BLACKSVILLE – For years, Paden City has walked into Clay-Battelle’s football stadium decided underdogs, and usually headed home a few hours later with that prediction confirmed. But the Wildcats have flipped the script this season with a stellar record and a No. 14 Class A ranking while the Cee-Bees have struggled.
However, a key variable for both teams has been health, and while the Cee-Bees have looked more like a MASH unit at times, Paden City had remained mostly injury-free.
But Friday night, the injury bug bit the Wildcats – hard – while the Cee-Bees finally got their most potent weapon back in their backfield, and when the physical battles took their toll on Paden City, it was Clay-Battelle that won the war, as they scored 22 unanswered points in the final quarter to roar to a stunning upset victory, 40-28.
After Paden City (7-2) pulled off an onside kick on the kickoff, they quickly drove deep into C-B (3-6) territory, but couldn’t convert on fourth and three at the C-B 10. Energized by the defensive stand, the Cee-Bees’ mercurial running back Zach Hall zipped around the PC defense for 80 of the 90 yards in the C-B touchdown drive, the last 29 on a left sideline sweep.
Trailing 6-0, Wildcats coach Robert Price called a timeout and sent a message to his team that was received, especially the offense. Using a precise and impressively deceptive running game, Paden City took just nine plays to score three straight touchdowns on their next three possessions.
Their first score to take the lead came at the end of a four-play, 68-yard drive capped by Brayden Neff’s 25-yard run and Ashton Little’s two-point try run. C-B responded with a solid 12-play, 74-yard drive, Hall tiptoeing the sideline from the 25. Back came PC, Little roaring up the middle from the 50 to jump back on top, 14-12, followed by an interception and a 7-yard TD run from Little.
Down by 10 with four minutes left, CB manufactured a textbook late-half drive, finished off by a fourth down, 9-yard TD pass from JC Spears to Braden Ponceroff with 24 seconds remaining to sneak to within four at 22-18.
In a wild third quarter, two Wildcat turnovers on downs were followed by two Cee-Bee fumbles until, at the tail end of the quarter, Neff again swept left from the 20 to restore his team’s 10-point advantage. But during the drive, Baker suffered a significant ankle injury, and the Wildcats seemed to lose cohesion on offense, plus their short bench seemed to catch up with several players who were injured and cramping.
And the Cee-Bees – especially Hall, who returned from injury after a four-game layoff to the tune of 315 yards and 5 touchdowns – seized the opportunity in the biggest way imaginable, scoring on TD runs of 5, 9, and – following a key Maverick Gum interception, 22 yards to turn a 28-18 deficit into a thrilling 12-point victory.
“It was a hard-hitting, hard-fought game for sure,” said C-B coach Ryan Wilson. “By the end of the night, they were counting players to see if they had enough – but we’ve been dealing with that all season. We felt like offensively, with Zach running so hard and the line opening holes for him all night, the only time we were stopped was when we stopped ourselves. So we knew that if we could just get some stops on defense, we had a chance. And they really stepped up in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter.
“I’m so proud of how they battled,” he continued, “and I feel great that this group earned a big win against a very good team after so many close losses this year. They deserved it.”
The Cee-Bees host Magnolia in their final game of the season this Friday night at 7:00 p.m.
BY MARK SCHRAF
Paden City (7-2) 8 14 6 0 – 28
Clay-Battelle (3-6) 6 12 0 22 – 40
CB – Zach Hall 29 run (kick missed)
PC – Brayden Neff 25 run (try good Ashton Little run)
CB – Hall 25 run (try failed)
PC – Joseph Baker 50 run (try failed)
PC – Little 7 run (try good Baker run)
CB – Braden Ponceroff 9 pass from JC Spears (try failed)
PC – Neff 20 run (try failed)
CB – Hall 9 run (try good Hall run)
CB – Hall 5 run (try good Hall run)
CB – Hall 22 run (try failed)
PASSING PC – Kayden Myers 1-3-1 3, Jessup Higgins 0-1-0. CB – Spears 6-12-1 62 TD, Hall 0-1-0 0.
RUSHING PC – Neff 19-221 2TD, Little 10-35 TD, Baker 13-106 TD, Myers 3-8, Higgins 1-(-2) Total 46-368 4TD. CB- Spears 1-(-8), Zachary Hall 30-315 5TD, Maverick Gum 10-61 Total 41-368 5TD.
RECEIVING PC – Neff 1-3. CB – Hall 4-36, Ponceroff 2-26 TD