Devils thunder to homecoming win over Panthers

Clay 31, Ridgeview 14

By Mike Zima
Posted 10/17/18

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay High running back Cedrick Brown gained 299 all-purpose yards and Spencer Lesage scored three touchdowns to lift Clay to a 31-14 Homecoming victory over Ridgeview on …

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Devils thunder to homecoming win over Panthers

Clay 31, Ridgeview 14

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay High running back Cedrick Brown gained 299 all-purpose yards and Spencer Lesage scored three touchdowns to lift Clay to a 31-14 Homecoming victory over Ridgeview on October 12.

The Blue Devils rushed for 412 yards, including 140 on three first quarter touchdown drives that put the Panthers in an early hole.

“They come out and do their thing, and they are good at it,” said Ridgeview coach Cameron Porch, referring to Clay’s running game. “They repeat the same play, and they do a good job of executing it.”

The play repeated most by the Blue Devils was a quarterback sweep out of a wildcat formation. Lesage, a wide receiver when not lined up as the wildcat quarterback, took the shotgun snap and followed two fullbacks and a running back over right end. Ridgeview defenders had to fight their way through three lead blockers before they could even think about tackling Lesage.

“When we do that, we get an extra hat in the run game, and we get a numbers advantage,” said Clay coach Josh Hoekstra. “And Lesage is good with the ball in his hands.”

Lesage scored all three of his touchdowns on that play—from one, one and two yards out— and used it to convert two short yardage situations in the middle of the field.

Brown gave the hosts a momentum boost with a 75 yard return on the opening kickoff, leading to the first of Lesage’s scoring runs. Brown’s 51 yard run off of left tackle led to a second Lesage touchdown on Clay’s next possession. By the time the first quarter ended, freshman Al’Querious Ray also had a rushing touchdown and Clay led 21-3.

“We started fast, and that was the deal,” said Hoesktra. “Our offensive, and particularly our defensive, lines played their best game of the year. These district games are always determined at the line of scrimmage, and we did a good job up front.”

The Blue Devils ran for a combined 120 yards on their three first quarter scoring drives, and did not attempt a pass until 8:12 remained in the second quarter. Clay finished with 412 rushing yards, including 191 from Brown, 125 from Lesage and 89 from Ray. Brown led the Blue Devils in receiving with three catches for 33 yards.

“In the last month, he [Brown] has practiced with a sense of purpose and urgency,” said Hoekstra. “It has really paid off.”

While the ground game was humming, the Clay defense sacked Ridgeview quarterback Tyler Huff five times and limited Panthers running backs to 38 yards on 19 carries. Linebackers Abbott Taylor and Cody Devore each had two of Clay’s six tackles for loss.

Matt Koziolek booted two short field goals for Ridgeview in the first half, and the Panthers threatened to make a game of it in the third quarter. On the opening series, Caleb Plyler crossed the goal line from a yard out, and when Huff converted a two-point conversion on a quarterback draw, Panthers were within 24-14. Plyler’s run was set up by a 60 yard scramble by Huff, who broke the tackle of a blitzing Devore. But the Blue Devils responded with a 79 yard march— overcoming three of their 10 second half penalties along the way— and put the game out of reach on Lesage’s third score. Lesage carried five times for 56 yards on the drive.

Huff effectively directed a short passing game, completing 15 of 26 passes for 126 yards without an interception, and led the Panthers with 68 rushing yards on nine carries.

“We wanted to get the ball out quicker tonight, and let guys run in space,” said Porch. “I thought we did a good job of that, but you cannot get inside the ten two times and not score touchdowns and into the red zone three times without scoring.”

Ridgeview penetrated the Clay 30 in the second quarter and twice in the fourth quarter, but the Panthers failed to score when a fourth down pass was underthrown, when a 45 yard field goal attempt by Koziolek fell just short, and when consecutive sacks by Clay’s Kenneth Johnson and TK Kocak pushed the ball back to midfield.

Clay (2-5, 1-2 in District 5-5A) halted a four game losing streak with the win, and continues in District 5-5A survival mode, traveling to Baker County on October 19.

“They are big and physical,” said Hoekstra. “We will have to play our best game of the year by far.”

After starting the season with three wins, Ridgeview has now lost five in a row. The Panthers, 0-3 in District 5-5A, host Menendez in a district game on October 29.

“All we can do is come back Monday ready to fight,” said Porch.

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