Pass defended

Clay Central defensive back Elisha McNeil (6) successfully defends a pass against a Stanhope Elmore receiver in Saturday's spring scrimmage at Jacksonville State University.

f defense and punts are your favorite features of football, then Saturday’s spring scrimmage between Stanhope Elmore and defending 5A state champions Clay Central was a dream come true.

The teams squared off for two quarters and combined for 78 total yards and three first downs between them. The only points came on an 89-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Stanhope Elmore that sent them to a 7-0 victory.

The longest play from scrimmage for either team was a 12-yard run by Stanhope Elmore late in the first quarter.

“Offensively we didn’t do much. I thought we played well defensively, but they have a good defensive front, and we didn’t do much offensively,” said Central head coach Danny Horn.

Central rushed for 20 yards on 21 carries as a team, led by Quentin Knight’s eight yards on 13 carries. The passing game never materialized either as Boyd Ogles completed just 2-of-9 passes for 11 yards and two interceptions.

As rough as things were for the offense, the Volunteers balanced that out with a stellar defensive performance.

The secondary, in particular, stood out as that unit allowed just one completion on 10 pass attempts and was active at the line of scrimmage on run plays as well.

“I thought our secondary, and that was a little concern coming in, I thought we played well there,” Horn said. “They came up and made some open field tackles, and when they did throw it they came up hit them and knocked the ball out a time or two.”

Horn saw the lack of positive results on offense as “something to work on,” rather than a cause for alarm. Knight and Ogles are proven commodities in the backfield and were key components of Central’s state title run last year. The offense also returns an experienced line that should be fine as well.

Horn was quick to point out that the spring game’s primary function is as an evaluation tool to find out where newcomers to the lineup fit in.

“The first thing you’ve got to do is get the right people in the right positions. And I think that’s what spring helps you to do,” Horn said. “You may have an idea who possibly can play this position, but after the spring you realize he might be better at another position. I was looking at several positions, and some of them I thought did well and they can play there. And then others we’re probably going to have to move.”

That puts Horn ahead of the curve in his second season with the Vols. He was still tinkering with the lineup halfway through the regular season last year before he found the championship formula.

He says this year’s team can’t rely on last year’s results if they want to contend again, especially after the departure of key seniors like Jaylon Bass, Shamari Simmons and brothers Dewayne and Paul Garrett.

“You can go 15-0 and win a state championship and the next year go 0-10,” Horn said. “You’re still doing the same thing, you just don’t have as good players. That’s the situation this year. We’ve got a good nucleus coming back, but obviously the ones that are filling in for the ones that graduated, they’re not quite up to that speed yet. And they may not ever get there. It’s hard to replace a Bass and Shamari and the two Garretts. It’s hard to replace them with somebody just as good.”

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