This is Clay County's second time in as many years to reach the 3A state title game. Last year Pike County ended the Panthers' title hopes in a one-sided affair. But, that was not the case this time. No one-sided scores in this one, but Cordova would overcome two turnovers and two four yard punts to come away with the title.
On Clay County's first possession of the day they moved the ball down to the Cordova 41 yard line where quarterback Chase Horn took the ball on a quarterback draw for 41 yards and the first score of the game.
On the ensuing kickoff Cordova's Rico Everett got a good return of 18 yards to set the Blue Devils up at the 47 yard line. After a Tim Simon run on first down went for no gain, quarterback Ryan Smith found a wide open Jacob Howton for a 63 yard touchdown. The PAT was good for a tied ballgame.
Jacob Howton started the game like a gang buster as he broke up what would have been a sure touchdown pass. However the Panthers were able to move the ball within field goal range behind the strong running of Raqual Ward. Win Knight trotted out and kicked a Super Six, 3A record breaking 41-yard field goal.
After the Clay County defense stifled the Blue Devils on their next possession they took control of the game when Chase Horn hit a streaking Simmons for a 41 yard gain down to the Blue Devil 24. But every time the Clay County offense looked like it was going to punch it in, the Blue Devil defense would rise to the occasion and stop the Panthers.
Que up the music for Win Knight, as he came on to hit a 40-yard field goal to push the Panthers out to a 13-7 lead in the 2nd quarter.
Cordova took the next possession and moved the ball inside Clay County territory, and on third and four the drive was kept alive by an untimely pass interference penalty to give the Blue Devils a first down.
The following play Tim Simon demonstrated to the crowd why so many college scouts were on hand to see him.
Simon took the ball around left end, and when it looked as though he wouldn't get the corner, he did. When it looked as though a Clay County defender would tackle him for a short gain, he didn't. Simon raced inside the 10 yard line before being tackled at the seven. Rico Everett tried left end the following play only to get the ball back to the line of scrimmage.
The next two plays would see Simon run for six yards at left guard and one yard at center to complete the drive and score his first touchdown of the day giving the Blue Devils a 14-13 lead after the PAT was good. They would not relinquish the lead the remainder of the game.
The Blue Devils kicked off with 6:07 remaining in the first half, and promptly held the Panthers to a three and out after Ryan Smith broke up a Chase Horn pass that looked like it might go for a score.
The Blue Devils would get the ball at their own 35 and move it inside the one yard line before a fumbled center/quarterback exchange cost the Blue Devils six points with :08 seconds left in the half. The score remained 14-13, Cordova.
The Panthers appeared to have all the momentum going in at halftime after the big defensive stop, as the Blue Devils left the field somewhat demoralized after blowing such an opportunity.
The halftime speech from Coach Scott Basden must have been a good one because the Blue Devils came out in the 3rd quarter with gravel in their gut and blood in their eyes.
The third quarter was a tug-o-war between the two teams as both came out and tried to establish their physical dominance. While Clay County was able to move the ball the Cordova defense found ways to come up with big stops.
Coach Danny Horn decided to go for a 4th and short at his 47-yard line when Ross Cotney fumbled the ball. But, in Cotney's defense he was short of the first down regardless of the fumble.
Cordova quickly took advantage of the situation with Daniel Ingram continuing to run the ball behind center very well all day. Smith contributed to the drive, and Simon ripped off a couple of 10 yard runs as they neared the goal line.
Simon took it in from the five, and the Cordova Blue Devils took a 21-13 lead with 6:31 left in the 3rd quarter.
That was the final margin of victory, although Clay County would not give up as they mounted a late drive that ended with Tim Simon breaking up two passes in the end zone. Clay County played right up until the end, just like champions do.
ScoutSouth.com caught up with Cordova's Rico Everett following the game.
"It's just great right now. It's a great feeling. We have worked for this, and it's a great way to end my career at Cordova. I just can't find enough words," Everett said.
ScoutSouth.com also caught up with Clay County's Chase Horn.
"It's just an honor to be up here, and an honor to have made it this far," the senior quarterback stated while fighting back the emotions of a hard fought loss.
While it would have been easy to get lost on all the offensive hype leading up to this game any avid football fan knows championships are won, or lost with defense. These two teams that scored so many points on opponents all season long had one thing that set them apart from the others, a great defense. It was a pleasure watching both the players and coaches as they tried to position their team to get the victory.
Now that the season has ended ScoutSouth.com will continue to follow the senior prospects right up until NSD, and we're always in search of the upcoming juniors for next season.
Congratulations to all the teams that played their hardest all season long, and to the teams that played their hardest and made it to the Super Six. All of you are winners.
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