By ZACK OWENSBY
MT. JULIET -- The Saints of Mt. Juliet Christian Academy (2-7) were run down, run around, and run over in a 40-14 loss to Clay County (6-3) Friday night.
With the early discovery of a weakness in MJCA’s defense, the Bulldogs ran to the tune of 400-plus yards on the ground.
And once they discovered that no Saints’ defender could stop them, they committed to the run and dared MJCA to stop them.
But the Saints have had trouble all year stopping the run, head coach Paul Townsend said after the game. "Once they found something they liked, they kept doing it, and we couldn’t stop them."
The Saints scrapped hard the whole game, but turnovers at inopportune times cost them big.
MJCA’s Devin Bradshaw threw an interception on the Saints first offensive play on a lateral from senior QB Chris Frazier.
Frazier had troubles of his own, throwing three picks himself. His accuracy was off all night due to confusion in routes, coverage schemes, or poor footwork when rolling out of the pocket on bootlegs often.
But when Frazier did hit his target, his receivers didn’t help him out much, dropping 8 to 10 passes, two in the end zone, which hit them in their hands or chest. He finished 12 for 40 for 115 yards and three interceptions.
Senior running back Stephen Hughes gained a tough 96 yards and two three-yard touchdowns and a catch.
Clay County took the opening kickoff 80 yards in five plays for an early 6-0 lead. Clay Co.’s T.J. Key ran it in from 8 yards out. He finished with 12 carries for 220 yards and 3 TDs.
MJCA answered with 3:54 remaining in the first quarter on a touchdown run by Hughes to lead 7-6.
Clay County junior Matt Brown added a pair of rushing touchdowns in the second quarter to send the lead to 20-7.
The Bulldogs’ Key rushed in two more, from 34 and 80 yards out to put the game out of reach at 34-7.
The Saints fought back but came up empty twice after long drives, first after a 10-play, 50-yard drive that stalled just outside the Bulldogs’ 10 yard line, and again on a 10-play, 45-yard drive.
"We had opportunities to get back in it late," Townsend said, "but we just couldn’t capitalize. We had two nice drives there at the end that stalled and we didn’t get anything from them. But I’m proud of our boys; they played hard the entire game. I was concerned, being that we’ve played so poorly the two weeks prior to this game. So I am pleased with their effort."
MJCA will host Friendship Christian next Thursday, October 30. The game has been moved up a day to accommodate Halloween night.