“Once we got going and got in a groove defensively, we got some stops,” said Cleburne County head coach Michael Shortt. ”Our offense just did a great job, moving the ball, scoring. We threw the ball well. We probably played as good on offense as we’ve played (this season) as far as execution.”
The Tigers (4-1) looked to continue their recent offensive explosions when they entertain Hokes Bluff for homecoming Friday. The Eagles are 0-5 but limited Lincoln to 21 points in their last Class 4A, Region 5 game two weeks ago. Cleburne County needed a late field goal to edge Hokes Bluff 16-13 on the road last year.
“They’re a well-coached team. They won’t be the fastest team we play but all our kids talked about last year after playing them was that they were the most physical team we played,” Shortt said.
To compensate for a lack of speed, Hokes Bluff tries to limit the number of possessions an opponent has by shortening the game.
“They’ll wait 25 seconds to snap the ball,” Shortt noted. “They’ll try to get three, four yards at a time and they’ve got a good play-action passing game. They’re just always very solid.”
Cleburne County was a lot more than solid against St. Clair County. The Tigers piled up 575 yards of total offense, 348 yards rushing and 227 yards through the air, and finished with 24 first downs. By contrast, the Saints netted 222 rushing yards and passed for 118 yards.
Shortt said his team’s balance on offense was the key to victory.
“When I saw us being able to throw the football effectively I knew then that we were going to have a good chance, that that would just make our running game that much better,” Shortt recalled.
The Saints won the toss, took the ball and scored for a 7-0 advantage. Cleburne County answered with an 80-yard drive that took just five plays to complete, helped along by Trey Bolton’s 50-yard run. The touchdown came on a 26-yard pass from quarterback Brady Padgett to Cameron Kerr and Anderson Jacks’ kick made it 7-all.
After St. Clair County punted, the Tigers put together another 80-yard drive. Brandon Horn picked up 21 yards on a pass from Padgett and Bolton had runs of 17 and 20 yards before Horn scored on a 12-yard carry. The kick missed but Cleburne County led 13-7. When the first quarter ended, St. Clair County had scored again and led 14-13.
Bolton returned the ensuing kickoff to the Tiger 33-yard line then took the next snap 67 yards. A 2-point conversion attempt failed but Cleburne County led 19-14 and never trailed again.
The Tigers’ defense forced another punt and the offense started at the Cleburne County 17. This time it took nine plays to cover 83 yards. Padgett completed passes of 31 yards to Jeremiah Blake and 16 yards to Jake Lee and Horn had a 12-yard run. Cole Corkren ran the ball into the end zone from seven yards away. Padgett took an option play across the goal line for two more points and a 27-14 lead.
Later in the second quarter, a 10-yard pass from Padgett to Blake capped a 10-play, 58-yard drive. Kerr had a 14-yard reception, Padgett ran for 13 yards and Horn had a pair of 7-yard runs to keep the chains moving. Jacks’ kick made it 34-14.
An interception by Jeremiah McLeroy late in the second quarter killed a St. Clair County drive and the score remainder 34-14 at halftime.
In the second half, the Tigers picked up where they had left off, marching 59 yards in six plays after receiving the second-half kickoff. Padgett passed to Kerr for 19 yards and combined with McLeroy for a 41-yard gain, helping to offset 25 yards in penalties. Corkren capped the drive with a 2-yard run and Jacks booted another extra point for a 41-14 lead.
The Saints made it 41-21 then Jacks hit a 28-yard field goal in response. Cleburne County’s final touchdown came on yet another big play, a 48-yard toss from Padgett to Horn on the end of a 4-play, 67-yard drive. Jacks was good again, setting the final score.
Bolton ran 11 times for 145 yards. Horn had nine carries for 89 yards. J’son Henson gained 46 yards on nine tries. Padgett finished with five carries for 42 yards and Corkren got 12 short-yardage yards on three carries.
Padgett was nearly perfect throwing, completing 10 of his 11 attempts for 227 yards without an interception. Horn had two receptions for 69 yards. Kerr caught three passes for 59 yards. Blake’s two catches totaled 41 yards. McLeroy’s one grab covered 41 yards. Lee had one catch for 16 yards and Christian Henson had one catch for one yard.
On defense, a lot of Tigers got to the ball in a hurry. Alex Sandmann led in tackles with eight. Grant Corkren and Isaiah Ware each recorded seven tackles.
McLeroy made six stops and his interception was the only takeaway for Cleburne County. Chad Brown and Matthew Shortt each had five tackles.
Cole Corkren, Trevor Ivey, Skye Jarrell, Geoffrey Teague, Griffin Turner and Drake Williamson had four tackles apiece. Caleb Goodman made three tackles.