Clinton beats defending state champions in pre-districts

Mickey Alvarado

Clinton’s Kaden Kelly put up a Hail Mary pass and had Mathew Sexton haul it in and score. Photo by Mickey Alvarado.

Divine intervention may have helped Clinton’s varsity football team defeat defending state champion Saint Mary Catholic Central (SMCC) 14-10 on Friday, Oct. 30, in the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Division 6 pre-district game in Monroe.
With SMCC holding a slim 10-7 lead in the fourth quarter, the Redskins fans prayed in the stands with 1:22 remaining in the game as Clinton quarterback Kaden Kelly lofted a Hail Mary pass from the Falcolns’ 43 yard line on a 4th-and-13 situation. As the Redskins’ quarterback took a crushing blow immediately after the throw, senior Mathew Sexton hauled in the pass, shucked off his opponents and ran all the way to the end zone.
“I’m always told by my coaches, ‘Whoever we play, we have number ten [Sexton] and they don’t,’” said Clinton head coach Scott McNitt.
Eric Bouse connected on a huge point after touchdown (PAT) kick to give Clinton’s underdogs a four point, 14-10, lead, leaving the Falcon’s needing a touchdown to overtake the Redskins.
After the kickoff following Sexton’s touchdown, SMCC recorded a first down on Clinton’s 25-yard line with a pass interference call and had 33.5 seconds left to work with so fans on both sides of the turf continued hoping for the win. The Redskins defense held the Falcons to a fourth down and took the ball over on downs on their own 28-yard line after an incomplete pass with just a few seconds left in the game. After time expired, Clinton’s players, coaches and fans rejoiced on and off the field.
“It’s playoff football,” said coach McNitt. “It couldn’t have ended any better for us. I’m so proud of our kids to hang in there.
“Defensively, that was where the game was won,” McNitt added. “We slowed them down and held them to ten points. We gave them a short field at times so the defense was the reason we won.”
The Falcons struggled against Clinton in the first half and were limited to a three-point field goal midway through the opening quarter. SMCC had a first down on Clinton’s nine-yard line but were held to a fourth and eight and opted for the field goal.
Clinton was not to be denied on its following possession and drove the ball to a third-and-one situation on SMCC’s 14-yard line. The Redskins completed its first scoring drive with Noah Poore plowing through SMCC’s defense and dragging at least two Falcons with him into the end zone for a touchdown.
Bouse connected on the PAT and gave the Redskins a 7-3 advantage with 1:32 left in the first quarter.
Clinton had a good drive going early in the second quarter (11:12) but Kelly passed to Sexton and had the ball stolen from his hands on the Falcon’s 25-yard line.
The Falcon’s had the ball taken over on downs on their following drive on Clinton’s 38-yard line. Poore broke free on Clinton’s ensuing possession and hit the end zone again. However, the play was called back with an illegal block from the back by the Redskins.
The second quarter closed with neither team scoring and the Redskins went to the lockers leading 7-3 at halftime.
“We were good in the first half,” McNitt commented. “I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage, did what we wanted to do. In the second half when they scored and got the momentum they took the line of scrimmage away from us.”
Clinton was unable to score in the third quarter while the Falcon’s put together a touchdown drive with just 4:09 remaining in the stanza. On a second-and-nine play on Clinton’s 46, SMCC broke free and was heading to the end zone before being tackled by Sexton on the Redskins’ 10-yard line. Two plays later Phillip Lehmann rushed into the end zone to put the Falcons up 9-7. Lehmann also added another point on the PAT to give the Falcon’s a three-point cushion.
Clinton tried to answer right back on the following possession but fumbled the ball and lost it on SMCC’s 35-yard line. The third quarter closed with the Falcon’s facing a third-and-four situation on their 35-yard line.
The Redskins took possession of the ball in the fourth quarter with 7:46 remaining in the game and started their 96-yard scoring drive.
“We struggled hard on offense,” said McNitt. “We couldn’t run the ball like we wanted to so we thought, ‘We’re going to have to throw the ball a little bit.’ We threw a lot more than we’re used to and fortunately we made a big play.
“In the end we made a play. Was there luck? Absolutely. But we are moving on to next week. That’s all that matters.”
When talking to his players after the game, McNitt gave credit for the win to his defensive line coach Jeremy Fielder.
“Believe. Sometimes that’s all you have. Fourth and thirteen, believe you’re going to get it done,” Fielder said to the players. “Let me tell you too seniors, you did everything right... You sacrificed your time. You wanted it. You dialed in and did something that’s pretty good,” pointing to the scoreboard.
“This is playoff football,” said McNitt. And we survived to play another week. That’s the bottom line. It’s one win gentlemen. It’s not the end. We move on.”
Clinton (10-0) now advances to the district final on Friday at Madison High School in Madison Heights with kick-off set for 7 p.m. Madison’s Eagles defeated Warren Michigan Collegiate (9-1) 21-6 in their pre-district game. The Eagles’ only loss (26-25) came in its opening season contest against Pewamo-Westphalia.
Kelly completed 12-of-16 passes for 140 yards for the Redskins. Sexton had 89 rushing and 72 receiving-yards. 
Clinton’s defensive standouts included Blake Rogers (9 tackles), Sexton (9 tackles), Josh Brown (9 tackles), Jason Ahrens (9 tackles), Ken DeShano (7 tackles, sack), Aaron Fowler (7 tackles), Joe Spence (6 tackles) and Steve Laurell (4 tackles, interception).
“The kids were dialed in this week,” said McNitt. “The coaches challenged them last weekend and the kids bought in all week, did a lot of extra prep, followed our lead and what we wanted to do and it paid off for them. They did a lot of extra work before school, at lunch, at night, they put in the time, and we played great. We played great defense. That was the difference in the game. And, we got lucky...”


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