Clear Creek ends football season, holds awards banquet
It had the makings of a continuing trend, and history often pointed to what was likely to happen next.
The Clear Creek Middle School Bobcats entered the final football game of the season Sept. 29 with a 1-4 record. They had not won since the first game of the season, and there was no hope for the playoffs. Rather than go down meekly, the Cats battled for an 8-7 win over the visiting Union County Panthers.
Coach Jerry Barnes saw the writing on the wall at practice leading up to the game, and noted their perseverance during the season was uncommon.
“It was the last game of the season, we had basically no hope for the playoffs and had been beaten four times in a row,” he said. “This being the 26th football team I’ve coached, I’ve been there before and they (former players) lay down and quit on you. That’s just the way they do. But, these kids had a great week of practice, and even during the season, we might have had two bad practices all year. They’ve been engaged and flying around. I could tell at practice they were going to play, and that it meant a lot to them.”
Barnes added, “Union was better than us. We’re young and rebuilding this year. But the kids kept fighting, and scratching and digging and clawing, and the assistant coaches probably coached as hard as they ever have. They (assistants) kept the kids in the game and made the right adjustments. At halftime the talk was pretty blunt and to the point. They (players) had two choices, and they came out and responded and played well in the second half.”
Union’s pass-happy offense looked to spread the field with three, four and sometimes five receivers. However, it was a three-yard run that capped a long first quarter drive and allowed them to lead, 7-0.
Numerous holding calls stalled the Panthers’ offense throughout the first half, but they were able to maintain their lead at the break.
Bobcat Dylan Abercrombie made a play on a tipped pass in the third quarter and snatched possession for CCMS to end a Panther threat.
“He comes out of nowhere like a streak,” Barnes recalled, “and he dives out parallel to the ground in the air for about five feet and intercepts it. He was hustling and doing what made him a team captain.”
Later in the quarter, the Panthers were forced to punt from their 30, and Barnes stacked the line with 10 defenders. When the ball sailed over the punter’s head, CCMS recovered at the 18.
Gray McClure then breached the goal line for the Cats on a buck sweep around the left edge. Gilmer tested the right side on the conversion.
“I didn’t want to go for the tie and overtime with a team that was better than us,” Barnes said of his decision to go for a two-point conversion. “We put Cameron Weaver at halfback in the wishbone. We knew if we ran the ’bone they’d put 10 in the box, and then we’d run a sweep, and that’s what we did.”
Ahead by one point, Kobe Stonecipher intercepted a pass on Union’s final possession to end their hopes of overtaking the Bobcats.
“I thought the defense played well, and played well all year,” Barnes said. “We were really about four plays away from being 4-2 instead of being 2-4. Lumpkin would have been a stretch. They physically manhandled us. Fannin was really so much better than us athletically, too. After we scored in the last game, they played with a fire and intensity I hadn’t seen all year. I think we’re sending a good class overall to the high school.”
Team banquet held
CCMS wrapped the season last week with its awards banquet. Nine Bobcats were recognized at the event, which was held at the city swimming pool.
Lineman Connor Scudder was named MVP, and Weaver earned the offensive player of the year award. Connor Stokes was named defensive player of the year, and also received the Captain Award.
Lineman of the year was Kyle Allison, and Kannan Walker was named most improved. Nathan Carpenter earned the Coaches Award, and Grant Cochran was the manager of the year.
Walker, Dylan Abercrombie and David Lucas received the Captain Award as well, but it was Lucas who earned the praise of Barnes. Lucas only played the first half of the first game before an injury ended his season, and it was an exemplary effort at practice that caught Barnes’ eye.
“He was a unanimous vote by every player and coach to be a team captain,” Barnes said. “He did something at practice one day that I’ve only seen once or twice in my whole career. He pulled from his guard position to make a block on a linebacker. He hits the kid and gives him a concussion, and he’s out for two weeks. Then he hunts the free safety and KOs him, and he’s out of practice for the rest of the day. The runner made a good run and cuts back, and he (Lucas) obliterates a defensive end, and the first thing that hit the ground was the back of his head.
“He blocked three kids to their backs on one play and did stuff like that every practice and started for us at 5’ 5” and 130 pounds. He’s one in a million in terms of heart and guts.”
The Bobcats posted a 2-4 seasonal record against North Georgia Mountain League opponents.