Sep. 4—After it looked like Nicholas County was literally going to run away with the game, Shady Spring got back in it in about as exciting a way as possible.
Then, just like that, the Tigers’ momentum was gone.
The Grizzlies responded to Shady’s game-tying touchdown — a 99-yard pass from Cameron Manns to Jacob Showalter — with a touchdown on their next drive. They then turned a fumble on the ensuing kickoff into another touchdown and cruised to a 38-14 victory Friday at H.B. Thomas Field.
The game looked nothing like the tight contests that have historically marked the matchup. Nicholas (2-0) set the tone from the start, first on defense by forcing the Tigers into a zero-yardage three-and-out. Then the Grizzlies’ first offensive series went 12 plays and took 6:41 off the clock.
It resulted in Kaleb Clark’s 2-yard touchdown run.
That’s largely how the rest of the night played out.
The Grizzlies dominated in every facet:
l Time of possession. Nicholas held the ball 37:06 to Shady’s 10:26.
l Total plays. The Grizzlies ran 81 plays and held the Tigers to 22.
l Rushing. Led by Clark’s 178 yards, Nicholas ran for 392. Shady, which pointed to the ground game as an area that needed improvement, finished at exactly zero on nine carries.
l Turnovers. Nicholas took the ball away three times and converted two into touchdowns. Shady did come away with a fumble recovery and was able to tie the game on the resulting possession.
“We’ve got a lot of returners up (front),” veteran Nicholas County coach Gene Morris said. “All those young men kind of grew up and got a year older and quite a bit stronger being in the weight room in the offseason. That’s going to pay dividends in the long run.”
The biggest beneficiary was Clark, whose 178 yards came on 34 carries. Nicholas ran a total of 69 times.
His only blemish came on the second play of the second quarter, when Shady’s Bryson Pinardo forced him to fumble at the end of a five-yard gain. Caleb Whittaker recovered to set the Tigers up at their 45-yard line.
They took advantage, scoring on Manns’ 28-yard pass to Showalter in the end zone to tie the game at 6-6.
Nicholas continued with its methodical approach on offense, an 11-play drive ending in Brycen Morriston’s 5-yard TD on a keeper to make it 14-6 going into halftime.
As much as the Grizzlies controlled the game, the Tigers were still only down a touchdown. That played out huge in the third quarter.
The Grizzlies got the ball to start the half and it was more of the same. They ran 13 plays, but this time the Tigers’ defense came up big, stopping Morriston at the one-yard line on fourth-and-goal from the 3.
Shady (1-1) got the ball and, on second-and-10, Showalter streaked out, got past his defender and Manns hit him perfectly at about the 40. Showalter wasn’t touched and raced the rest of the 99 yards for a score that electrified the Shady fans and sideline. Whittaker then ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game at 14-14.
It didn’t take long for the excitement to turn to shock.
The Grizzlies reclaimed the lead on one of Clark’s four total touchdowns — a 17-yard catch from Morriston. On the ensuing kickoff, the Tigers fumbled and Wes Hill recovered. He returned it to Shady’s 12-yard line, and Clark finished the short drive with a 1-yard TD run as the Grizzlies turned a tie game into a 30-14 lead in a span of 2 minutes, 16 seconds.
“It was kind of the turning point, because they’re dangerous,” Morris said. “They throw the ball very well. We tried to put some pressure on them best we could. They still got us a couple times. Once we took the lead and we were able to get the fumble on the kickoff, our guys rose to the occasion and kind of spread it out a little bit and that made (the lead) 16.”
“It was huge,” Tigers coach Vince Culicerto said. “I thought (the 99-yard touchdown) got the momentum going for us a little bit and excited, and I thought defensively we came out and got after them. Then (they got) a big play here or there to get the first downs. We had a third-and-long there a couple of times and they got the first down.
“They executed well; hats off. They run that ball up in there and they block well and we weren’t ready for it. I thought our boys fought and played hard to the end, but the (Grizzlies’) offense was quick plays and that left (the defense) out on the field and those long drives start to take a toll on you.”
Clark scored his third rushing TD from one yard with 2:28 to go on a drive that started after Jaxson Morriston’s interception.
Clark also led the Grizzlies’ defense with 6.5 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Manns completed 6 of 13 passes for 147 yards and the two touchdowns.
Pinardo had 15 tackles for the Tigers and now has 34 in two games. James Sellards made 11 stops.
The Grizzlies will host Wyoming East next Friday at 7 p.m. Shady will welcome Summers County for its Homecoming game on Saturday, Sept. 11, at 3 p.m.
Email: [email protected] and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber
NC (2-0) 6 8 0 24 — 38
SS (1-1) 0 6 8 0 — 14
NC: Kaleb Clark 2 run (run failed), 4:25.
SS: Jacob Showalter 28 pass from Cameron Manns (kick failed), 9:25.
NC: Brycen Morriston 11 run (Eden Addair pass from Morriston), 3:59.
SS: Showalter 99 pass from Manns (Caleb Whittaker run), 4:57.
NC: Clark 17 pass from Morriston (Clark run), 11:53.
NC: Clark 1 run (Morriston run), 9:37.
NC: Clark 1 run (Morriston run), 2:28.
Rushing — NC: Clark 34-178, Alex Pritt 8-82, Colton Browning 7-70, Morriston 13-45; SS: Bryson Pinardo 3-9, Whittaker 1-4, James Sellards 1-(-1), Manns 4(-12).
Passing — NC: Morriston 5-6-0-54; Dawson Brown 0-5-0-0; SS: Manns 6-13-1-147.
Receiving — NC: Clark 2-24, Hill 2-22, Jeffrey Girod 1-8; SS: Showalter 3-132, Tyler Mackey 2-13, Sellards 1-2.
Takeaways — NC: Hill (FR), Kendall Giles (FR), Jaxson Morriston (INT); SS: Whittaker (FR).