By Clay County High School Football Coach Jason Nichols
The CCHS Panthers took our three-game winning streak to Webster County Friday for a chance to end the season on a high note and to finish with a 5-5 record.
Webster County needed the victory to advance to play-off action. Webster entered the game with a 6-3 record. The crowd was not disappointed in this epic defensive battle.
Neither team could get much going as both defenses were stout against the run. The first Webster touchdown would come after a Panther miscue handling a Highlander punt. Webster would march 28 yards and take a 7-0 lead into the half. The Panthers looked like a defeated team at that moment.
Clay came out of the locker room and marched down the field only to turn it over on downs deep in Webster territory. On the drive, CCHS lost our 1,000 yard back Reece Nichols on the second play of the second half. Shortly afterwards, Isaac Workman would also suffer an injury that would keep him out most of the third quarter. Clay was searching for answers and ways to move the football.
After a Webster punt, and with 84 yards of field to cover, the Panthers took over from the 16 yard line. QB Alex Grose connected with WR Ryan Burdette and Burdette made a nice run afterwards for a 75 yard gain. On the next play, Workman took the ball in for the Panther touchdown from nine yards out, and he also ran in the 2-point conversion to give CCHS an 8-7 lead as the fourth quarter got underway.
Clay got the ball back and ran over half of the fourth quarter clock off before punting to Webster giving them one last opportunity to advance to the playoffs. Webster would hit on a few passes and drive the ball to the Panther eight-yard line with just over a minute left. As both teams called timeouts to strategize on the final few plays, the CCHS defense would need a goal line stand to preserve the win. The defense once again proved up to the challenge.
The CCHS seniors and the 2016 season would depend on this goal line effort. After Webster got a little closer to the end zone, senior CB Luke Young would bat down a Highlander pass in the end zone, and Webster would bring out the FG team to try to win the game on fourth down. CCHS brought the heat, and the Webster attempt fell short. The Panthers would leave with an emotional 8-7 hard fought victory.
CCHS has been through a lot this year. The players have worked tirelessly since June 23, and it all paid off with that goal line stand as they ended the year with a four-game winning streak to finish with a 5-5 record. Coaches always tell their players to leave it on the field, the 2016 Panthers left it all on the field this season. They played their hearts out for their teammates, school, and community.
The 2016 CCHS Panthers are a team that Clay County should be proud to have watched.