Defending Class 3A state champion Madison Academy entered having scored at least 40 points in eight of its previous nine games, but Clay Central managed to slow the Mustangs’ high-powered offense.
“It just shows our guys that we can hang in there with anybody,” Herron said, “as long as we’ll play with the right type of mindsight and the right type of pride.”
Still, despite its defense forcing three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble recovery), and with the offense having 10 possessions, Clay Central could muster only one touchdown.
Clay Central was able to strike first with a 3-yard touchdown run by running back Jaylon Lyles late in the first quarter. The touchdown was set up by a 47-yard run by Lyles, who carried 23 times for 104 of the Vols’ 167 rushing yards. The Vols’ passing game never got going as quarterback Anthony Wood completed 3 of 6 passes for 39 yards.
Madison Academy got on the board just before halftime on a 46-yard dash down the sideline by La’Markus Martin to tie the game 7-7.
After a sloppy third quarter in which both teams turned over the ball, Martin scored his second rushing touchdown of the night on a 20-yard run to put the Mustangs up 14-7 with 10:31 to play.
On Clay Central’s next possession, the Volunteers were moving the ball and crossed midfield before Wood was sacked for a 20-yard loss. The Vols were forced to punt.
But with 1:32 remaining, Clay Central forced Madison County to fumble and recovered the ball and the 50-yard line.
Again, the Vols moved the ball and got as close as the 28-yard line. On third-and-two, the Vols ran a dive play and were stuffed for a loss. It came down to fourth-and-three, but Clay Central’s running play came up just shy of the first down marker and the Vols turned it over on downs.
“That’s what we do — we run the football,” Herron said. “We came up a little short. That’s our M.O. and what we do when we need something is to run the ball. We’re going to hang our hat on those types of plays.”
From there, Madison County (10-0) kneeled and handed Clay Central its first home loss in school history.
Clay Central (8-2) limps into the playoffs having lost its last two contests. The Vols will host Hillcrest Evergreen (7-3) next week in a 4A first-round game.