The Clover Blue Eagles didn’t look quite like themselves in the first half.
One might argue, based on the Blue Eagles’ recent success throwing the ball, they didn’t quite look like themselves in the second half, either.
Junior running back David Hall took the first play of the second half 62 yards to the paint for Clover, one of his two in the third quarter. The stout Blue Eagle rushing attack joined with the swarming defense for the home side, putting away visiting Ashbrook, 40-18, at Clover Memorial Stadium Wednesday night.
“It was a Wednesday game. We’ve got a hurricane coming through, (and) we kinda played like it,” said Clover coach Brian Lane after the game. “Putting up 40 points, and holding them to 18, we’ll take it.”
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The long scamper by Hall served as the dividing line between the sluggish Blue Eagle squad of the first 24 minutes, and the decisive, ferocious unit that seemed to rule the second half. Clover (4-1) may have been limited on offense in that first half, but its defense made a statement.
Ashbrook (3-1) came into Wednesday night’s affair rushing for nearly 350 yards a game. Lane’s defense held the Green Wave to just 16 yards of total offense in the first half. Despite numerous substitutions in the second half and a long pass play, Clover surrendered just under 200 yards of total offense to the Gaston County (N.C.) visitors. The Blue Eagles also forced a staggering eight fumbles.
“Our defense was playing lights-out,” gushed Lane about his defensive unit. “Those guys are playing hard, they’re playing fast, and the good thing is that we get to see those guys every day in practice, so on the flip side, it tries to make us a little better offensively.”
Though that Clover offense has been averaging over 300 yards through the air, it was the Blue Eagle ground game that ruled the night. An early injury to quarterback Gabe Carroll – Lane said he would be fine to play next week – led Clover to lean on Hall and BJ Tims, to great results. Hall and Tims both cleared 100 rushing yards apiece, combining for three rushing scores.
“I felt like, if we could break that second level, we could get down the field, and that’s what we did,” said Lane of his run game and the blockers who helped free his backs for their big runs.
Ashbrook tallied a 61-yard touchdown pass from Jakai Grier to Kendall Massey – the Green Wave’s only completed pass of the night – and a three-yard Tyresse Nicholas score in the second half to draw the margin somewhat closer. The Blue Eagles, however, clamped down on defense and held the visitors at bay to secure the victory.
Clover waited exactly one play into the third quarter before providing what would essentially serve as the decisive strike. Hall took the handoff on that first play, then meandered 62 yards to the stripe to put the Blue Eagles ahead, 23-6. Hall scored again later in the quarter on a one-yard run out of the wildcat formation, moving the lead to 30-6 and putting away the visiting Green Wave.
“We were trying to go outside, and 46 (Antwon McClee) did a great job. He was running us down from the back,” said Lane. “We just changed up and ran right at him on some stuff, and tried to trap him. David Hall went upfield and (did) what he does.”
The short preparation time showed a bit for both teams in the first half. The squads combined for eight fumbles (just two lost) in the opening 24, with one of the Clover fumbles actually resulting in a first down on the Blue Eagle recovery. The Blue Eagles were penalized 13 times for 103 yards in the first half, however, helping to limit the Clover advantage to just 16-6 at the interval.
Lane joked after the game about “throwing some chairs around” in the locker room at the half, but credited his team’s response to the adjustments.
“They had to wake up a little bit. Sometimes, as a coach, you’ve gotta wake them up,” said Lane. “They came out in the second half and played, and that’s what I expect.”
Hall and Tims both rushed for over 100 yards, pacing the Blue Eagle ground attack. Carroll connected on 12-of-18 passes for 84 yards, despite being sidelined for much of the second half with the minor injury. Star Blue Eagle linebacker Hayden Johnson had another stellar night, pacing his club with another double-digit tackling effort.
Grier completed just one pass for Ashbrook, but it was a 61-yard scoring strike to Massey. The Green Wave signal-caller also carried 15 times for 40 yards.
Ashbrook travels to Burns (N.C.) next Friday. Clover will host Irmo to close non-region play.
Clover 40, Ashbrook 18
C – Blackmon Huckabee 15 pass from Gabe Carroll (Austin Clark kick) 5:05
A – Kendall Massey 2 run (kick blocked) 10:19
C – Heze Massey 3 pass from Carroll (Clark kick) 6:07
C – Safety
C – David Hall 62 run (Clark kick) 11:36
C – Hall 1 run (Clark kick) 1:34
A – Massey 61 pass from Jakai Grier (conversion failed) :10.2
C – Clark 32 field goal 9:03
A – Tyresse Nicholas 3 run (conversion failed) 5:59
C – BJ Tims 24 run (Clark kick) 1:51
RUSHING Ashbrook: Tyresse Nicholas 16-17; Jakai Grier 15-40; Carlos Brooks 3-8; Kendall Massey 4-16; Matt West 1-(minus) 2; Greg Brockington 2-18; Brandon Alexander 2-19; Omarion Boyce 1-17. Clover: Gabe Carroll 4-(minus) 18; David Hall 12-118; Jo Jo Ellis 5-26; BJ Tims 10-104; Markus Nastase 1-2; Nygle Biggers 2-4; TEAM 2-(minus) 2..
PASSING Ashbrook: Greer 1-2-0-61 yards; West 0-1-1-0 yards. Clover: Carroll 12-18-1-84 yards; Nastase 4-9-1-58 yards.
RECEIVING Ashbrook: Kendall Massey 1-61. Clover: Heze Massey 7-39; Hall 1-11; Zion Robbins 5-52; Blackmon Huckabee 1-15; Jaylin Lane 2-25..
RECORDS Ashbrook (N.C.) 3-1, Clover 4-1.