are the main reason the Eagles are 0-5 heading into next week’s region opener.
Wise and McDowell accounted for all the Wildcats’ scoring in a 19-12 win on Friday.
“Two people beat us,” Wiltz said. “You got to give credit where credit is due. They (Wise and McDowell) were better than we thought they were.”
And Locust Grove coach Clint Satterfield said that North Clayton is far better than its record shows.
“We are glad we got out of here with that one,” said Satterfield, who coached at Jonesboro prior to starting the Locust Grove program in 2009. “We had to find out what was working. North Clayton is a dangerous team. For a while, it was up in the air.”
Until the Wildcats stopped the Eagles on downs at the Locust Grove 32-yard line with 53 seconds remaining, North Clayton was still in the game.
On a fourth-and-15 play from the 32, Jeremy Daniels’ pass fell incomplete to give the Wildcats the ball.
Locust Grove appeared to put the game out of reach with 9:29 left, when Wise raced 92 yards up the middle untouched for an apparent touchdown. However, the Wildcats were called for holding.
On that play, North Clayton defensive back Martavius Harris was injured and had to be taken to a local hospital. The game was delayed for about 20 minutes as medical personnel attended to him.
Wiltz said he wasn’t sure how severe the injury was, but Harris appeared to be fine.
As he was carted off the field, Harris gave a thumbs-up to his teammates, who had gathered on the sideline for a prayer.
Once play resumed, Locust Grove continued to drive until Wise fumbled and North Clayton defensive end Devin Lewis recovered at the Eagles’ 32 with 5:55 remaining.
A pair of big runs by Eagles running back La’Darrius Mathis and Chris Weems put them in scoring position. However, a couple penalties and three incomplete passes stalled the drive with 53 seconds remaining.
“We had a chance to win,” Wiltz said. “It has been mistakes that have hurt us all season.”
North Clayton led 6-0 with 8:34 remaining in the first quarter on a 31-yard touchdown run by Weems, but a two-point conversion pass failed.
McDowell got the Wildcats (4-1) got on the scoreboard on a 4-yard run. Locust Grove took a 13-6 lead with a 4-yard run by Wise with 5:02 remaining in the opening half.
The Eagles pulled to 13-12 with 9:32 remaining in the third quarter on a 5-yard scoring run from Mathis, who finished with 161 yards on 17 carries.
“They are much better than their record,” Satterfield said. “North Clayton is going to win some games. They have a lot of weapons, and we were fortunate to get out with a win.”