By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Clarke County rolled into Falcon Stadium and set the tone early, never looking back as they left town with a 35-8 victory against Central to remain undefeated on Friday.
"Central is a scrappy team and they played hard," Eagles coach Chris Parker said. "Being on the road against a good team, we knew we had to come out and set the tone. That first drive really helped us, and any time you can get as many takeaways as we did tonight, you should have a pretty good chance for a win."
The Eagles used a 14-play, 80-yard drive to eat up more than seven minutes of clock to start the game. Clarke kept the ball on the ground the entire drive behind the running of Grant Shaw, who racked up 45 yards and the score when he plunged into the end zone on a third-down opportunity to give his team the quick 7-0 lead.
"Central is a good team and they came at us strong tonight," Eagles linebacker Alex Sefton, said. "When the offense scored the way they did to start the game, that set the tone and really gave us the momentum when our defense went on the field."
The punishing drive by the Eagles' offense started the momentum and rallied the entire team. When Central took possession, the Falcons attempted to counter with the running game -- to no avail. Seth Bauserman took the lead role for the Falcons running attack, but was limited to only short gains.
On third-and-5 from their own 32-yard line, Falcons quarterback Hayden Bauserman dropped back to pass. Bauserman flung the pass over the middle, but was picked off by Sefton to give Clarke a short-field opportunity. The Eagles only took five plays to capitalize. Shaw took a 21-yard gain around the right edge to put his team inside the red zone on the first play of the drive.
Continuing the ground attack, Shaw scored his second touchdown of the night on a 1-yard run to start the second quarter and put the Eagles ahead, 14-0.
"We fell behind early and it took us a little time to adjust," Falcons coach Mike Yew said. "I am just very proud of our guys and how they responded after getting down two scores. They kept fighting and working all night and that shows the character of this team."
Central responded by abandoning the running game and going to the air, as Yew replaced Bauserman with Matt Sherfey. With time running down in the half, the Falcons forced Clarke to punt with less than two minutes remaining.
Sean Semones returned the punt 22 yards to put his team at the Eagles' 38. On second down, Sherfey dropped back in the pocket and found Semones in the end zone as he laid a perfect pass to the receiver that gave Central its first and only score of the night. A two-point conversion made the score 14-8 as the teams went into the half.
"We knew Sherfey had a strong arm," Parker said. "We had scouted him a few times and have seen him on tape, and knew what he could do. That touchdown pass was a perfect example of that."
When the two teams came back on the field, it was the Eagles' defense that took control and helped Clarke seal the victory. Midway through the third, Sefton collected his second interception of the night and tacked on seven points with a 56-yard return for a score.
Later in the half, Clarke's Tyler Shiley got in on the act by intercepting Sherfey for the third time on the night and setting up the Eagles in scoring position at the 11-yard line.
Shaw extended the lead to 28-8 when he scored for the third time on the night with a 5-yard run.
"We had a really good defense last year," Sefton said. "We had to fill a few spots in the offseason, but I think we have done a very good job of stepping in and hopefully we will continue to play as well as we have so far."
Clarke added another score on a blocked punt that was returned for a score by Matt Moyer.
"I am very pleased with how our entire team played tonight," Parker said. "We just have to keep doing the things we have been doing and taking it week by week. I think our players have that mind-set and they know if we come out and have an off night, that can get us knocked off quickly."