Justin Copeland’s 3 touchdowns was the highlight of Clinton’s rough and soggy 28-13 win over visiting Belton-Honea Path, but the Red Devil defense would have taken home the game ball for its effort against an explosive Bears team.
Epitomizing the bend but don’t break philosophy of this year’s 12-0 Red Devil team, the defense stopped the Bears several times going for it on 4th down. Clinton possessed the ball with 4:05 left in the game, but by the time the clock reached 1:01, the Bears had the ball on the 50 and were driving, down by two scores. A touchdown and a recovered onside kick would have made for a thrilling finish.
But, it was not to be for the twice-beaten Bears – on the season, BHP lost to #4 in the state Powdersville and #3 in the state Clinton.
The Red Devils will host Chapman, a 57-29 winner over Seneca, this Friday in the 3rd round of the Upper State AAA Playoffs.
Clinton Football Head Coach Corey Fountain said, “Big stops all night long by our defense, they played a great game. Bend but don’t break. We had a good game plan, our guys executed it; we just got after it all night. This was going to be a dog fight, we told them that after the game. Two heavyweights going after it, throwing blows at each other and our guys came out on top. Really proud of them, really proud of the coaches.”
About Justin Copeland, Fountain said, “Big players make big plays in big games, and Justin showed that tonight. Special team were big, too, because we got that blocked PAT and they were going to have to score eight points. It’s a combination of everything … offensively, we didn’t get moving the way we wanted to all night but we scored when we wanted to score. Our guys stepped up when they needed to step up, and I’m really proud of the way they handle themselves tonight.”
BHP landed the first punch, a long catch and run that found the end zone. Justin Copeland came right back with the subsequent kickoff return for a touchdown. Jayden Robinson ran in a score and Copeland struck again on a 60 yard pass from Bryce Young. BHP cut the margin to 21-13 with 1:29 before halftime on a direct snap to the running back.
And that’s where it stood until 8:10 left to play when Copeland scored again on a jet-sweep run. In the 3rd quarter Clinton held BHP on a 4th and 2 at the Clinton 30. Later, in the 4th quarter, Clinton had BHP stopped on 4th and long but the Bears got bailed out by a pass interference penalty (but it is not an automatic first down). That made it 4th and 9 for the Bears and their offense got hit with a procedure penalty and holding on a throw back to the quarterback play.
Now advancing to Round 3 of the playoffs, where the Red Devils were knocked out in an 11-2 campaign last season, Fountain said, “We have to prepare for whoever we face, looking at the game film tonight to see what corrections we can make, to get better for next week.”