NEW MADRID -- New Madrid County Central Eagles sophomore TJ Clark was the definition of an all-purpose player Friday night.
Clark, who stands at 5-8, 145-pounds, scored three touchdowns and gave the Eagles a two-score cushion in the second half as the Eagles defeated Dexter, 28-13 at New Madrid County Central High School.
"He played excellent. I think he played his best game yet," NMCC quarterback Jashawn McDaniel said about Clark. "He stepped up real big for us for a sophomore."
(Photo by Chris Pobst)
"I knew I had to score," Clark said. "I just followed my blocks and ran."
Clark ended up with 46 rushing yards and 11 receiving, but accounted for 168 all-purpose yards. Clark also sealed the game with a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"We came out in the second half and played real solid on defense," NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley said. "I'm proud of our defensive effort. We wrapped up, made some great open field tackles and got some guys in the right place in our coverage and picked a couple balls right there at the end -- just like you draw it up."
Dexter's Chase Young, who caught five passes for 132 yards and ran for another 89, scored the game's first touchdown on a 77-yard run, untouched through the middle of NMCC's defense.
Clark's kickoff return followed shortly after.
After a first quarter of back and forth action, it took just 18 seconds for both teams to post their first scores.
"We end up scoring first and they came right back on the kickoff," Dexter head coach Aaron Pixley said. "We had all the momentum at that point and that hurt us."
Each team took seven points with them at halftime.
During their second possession of the second half, NMCC's Mikeal Walker ended a three-play, 54-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run to give the Eagles a 14-7 advantage.
The Bearcats answered in just over a minute when quarterback DJ Dowdy, who threw for 192 yards, hit Young for an 84-yard touchdown strike. The extra point attempt failed, leaving Dexter looking up at a 14-13 score.
On NMCC's ensuing possession, Clark expanded the Eagles' lead to 21-13 with a 17-yard touchdown run with 1:59 left in the third period.
"You can't miss tackles against these guys," Aaron Pixley said. "They're too athletic. They're too strong. Once you get there you have to hold on. We slipped off a few and paid for it."
From that point on, each team traded three possessions with nothing doing until Clark's interception return for a score put a lid on Dexter's attempt at tying the game with a touchdown and 2-point conversion.
"We made some adjustments at halftime and the kids came out and made some plays," Arlen Pixley said. "The game kind of went the way I thought it would. I thought it would be a little bit more back and forth than it was, but there's two similar squads here. We're fortunate enough to get this win."
NMCC (2-4) was outgained by over 100 yards -- 325 to 216 -- but were able to find pay dirt when Dexter couldn't.
The Bearcats, who gained 325 total yards, failed twice in the first quarter to put points on the board inside the red zone.
A 20-yard field goal attempt by Brad Wick fell short on their first possession and, right before the second quarter, Dexter turned the ball over on downs after being just three yards away from the end zone. Two sacks for -14 yards, an incomplete pass and a tackle in the backfield pushed Dexter to the 23-yard line after setting up a first and goal on the Eagles' three.
"I told them after the game that, that came back to haunt us a little bit," Aaron Pixley said about not scoring on their two early possessions. "You've got to try and capitalize there with something.
"I think in the second half we made too many mistakes and they made more plays than we did."
The Eagles ran for 186 yards with Mikeal Walker leading the way with 48. Clark had 46 rushing yards, Malik Stevenson had 44 and quarterback Jashawn McDaniel attributed 39.
"I think we played good," Clark said. "We built off some of our mental mistakes that we've been having. We kept our heads up and fought on. We can build off of this a lot. This is a big win for us."
D -- Chase Young 77 run (Brad Wick kick good), 2:41
N -- TJ Clark 90 kickoff return (Adam Cooksey kick good), 2:23
N -- Mikeal Walker 11 run (Cooksey kick), 5:32
D -- DJ Dowdy 84 pass to Chase Young (kick failed), 4:27
N -- TJ Clark 17 run (Cooksey kick), 1:59
N -- TJ Clark 63 interception return (Cooksey kick), 1:59
Rushing -- Dexter, DJ Dowdy 13-(-19), Ryan Joyner 10-47, Chase Young 5-89, Jonathan Foels 5-12, Brad Wick 3-7, Ethan Stevens 1 -3. NMCC, Jashawn McDaniel 11-39, Mikeal Walker 10-48, TJ Clark 6-46, Stanley Smith 3-9, Corey Guest 3-0, Malik Stevenson 2-44.
Passing -- Dexter, DJ Dowdy 7-20-2 192. NMCC, Jashawn McDaniel 2-9-0 30.
Receiving -- Dexter, Chase Young 5-132, Jonathan Foels 1-0, Austin Aldridge 1-60. NMCC, Corey Guest 1-19, TJ Clark 1-11.