Clarke holds off Mountaineers 12-7
Posted: October 6, 2012
Special to The Winchester Star
BERRYVILLE — In a game that featured physical play from the first snap to the last, Clarke County, which usually makes its offensive yardage on the ground, used the forward pass to prevail over Madison County 12-7 in a critical Bull Run District showdown.
With their only district game a close loss to Strasburg, the Eagles (4-2, 1-1) desperately needed to get into the win column Friday to stay in contention for postseason play. The Mountaineers (3-3, 1-2) also needed the win for the same reason.
“This was a very physical game and I’m very proud of the way our guys responded,” Eagle coach Chris Parker said. “We were having trouble running the ball, but I knew that our quarterback Sean McDonald was a very good passer and that we could count on him to get the job done.”
Both teams’ defenses dominated play most of the game, using hard tackling to keep the other team’s offense at bay.
Clarke County got the first opportunity to score after a scoreless first quarter, but the Mountaineer defense refused to break with their back to their own goal line.
After a 39-yard pass completion from McDonald to Josh Dulaney set the Eagles up first-and-goal on the Madison County 4 early in the second quarter, McDonald was hammered by a tackle by Mountaineer Logan Carpenter on first down for a four-yard loss.
Things turned from bad to worse on second down when the Madison County defense delivered another crushing blow and the Eagle quarterback coughed up the ball. Carpenter recovered the fumble to end Clarke County’s scoring opportunity.
“Miscues are going to happen,” McDonald said. “There was nothing that we could do about it at that point. Those are the kind of things that we’ll have to work on and get better at as the season progresses.”
After the Eagle miscue Madison County drove the ball 80 yards in 14 plays to the Clarke County five.
But facing fourth-and-3 on the Eagle 5, Madison County quarterback James Graves connected with Carpenter in the flat for what looked like at least the first down. But Clarke County safety Davey Hardesty had other plans and nailed Carpenter a half-yard short, stopping the Mountaineer drive on the Eagle 3.
The Eagles, however, were unable to move the ball on the ground against the Madison County defense.
Hardesty had just 25 yards on five carries with less than two minutes left in the half and the Eagles had only 28 as a team.
The solution was simple — get Hardesty the ball in space with the pass. Facing second-and-19 from their own 45, McDonald hit Hardesty with a short pass and the Eagle senior raced 55 yards for the first score of the game with 1:12 left in the first half. Clarke County, however, missed the extra point and took a 6-0 lead at halftime.
“We knew that if you could get him the ball in space he would make something happen,” McDonald said. “He is such a playmaker, and I love to get him the ball and watch him go.”
The Eagles added their second touchdown thanks to a little trickery featuring Nick Helmut. With the Mountaineers watching Hardesty, McDonald gave it to Helmut on a counter play. The Eagle senior took it 51 yards to the Madison County 1-yard line and Hardesty got that final yard on the next play to put Clarke County up 12-0 with 2:36 left in the third quarter.
“We knew that they were keying on Davey,” Helmut said. “When I got the ball I tried to make the most of it. I missed a touchdown by just one yard.”
Madison County, however, was in no mood to concede. The Mountaineers took their first possession of the final quarter and marched 67 yards on 15 plays to score their first touchdown of the game. Carpenter, who led all rushers for the night with 124 yards on 24 carries, got the touchdown on a 4-yard run.
The only problem was that their drive ate up almost the entire fourth quarter, leaving the Mountaineers with only 3:11 to get the winning touchdown.
The Eagles refused to allow that, almost running out the clock on their next possession to preserve the win.
Although Hardesty finished the night with just 37 yards on 12 carries rushing, he amassed 77 yards on three catches as a receiver. He also averaged 49 yards on six punts, including two for 66 yards. McDonald was deadly through the air, hitting 8 of 13 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. Helmut led the Eagles in rushing with 69 yards on six carries.
“What can you say about Davey Hardesty,” Parker said. “He’s an amazing player at every position he plays. He didn’t just run the ball well, make great plays on defense, and catch the ball well, he also had three very important punts that change the field position in our favor. With time running out in the final quarter, he hit a 40-yard punt that left them no chance to pull out a late win. That was incredibly important.”
Graves completed 10 of his 22 passes for 103 yards and one interception for the Mountaineers.
“This was an incredibly physical game,” Madison County coach Stuart Dean said. “We told the kids all week that we have to play physical every time we play Clarke. We knew that they were going to play hard, and we had to respond in kind if we were going to have a chance. I thought they took advantage of their opportunities tonight and made the big plays when they needed to. That was the difference.”
Clarke County travels to play Central in a district game next Friday.