By Jason Nichols

Player of the game, Nate Canfield.
Player of the game, Luke Burnette.

Homecoming 2017 was a night to remember for so many. The queen, Graci Mitchell, was crowned at halftime and the band made a memorable performance at the conclusion of the game.

The weather felt like mid-summer. But, the blue and gold came to play this night. Clay County improved to 4-1 on the season after a 38-14 victory of the Raiders of Liberty Raleigh.

The Panthers were a little upset after Liberty Raleigh decided to interrupt the pregame warm up by walking through the middle of Clay’s drills to touch the field goal post on the Clay side of the field. The boys made a decision that would be the biggest mistake Liberty would make all evening. The boys and the coaches were anxious for the opening bell. When that happened, the adrenaline was in high gear. Clay scored on a 54 yard touchdown run by Luke Burnette on the second play of the game. After a quick three and out by the Raiders, the Panthers notched another score with a 31 yard Isaac Workman touchdown run. The Panthers held Liberty on their next possession and Alex Grose connected with Ryan Burdette for a 23 yard touchdown pass.  The first quarter scoring was capped when Nate Canfield picked off a Liberty pass and returned it for a Panther touchdown and the Panthers had a 26-0 lead before many of the fans even got to their seats.

Liberty did manage to pick off a Panther pass for a touchdown and they had an impressive scoring drive right before the half as Clay held a 26-14 halftime lead.  But, after some halftime adjustments, the Panthers would go on to dominate the second half.

Grose would connect with Isaac Workman for a 39 yard catch and run in the third quarter. Then, Luke Burnette would seal the deal picking up chunks of yards on the ground and adding the final Panther score just a few minutes into the final frame. The Panthers would get an opportunity allow some players to gain some valuable varsity experience closing out the rest of the game. The final score would be Clay Panthers, 38; Liberty Raleigh Raiders, 14.

The Players of the Game would be Luke Burnette who gained 119 yards on 10 carries and scored two Panther touchdowns while adding a two point conversion. Senior Nate Canfield would also earn player of the game honors as he had five tackles, provided great defensive coverage in the secondary, and picking off a Raider pass and returning it for a Pick six touchdown. The Panthers will take their 4-1 record on the road next Friday to take on a tough Independence High School football team. Independence defeated the Panthers last season 42-14, but the Panthers are hoping this is the season to even the score with the Patriots.

Last Monday the JV team played Nicholas County. This game was added late in the week after Wirt County had to cancel. So, the Panthers didn’t know what to expect out of the Grizzlies. Brandon Rucker took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown and Clay had the 8-0 lead. After some back and forth play, Nicholas was able to score a few times to take a 20-8 lead to halftime. The Panthers decided that they were not going to be pushed around anymore. Logan Vance and Grant Krajeski added third quarter scores and Elijah Payton added a two point conversion and Clay took a 22-20 lead into the fourth quarter. Nicholas scored on a long play and then recovered a Panther fumble and regained the lead. After the Panthers added a Vance to Drew Belt scoring strike, the Grizzlies were able to score again to take home a 32-30 win over the Panthers. Clay JV fell to 2-1-1 on the season. The JV plays at Midland Trail on Monday.