Henderson scored on a 64-yard pass on the third play of the game, and Clay Central rushed for less than 100 yards. The result was a 34-7 win for the visiting Trojans.
Charles Henderson (13-0) will host UMS-Wright next week in a semifinal game. Clay Central, which lost 22 seniors from last year’s initial team and played with just 13 seniors this year, ended 10-3.
“I’m very proud of them for the season they just played,” Vols coach Kris Herron said. “To win 10 games and get to the quarterfinals and get to the final eight says a lot about these guys, their character and the senior leadership we had.”
Charles Henderson’s first score came on a third-and-10 play when junior quarterback Austin Ingram connected with senior wide receiver Josh Noel on a deep route and the Trojans continued to convert third down plays consistently the rest of the game.
“We would hold them to third down several times and then they would make the play and convert the first down,” Herron said. “Not being able to make a stop on third down, once that kind of got rolling it just seemed like it happened over and over and over. We were successful on first and second downs, then they’d convert a third down.”
Added Henderson coach Mike Dean: “We’ve had a good year converting third down conversions. We practice it. We do situations in practice. If you don’t practice it, you’re not going to perfect it on Friday.”
Each of Clay Central’s three first-quarter possessions began deep in Volunteer teritory. Early in the second quarter, it appeared the Vols might flip the field. Henderson faced a third-and-21 from the Trojan 9-yard line when a screen to John Johnson went for 48 yards. Clay Central then forced a 37-yard field goal by Baylor Barnes and the visitors led 10-0 with 8:14 to play before halftime.
Three minutes later, the Trojans had field position as a botched punt by the Vols put Henderson in business at the Volunteer 17. Again, the Clay Central defense rose to the occasion and held the Trojans to a 33-yard field goal by Barnes.
The ensuing possession for the Volunteers ended when Demario Harris blocked a punt and Henderson took over at the Clay Central 4. A holding call cost the Trojans 10 yards then Lane Browning sacked Ingram for a 12-yard loss and it was fourth-and-goal from the Vols 30. Ingram threw to Noel who made a leaping catch at the goal line for a touchdown with two seconds left in the half.
“If we could have gone in 13-0 instead of 20-0, you never know,” Herron said.
Trailing 20-0 as the third quarter opened, the Vols got the ball on downs at the Clay 27. On first down, Jaylon Lyles threw deep to Anthony Wood out of the wildcat formation and Wood out-ran Henderson’s Bryson Gandy for a TD with 5:38 left in the third. Isaac Andrews added the extra point.
Clay Central was held to just two first downs the remainder of the game. Henderson added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter on a 32-yard throw from Ingram to Johnson and a 2-yard Johnson run.
Lyles netted just 34 yards on 22 carries. The Trojans stopped him for negative yardage on seven plays, totaling 31 yards in losses. Chris Brisky added 30 yards on the ground.
“Getting up on them was important. Stopping the run was another key issue,” Dean said. “Once you had them there, if you haven’t thrown much in 12 weeks you can’t throw much now.”