The Cleburne County Tigers spent the 2013 season overcoming adversity but an early three-touchdown deficit was more than they could overcome last Friday night. Visiting Oneonta eventually downed the Tigers 44-19 at L.E. Bell Field in the quarterfinal round of the AHSAA Class 4A playoffs. The Tigers, who had to win against Lincoln in their final region game to make the playoffs then won two postseason contests, finished the season 8-5.
“I was proud of our team for the season we had. We could have easily just shut it down, stopped. I have to give a lot of credit to our kids, a lot of credit to our senior class, for pulling things together when things got tough and giving us a chance,” said Tigers coach Michael Shortt. “We got hot there at the right time. We felt like that was a great accomplishment for our team after what we went through during the course of the season.”
Shortt said this year’s senior class had provided the leadership needed to keep the team afloat.
“Having a large senior class that’s always played together, they always thought that they were going to be pretty good. They just were bound and determined not to let some injuries cost them that. They just wouldn’t let us fall down and quit because they’re not quitters,” Shorrt said. “I guess you could say they just willed us just to keep playing and keep trying no matter what the record was or what the score was.”
Cleburne County finished with 256 yards of total offense. The Tigers rushed for 150 yards and passed for 106 yards. By contrast, Oneonta (12-1) netted 401 total yards, 299 on the ground and 102 through the air.
“We were not able to consistently convert on third downs and we were not able to consistently stop them on third down conversions and those are big when you talk about clock management,” said Shortt. “They’re not a chunk it all over the field team either. They were just able to make a few more plays that extended some drives.”
The Redskins scored on a big pass play of more than 50 yards from sophomore quarterback Ko Powell to classmate Trevor Smith at wide receiver on their initial possession. Thirty seconds into the second quarter, Oneonta added a touchdown on a short run by senior Avery Reid. Shortt said he felt Oneonta had been able to exploit Cleburne County’s inexperience early in the contest. Oneonta’s third score came on a fumble recovery in the end zone.
Trailing 21-0, Cleburne County got its first touchdown on a 5-yard run by Trey Bolton with 3:37 left in the second quarter. A 67-yard pass play from Christian Henson at quarterback to J’son Henson, his younger brother, set the table for Bolton. Anderson Jacks kicked the extra point, cutting Oneonta’s lead to 21-7.
The Redskins responded with a 40-yard field just over a minute before halftime. Cleburne County got a 46-yard gain on a quarterback counter by Christian Henson and its hurry-up offense scored with 19 seconds remaining before intermission on a 16-yard pass from Henson to Jeremiah Blake. The extra point attempt failed and Oneonta led 24-13 at the break.
The Redskins scored the only points of the third quarter on a short run with just less than four minutes left in the quarter. Oneonta added two more touchdowns in the first six minutes of the fourth period on runs by Terrell McDaniel and Powell. The Tigers blocked the extra point after McDaniel’s touchdown.
Bolton, Cleburne County’s workhorse at running back for the past two seasons, scored the final points for the Tigers on an 8-yard run with 1:44 to play. A 17-yard run by Christian Henson, a 9-yard carry by Bolton and passes by Henson to Brandon Horn for nine yards and Jeremiah McLeroy for eight yards led to touchdown. A 2-point conversion attempt failed.
Christian Henson ran nine times for 75 yards. Bolton gained 61 yards on 14 carries and Horn had 14 yards on seven attempts. Henson was 5-for-13 passing for 106 yards. Blake’s two receptions totaled 22 yards. J’son Henson, Horn and McLeroy each had one catch.
From his position in the secondary, McLeroy was the leading tackler for the Tigers with 14 stops. Griffin Turner, also a defensive back, had 13 tackles. Linebackers Alex Sandmann, Mario Smith and Matthew Morrow had 11, 10 and eight tackles respectively.
Grant Corkren, Geoffrey Teague, Isaiah Ware and Drake Williamson each recorded six tackles. Christian Henson, Matthew Shortt and Trevor Ivey made four tackles apiece.