On one side of the field late on Friday night in Clover, there was a palpable sense of satisfaction.
Minutes after the contest ended — the one that marked the newest chapter in the oldest rivalry in the state — the Clover High School football team broke from its postgame huddle wearing smiles as big as the game’s final margin.
The scoreboard was still lit: CLOVER 48; VISITOR 21.
The Blue Eagles, in front of their raucous home crowd, had defeated the York Cougars by the largest margin this rivalry has seen since 2015.
Most of the 50-plus players on Clover headed toward the near corner exit of the field, where Blue Eagle parents and students lingered to offer their immediate congratulations. Three Clover quarterbacks got together for a brief postgame meeting.
And Jaylin Lane, Clover’s senior receiver who stole the show Friday night by racking up 162 yards and four touchdowns, approached his coach. Head coach Brian Lane grew a smile when he saw his receiver passing by, and he gave him a hug: “Good game, man,” Coach Lane said playfully. “I think you had like two catches or something, right?”
This was the display image of the victor’s side of Friday night’s battle.
In a few words: it was one of exuberance, of jest and of pride.
“It felt great,” Jaylin Lane said. “Last year was a nail-biter. The year before, we lost. So getting a win like this is a statement, and I think years to come, they’ll always remember this game.”
Besides starting 67 minutes late due to a storm delay, Clover’s evening went largely according to plan. The Blue Eagles notched touchdowns on each of their first three possessions — Lane being on the receiving end of two of them. By halftime, the score was 34-7; the only first-half spark from York came in the form of an 80-yard touchdown toss from senior starting quarterback Colby Clayton to junior receiver Deshaun Brown.
By the third quarter, the score was 41-7, and Coach Lane pulled his starters on both offense and defense. Later, after York scored 14 unanswered points, Coach Lane put his starters back in until the final whistle blew.
“We kind of had a little lull there in the third,” Coach Lane said. “That’s where it came from. We subbed up a whole lot, but that’s what you want. You want everyone to play and get experience.”
Senior Clover quarterback Gabe Carroll finished the day 12-for-18 passing for 248 yards and five touchdowns — but he credited much of his success to his favorite target on Friday night.
“All of the credit needs to go to him,” Carroll said. “Without him, I couldn’t do any of this. I threw under routes to him, and he just scored on 50-yard touchdowns, when they should have been five-yard catches.”
‘This is a big rivalry’
On the other side of the field, there was an undeniable sense of frustration and melancholy.
After the game, York players stood in front of their school’s pep band and sang their alma mater. Their heads hung low. The Cougars were the smaller team on Friday night — in size and in number of players.
Head coach Dean Boyd said he was disappointed with his team’s performance.
“It’s a rebuild thing: We got to get it done, and there are no excuses,” Boyd said. “They’ve got a great football team. Coach Lane had his people ready to play, and we just got an old-fashioned behind-cutting.”
York had a few bright spots. Khalil Ellis, a 6-3, 240-pound defensive end/tight end/punter, found his way into the backfield on several occasions. And back-up quarterback Weston Hance provided an offensive spark in the second half, leading the Cougars on two of their three scoring drives.
“We had some positives,” Boyd said. “And we got to build on those positives. We’re going to find out what kind of kids (we have) and how tough they are when we start next week. They take this game personally. This is a big rivalry. And to get beat the way we did tonight — they’re not really excited about it, and neither am I.
“But I also know that this is a process, and that we got a young football team.”
‘Rest of your life’
The sides of the football field were noticeably uneven on Friday. Clover, the winner; York, the loser.
Clover: the team with copious experience, a trusted coach who’s only improved his team in the two full years he’s been at the helm. York: the team with a young offensive line and a coach who’s in the middle of a program transition.
Clover’s head coach, minutes after his season-opening win: “When you play your rival, and you’re a senior, you get to remember that … for the rest of your life.”
York’s head coach, minutes after his tenure-opening loss: “We have to do a much better job of getting our kids prepared and ready to go.” Boyd then looked at his watch. It was 11:50 p.m. “It takes us about 16 minutes to get home,” he said.
“And that’s what we’ll do.”
Next up: Clover will host Forestview and York will travel to Dorman. Both kickoffs are set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30.