GREEN COVE SPRINGS - Clay High football used the mystique of Blue Devil Stadium and the history of play in front their Green Cove Springs fans to dismantle the much-anticipated offensive versatility …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS - Clay High football used the mystique of Blue Devil Stadium and the history of play in front their Green Cove Springs fans to dismantle the much-anticipated offensive versatility of Ridgeview High School’s high scoring offensive, led by linebacker Izaiah Butler’s touchdown recovery of an end zone fumble, to blow out a 63-27 win Friday night at Clay High School.
Clay High coach Kyle Kennard, who has ridden the reversal of a 1-9 season he inherited from last year to an unbeaten 7-0 season. agreed that his players took advantage of a plan maybe dubbed “Opportunistic Chaos.”
“Tell me about,” said Kennard. ““This team is so unselfish. They are really good teammates. They don’t care who gets theres as long as we get ours.”
Kennard cited Butler’s touchdown on the end zone recovery, on a suffocating effort to keep Ridgeview pinned at the goal line and a risky all-man defensive push with junior Martez Martin holding the Panther offensive line at bay while his teammates swarmed to at least go for the safety, as a turning point for the game, but also on the team’s fuel to fire.
“We don’t flinch,” said Kennard. “Every player on this team loves his teammate enough to do whatever it takes to get the job done. That series was Blue Devil football 2020 at its best.”
In a battle of stars, Clay High running back Al-Querious Ray, with 200 yards and five scores, outshined Ridgeview High running back Eddie Whipple as Clay turned a much-anticipated unofficial District 5-5A title game into a rout with big play after big play.
“He is unbelievable,” said Kennard said of his junior running back. “I think he is the best running back in the state. And he is just starting to understand what he is capable of.”
Ray scored Clay’s first two touchdowns to get the Blue Devils off to a good start, dazzled the home crowd with a 52 yard run into and out of traffic to push their advantage to 35-7 halfway through the second quarter, and added two more scoring runs in the third quarter before sitting out the fourth.
Meanwhile, Clay prevented Whipple from getting untracked. The Ridgeview all-purpose back had just one pass reception, which lost three yards, and gained only 18 yards on seven rushes.
With three pass break-ups, sophomore safety Jarvis Lee had a lot to do with shutting down Whipple. Overall, Clay held Ridgeview to 59 yards rushing on 24 attempts and enjoyed a 397-246 advantage in total yards.
Ray opened the scoring with a two-yard run after the Panthers took a big risk that backfired. With fourth down and 12 yards needed for a first down, Whipple lined up next to quarterback Max Monroe in punt formation. Whipple went in motion to the right, caught a swing pass and was able to evade a few tacklers, but was eventually swarmed under for a loss of three. Clay took over at the Ridgeview 23 yard line and needed just three plays to capitalize on the field position.
The score was tied 7-7 early in the second quarter when the Blue Devils blew it open with four touchdowns in four minutes.
After a fumble recovery by defensive end Brandon Peavy allowed Clay to start a possession in Ridgeview territory, the hosts faced a fourth and one from the Panthers’ six yard line. Ray went over right tackle and fought through some traffic to fall into the end zone for a touchdown that gave Clay a 14-7 lead.
Kennard then called for an onside kick, which Lee recovered for the Blue Devils. Five plays later, on fourth and eight, Clay quarterback Bruce Griner found wideout D’Maurion Frazier between two defenders for a 26 yard touchdown. Frazier had two touchdown receptions on the night.
A slip by kick returner Chris Baptiste, more Blue Devil mystique as Whipple would share the same fate later in the game, forced Ridgeview to start the next possession at their eight yard line. Three plays later, Monroe and running back Bryce Hampton appeared to be confused as to whether Monroe was going to hand Hampton the ball or keep it himself. The ball landed on the goal line, where Butler recovered it for a Clay touchdown before sprinting out of the end zone with the ball to the frenzied Blue Devil home stands delight.
“I don’t know about the Blue Devil mystique, but whatever it is, I’ll take any help we can get,” said Kennard. “It’s not about me. This is a great community, great school, the Green Cove football fans and I just want to right the ship.”
The Blue Devils defense forced a three and out, and it took Clay only two plays to score again. Ray went up the middle, bounced to his left, got a crushing block from wideout Jayden Bryant, broke the tackle of right cornerback A.J. Beaufort and outran a safety 52 yards to the end zone.
The Panthers did score the game’s next two touchdowns, sandwiched around the intermission, to pull within 36-21, but there would be no miracle comeback.
Blue Devils freshman Gavin Rossow ploughed into the end zone from 10 yards out to cap an eight-play, 80-yard march and restore a three-score margin. Ray then scored on runs of 1 and 25 yards for a 57-21 lead that started a running clock with 0:49 remaining in the third quarter.
Whipple did score on a three yard run from the Wildcat formation and threw a touchdown pass to Spencer Calise in the fourth quarter, but it was not nearly enough to overcome Ray and the Panthers’ own mistakes.
“It just wasn’t our night,” said Ridgeview coach Matt Knauss, noting that Clay scored twice on fourth down, had a 23 yard scoring drive after the foiled fake punt, had a one yard scoring drive after a 40 yard punt return by Lee, and scored a defensive touchdown. Knauss also pointed out that twice, Panthers kick returners slipped and fell after catching the ball inside their ten yard line.
“We knew coming in that playing from behind was not a position we wanted to be in against this team,” said Knauss. “To their credit, they put us in that position very early.”
Knauss thought that a Clay player had touched the ball on Clay’s onside kick before it had traveled 10 yards, which would have nullified Lee’s recovery. In fact, one referee had called a penalty on the play for an illegal touching. The flag was waived off after a discussion among the officials.
Spencer Calise had two receiving touchdowns and a game-high 103 receiving yards for Ridgeview, which falls to 6-2. The Panthers travel to West Nassau to face the Warriors in their regular season finale on November 6.
Clay has another big showdown next week, playing at Oakleaf in a battle for Clay County bragging rights on November 6.
“We won a district championship this week, and we are going to try to win a county championship next week,” said Kennard, a former Oakleaf defensive coach.