The Claiborne Middle School Bulldogs football team took their 2-1 record on the road to Lafollette Sept. 8 to battle the Owls. The conditions at game time were extremely hot and there was little breeze to be found. The game actually really only began when the regulation period ended as the two teams went through three overtimes to get a winner. Claiborne outlasted the Owls and won the game in a thriller, 14-8.
The first half of this one seemingly belonged to the Owls as they were getting all the breaks and the Bulldogs were having trouble holding on to the football. The center to quarterback snap continued to be an issue and was a problem that the Bulldogs just couldn’t figure out. Meanwhile, the Owls had their troubles as well as they kept forcing the ball on pass attempts into double and triple coverage.
Offensively, the Bulldogs were trying to survive their fumbles and the defense was good enough to keep the Owls from taking a large lead. At the end of two quarters of play, the Bulldogs were only down by eight points. During the halftime break those Bulldogs got fired up and fans knew that they would play well in the second half. That’s just what this team does. This team was still angry over last week’s debacle at Rutledge, where they played with only two referees and had to accommodate a moved up game time due to people wishing to see the UT game. With this still fresh in their minds, those Bulldogs went out and made good things happen during the second half.
It was a team effort as the Bulldogs played through injuries and dictated the pace during the second half of play. The Owls would threaten but the Bulldogs stopped the drives with some great defensive play; it was a bend but not break defensive effort. The Claiborne team had to find some offense and when their starting QB went down after getting his finger stomped on and a key running back fought through a knee injury the team rallied to score their first touchdown of the game. The score was 8-6 and the Bulldogs had to have the two point conversion to tie the game. A great executed play got them the needed conversion for the tie.
The two teams would not find the end zone again during regulation play and went into the first overtime. During the first overtime, defense ruled over the offense. The lack of scoring forced a second overtime period and it looked like the Bulldogs would get a score but the Owls defense denied them. The Bulldogs returned the favor and the game was forced into overtime number three. Playing as a team, Claiborne found the end zone on a rushing play that broke loose up the middle. The conversion failed and the Bulldogs fans were hoping that it would not be their downfall.
All the defense had to do was stop the Owls on four straight downs to secure the hard fought victory. The Owls mishandled a snap on second down and recovered the fumble but it was a loss that doomed them bringing up a third down and goal from the 25. They tried a pass across the middle that just went off the hands of a receiver bringing up the second attempt at a fourth and goal from the 25. The Bulldogs gave them five yards back on a off sides penalty setting up a thrilling finish. The Owls tried a pass across the middle hoping to run after the catch around the 10-yard line but the pass was dropped and Claiborne had won the thriller.
Despite a highly contested game, the two teams gathered on the field for fellowship and a prayer. In the post game huddle the Bulldogs let out their trademark cheer, “I love Claiborne County!”
Claiborne head coach Brody Wells said this to the team, “Way to fight, way to come back from adversity. Our quarterback went down and we had another one step in. Great job!” Wells added, “Now listen, I know you are beat up; it was a long, hard and tough game and you did a great job tonight. Remember we have to refocus tomorrow for Tuesday’s game. We will not do a lot tomorrow because I want you to focus on getting healthy. Great Job!”
Looking back, this was a team effort where everyone stepped up, gave their all and came away with another win moving their record out to 3-1.
Reach Allen Earl at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @pitchadude.