CLOVER – A strong Clover defense and an offense clicking on all cylinders, the Blue Eagles rolled out to a 48-0 win over the Fort Mill Yellow Jackets Thursday evening at Memorial Stadium.
Fort Mill knew it had a tall task ahead of them taking on Clover after coming off its first region win in over five years by beating Spring Valley last week 21-7.
Clover is now 7-2 overall on the season and 4-0 in Region 3-5A, while Fort Mill falls to 2-7 and 1-3 in the region. Clover will play Rock Hill next week for the region title at District III Stadium in Rock Hill.
Fort Mill head coach Rob McNeely said the game came down to a couple of things.
“Not being able to move the ball in the first half hurt and turnovers in the second half,” he said. “You can’t do that against a team like this.”
The Blue Eagles won the coin toss and got the opening kickoff. Clover took the ball at the 44 and easily crossed the 50 and was aided with a face mask penalty by Fort Mill to get to the 28-yard line. The next play Landon Stone scores on a 28-yard run to put the Blue Eagles up 34 seconds into the game.
Fort Mill quickly went three and out on their first series of the game. A punt by the Jackets put Clover at midfield.
Clover imposed their will in the running game for the Blue Eagles as Stone and quarterback Jaylon Hoover worked their way down to the two. Hoover then pounded it in on a run to cap off a 10-play, 52-yard drive to go up 14-0 with 6:27 left in the opening quarter.
Fort Mill had a good positive movement as quarterback Quinn Kelly hit Tanner Mays for the Jackets initial first down of the game on the next series. However, negative yardage plays ended up backing the Jackets up as they again punted.
Fort Mill came up with a big sack from Josh Welch taking Hoover down for a 10-yard loss on third down of the Blue Eagles drive. Clover struggled on the drive with self-inflected penalties as well, backing them up and forcing them to punt for the first time in the game.
Fort Mill got good starting position but a fumble on a bad pitch in the back field gave the Jackets an 11-yard loss to end the first quarter.
The Jackets punted about two plays into the second quarter allowing Clover to start at the 40-yard line.
Stone put the Blue Eagles on his back and pushed them down field leading Clover as they went 60-yards on six plays capped off with his second touchdown run for the game, this time on an 18-yard scamper up the middle.
On the next series for Fort Mill, the Jackets were forced to punt out of the end zone giving Clover the ball back at the 33-yard line. The Jackets got a nice sack from Gavin Brandwood to help push the Blue Eagles back. However, Clover was able to bounce back on a tunnel pass and got inside the red zone, before Stone rolled his way to the 1-yard line. Stone would end the game for Clover with 198 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns.
A penalty by Clover forced them to eventually go for a 20-yard field goal making it 24-0 with 3:25.
Fort Mill continuously started in poor field position to begin drives as Clover’s defensive pressure consistently put Kelly on the run scrambling for his life. Fort Mill got just 17 total yards in the first half and only one first down.
The Jackets got the ball to start the second half. Fort Mill started at their own 10-yard line as Kelly hit Mays for a big 18-yard catch. However, penalties and pressure by Clover forced a Fort Mill punt.
Clover started their first series in the third quarter at midfield and despite Fort Mill getting to the Blue Eagles’ Hoover on a couple of occasions, they were still able to make things happen as Brayden Woolbright was able to get them to the 5-yard line on a 25-yard catch. Two plays later T.J. McCluney caught an 8-yard pass for a score.
Clover’s defense continued to pin Fort Mill deep in their own territory so when they punted, it gave the Blue Eagles nice field position to start. Penalties hurt Clover on their second series forcing them to try a 52-yard field goal which fell short.
The Blue Eagles scored a defensive touchdown on Fort Mill’s next possession as they ripped the ball out of a receiver’s hands taking it in from 30-yards out to make it 38-0 with about 68 seconds left in the third quarter.
Fort Mill played better in the fourth quarter as Kelly was able to start hitting receivers like Mays and Braylon Thomas nearing midfield. However, a second consecutive turnover at about the 43-yard line gave the ball back to the Blue Eagles with about 9:30 left in the game. Clover would add another score three minutes later to put the game away.
Fort Mill would turn the ball over three times in the second half, which aided the Blue Eagles in their scoring drives. Fort Mill ended the game with just four first downs and never crossed midfield the entire game.
Fort Mill had 68 yards of total offense unofficially. Kelly passed for 74 yards and they rushed the ball as a team 14 times for negative 6-yards. Both Mays and Thomas had 32 yards receiving each for the Jackets to lead them.
Fort Mill will now host rival Nation Ford to end the regular season next Friday, Oct. 27. Fort Mill knows it must shake off the loss to get ready for the Falcons.
“Monday’s work is going to lead to Friday success,” McNeely said. “We aren’t doing a good job of learning from our success or failures right now.”
Mac Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org, @fortprep