CAMDEN — The Clinton Yellowjacket senior class of 2020 gathered for one last photo after the final horn sounded. Weston Amos commented that it seemed like yesterday that they were just sophomores taking the same picture. What these seniors accomplished the past three years has been nothing short of remarkable: 33 wins, 2 conference championships, and 5 playoff wins – all program records. There were also too many individual accolades and records to mention. Above all else, these seniors represented Clinton with class and gave the community something to cheer about and look forward to each year.
Head Coach Chris Dufrene summed it up. “Only one team will be happy at the end of the year.” Unfortunately, the Yellowjackets would not be that team this year. A week after dismantling Smackover at home, the Jackets committed too many offensive miscues to overcome the athletic disadvantage they faced on the field.
“We knew Harmony Grove would have speed and size everywhere. We were in position to make plays a lot of the time, but they made them,” said Dufrene.
For starters, Clinton had to deal with one of the best pass rushing interior linemen in the state in Daniel Hicks. Hicks’s constant penetration caused concern. With an adjustment in the blocking scheme, John Riley Hinchey was able to rip off two big plays (57 and 60 yards) that led to touchdowns, one by Amos, and the other by Hinchey. Late in the first quarter, Clinton led 14-6. But Harmony Grove adjusted, and the Jackets were unable to move the ball. Meanwhile, Harmony Grove continued to throw haymakers in the form of Mecca Arnold (15 carries, 132 yards, 2 TDs), the speed Xaylon Falls (14 touches, 148 yards, 3 TDs), and big play receiver Damon Daniel (3 catches, 72 yards), as the Hornets scored the game’s final 40 points while rolling up 456 yards of offense.
Footing was an issue too. The field, soaked from two days of rain, provided unsteady footing all night for the Jacket offense. Time after time, players slipped on cuts that would have gone for long plays. On the first offensive series, senior quarterback Weston Amos slipped on a cut. That led to a punt. Footing issues and problems with the center/quarterback exchange plagued the Yellowjackets all night.
With the game tied at 14 late in the first half, Clinton appeared to make the play of the game. As Hornet quarterback Zachary Smith dropped back, John Riley Hinchey and Cody Smith burst through the line on a blitz. Smith appeared to be sacked 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, but at the last second tossed the ball forward. The referee ruled an incomplete pass instead of an intentional grounding call. Four plays later, Xaylon Falls caught a touchdown as time expired to end the half. Harmony Grove had a 22-14 lead after the two point conversion. The Hornets also scored on their first possession of the second half, with Mecca Arnold’s run on the first play putting Harmony Grove in easy scoring position. The Jackets never recovered.
Despite the outcome, there’s no question that Clinton has witnessed the best class to ever suit up for the Yellowjackets. A few of these young men will have the chance to play at the next level, but all will have the chance to achieve a successful life. As a writer, I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to follow these young men throughout their careers and write weekly about their performances. Thank you to the players and coaches for some amazing memories!
Game Notes: Captains were Weston Amos, Ethen Drake, Austin Drake, and John Riley Hinchey… Harmony Grove held Clinton to its lowest point total (14) and total yards (203) of the season … Matt Gonzalez finished the season having successfully converted 23 consecutive extra point attempts … This season’s offense finished with 4907 yards of total offense, good enough for second all-time after the 2017 season … This senior class helped gain 14,411 yards of total offense during their careers.
3A Playoff Scores
Hoxie 34, Booneville 28
Prescott 23, Dollarway 22
Harding Academy 58, Newport 24
McGehee 52, Atkins 29
Osceola 50, Greenland 14
Melbourne 42, Glen Rose 28
Rison 36, Lamar 20
Camden Harmony Grove 46, Clinton 14
The 3A-2 has two teams (Harding Academy and Melbourne) in the quarterfinals. For the third consecutive year, Clinton suffered from the worst playoff draw of the conference teams. The AHSAA’s random playoff pairings do not take into account conference strength. As a result, the third seed (Melbourne) got a much easier draw then the second seed (Clinton) for the first three rounds.