Improved Defense Bashes Claiborne

Things appear to be coming together at just the right time for the Seymour Eagles (3-2 Region, 5-4 Overall).

The Seymour defense threw a blanked over the vaunted Claiborne offensive attack in a resounding performance that put the Eagles one step away from clinching the coveted runner-up spot in Region-1-3A. The top two regular season finishers in the region earn home field advantage through at least the first round of the postseason.

The Eagles turned in arguably their most well-rounded performance of the season Friday night in a pivotal meeting with the Claiborne Bulldogs ((7-2, 3-2) in New Tazewell.

If nothing else, it was the Eagles most dominating defensive performance of their 2006 slate. The Seymour defense held a Claiborne team, widely considered to be the best in school history, which was averaging over 30 points in its first eight games, without an offensive score through the first three quarters.

Individual standouts on the aggressive and smothering Eagles' defense were plenty. But defensive back Ryan Williamson's two interceptions and Brandon Dockery's ability to set up shop in the Claiborne backfield particularly stood out.

"There are no words to describe it," Williamson exclaimed about the Eagles' overall defensive effort. The Seymour cornerback, who is also a top notch track star on Seymour's track and field team, had eight tackles and the two picks through the first three quarters against the Bulldogs.

"It was a total defensive effort for us. I think it might have been our most complete performance as a defense this year. We only gave up that one long pass in the first half."

Dockery, just a sophomore, is an imposing presence coming free on blitzes to opposing quarterbacks. The deceptively fast athlete has the build and strength to play on the line of scrimmage but also boasts the speed and explosiveness to line up at linebacker and shoot the gaps on blitzes.

"I love blitzing and getting after the quarterback," said Dockery. "If feels good to see our defense play up to its potential and come out and play the way we did tonight."

It was all Seymour from the get-go Friday night. After the big win, the Eagles now just need to defeat a struggling Gibbs team Friday on senior night at Benton Householder Field. Seymour also needs a heavily favored Carter team to knock off Rutledge to clinch that second place spot.

The Eagles scored first against Claiborne on a 43-yard Todd Ogle quarterback keeper. Ogle zipped through a big whole created by the offensive line, made his way to the sideline and streaked down the field into the end zone with 3:54 left in the first quarter. Carlos Lopez drilled the extra-point kick to make it 7-0.

The teams traded offensive possessions over the next few minutes trying to gain a field position advantage. Claiborne forced a Lopez punt from the Seymour five-yard line after Ogle slipped on a third down play.

Lopez punted the ball toward midfield and Claiborne made a small return to the Seymour 40. The Seymour defense held its ground and the Claiborne punter punted from the Seymour 37. The kick was downed at the Seymour four-yard line and the Eagles' offense took over from the shadow of the goal post.

The Seymour offense ran two running plays that netted four yards. On third and 6, Ogle lined up under center, lost handled of the ball as he was pulling back to pass, and under heavy pursuit by the Claiborne defense, fell on the ball in his own end zone for a safety, making the Seymour lead 7-2.

Seymour took the kickoff after halftime, and on the sixth play of the drive, Ogle threw a jump ball in the end zone that was pulled down by tight end Tyler Gamble for the 30-yard touchdown pass that completed a 64-yard drive. The touchdown play was the lone third down during the entire seven play march. Lopez added the PAT to make it 14-2 with 9:31 left in the third.

Later in the third, Claiborne offense stalled and was forced to punt to Williamson, who juked and dashed and slipped his way to the Claiborne 10-yard line with the help of a bone-jarring block by Nikkos Bierwirth.

Chase Turner darted through another offensive line surge and into of the end zone on the first offensive snap of the series. The reliable Lopez drilled another kick to make the Eagles' lead 21-2 with 4:37 left.

Seymour put the finishing touches on the win during the fourth period with a beautiful 30-yard Duncan Smith touchdown pass to Drew Fox. Turner added a 16-yard touchdown jaunt, and Matt Lynam tacked on a three-yard TD late in the game. Claiborne finally victimized the Seymour defense in the waning minutes with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Joseph Hold to Jared Lyles.

Seymour rushed the ball as a team 40 times, accumulating 211 total yards. Seymour's resurrected defense limited Claiborne to eight yards on 30 carries.

The Seymour offense relied mostly on its improved offensive line play and its stable of capable running backs. The Eagles' neglected much of their passing attack, completing two of seven passes for 40 yards.

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