RIVERDALE - Led by the powerful running of Clarence Jackson, North Clayton scored early in both the first and second half and then held off a determined Alcovy for a 13-10 Region 4-AAAA win Friday night at Southern Crescent Stadium.
Jackson, a 220-pound senior, was a one-man offense for the hosting Eagles by rushing for 251 yards on 27 carries.
Alcovy fought back from a 13-0 deficit in the second half due to quality special teams play that included three blocked punts, one resulting in a score with a little more than five minutes left in the third quarter.
After a sack of Eagles quarterback Dennis Johnson by Alcovy's John Hale, North Clayton faced a fourth-and-10 from its own 10 yard line. Johnson's punt was blocked by Lucky Collymore and Travis Gunnells and recovered by an alert Cameron Fields. After the point-after by Kyle Vojtesak, the Tigers were back in the game with plenty of time still left to play.
Alcovy's defense, led by Hale, Fields and sophomore Kyle Wilfers, stymied North Clayton for the remainder of the second half. Then a third blocked punt by Alcovy, this time by Gunnells, set up the Tigers with a potential go-ahead touchdown.
With a first down at the North Clayton 11-yard line, the Tigers were again thwarted by a physical Eagle defense and forced to kick a field goal from 25 yards with 7:55 remaining in the game. David Ward was at the controls for this drive that stalled when his third down pass to Josh Taylor in the end zone was broken up.
In the first half, Alcovy blocked a quick kick attempt by North Fulton and with Rod Tolen directing the offense could not capitalize. Vojtesak missed a short field goal on that effort which left the Tigers scoreless in the first half.
Vojtesak had missed just short on a 50-yard field goal attempt earlier in the first half but was outstanding with his punting throughout the game. The senior punted five times for an average of about 40 yards with no return yardage.
After the field goal that narrowed the margin to three points, North Clayton returned to its one-man offense, and Jackson's biggest run of the evening came on a fourth and 1 situation at midfield with just less than three minutes remaining. Using a second and third effort, Jackson bulled his way to a first down. Unable to stop the clock, Alcovy saw its hope for victory vanish.
The Tigers had other opportunities but saw them stopped due to penalties and the defensive effort from the Eagles. Alcovy drove deep into North Clayton's end of field on three occasions, but the Tigers failed to score each time.
Perhaps the pivotal moment of the first half occurred when Alcovy blocked an attempted quick kick by the Jackson that Kyle Wilfer recovered. This set up the Tigers with a first and goal from the 8-yard line, but a loss of two yards by workhorse runningback Tre Sorrells was the start of an inept effort to score points.
After that loss of yardage, Alcovy suffered an illegal
procedure penalty. After a 4-yard run by quarterback Rod Tolen, the Tigers had third and goal from the 10. An incomplete pass from Tolen to wide receiver Chico Hardeman forced Alcovy to attempt a field goal, but that effort by Vojtesak was wide left.
Sorrells ended the evening with 74 yards on 16 carries.
North Clayton's offense in the first half and most of the evening was provided by Jackson, who has already committed to play his college ball at Ole Miss. He was contained many times by a swarming Alcovy defense but managed to break away for several long runs throughout the game. He scored both North Clayton touchdowns on long runs of 21 yards in the first half and 47 yards in the second.
About midway through the first half, the Tigers inserted quarterback David Ward into the game and he immediately sparked the offense with an instant connection to receiver Josh Taylor. The duo combined for receptions of 19, 12 and seven yards without an incompletion.
Still, those drives were thwarted by North Clayton with Alcovy failing on a faked punt on the first thrust and then a fumble by Ward ended the second drive.