Clinch capitalizes on turnovers for Class A crown

Holding the state championship trophy, Clinch County coach Jim Dickerson was asked what he would have thought knowing his team would manage just 38 rushing yards in the title game.

He responded with a tried-and-true joke about dire circumstances.

“I’d have said we have two chances, slim and none, and slim was on its way out of town,” said Dickerson, whose team beat Savannah Christian 24-14 in the Class A final.

Turnovers and defense negated the Panthers' paltry rushing numbers.

Quarterback Tray Dorsey ran for one touchdown and passed for another, and the Panthers turned three Savannah Christian turnovers into 17 second-half points after going to halftime tied 7-7.

“We know we have to fight until the end,” Dorsey said. “This team just doesn’t quit. The team that quits first is the one that loses.”

Savannah Christian (13-2) lost in the state championship game for the second straight year.

In a game where neither team topped 200 yards in total offense, things didn’t start well for the Panthers, who had two penalties and burned a timeout before they snapped the ball two times on their first possession.

But they finished well and won their fifth state championship. Clinch previously won in 1988, 1991, 2002 and 2004.

Clinch (15-0) managed just two first downs in the first half and got its only score on a 42-yard punt return by Damian Magby, which put the Panthers up 7-0 with 9:18 left in the first half.

The Raiders pulled even on a 19-yard pass from Harrison Curry to Will Austin, finishing off an 11-play, 75-yard drive.

A pair of fumbles by Savannah Christian late in the third quarter sealed the outcome.

“I thought we played a great game defensively,” Savannah Christian coach Donald Chumley said, “but you can’t make mistakes and beat a team like that. “

Trevor Posley’s fumble recovery at the Savannah Christian 21-yard line set up Dalton Bennett’s 32-yard field goal, which hit the right upright and bounced through, giving Clinch a 10-7 lead with 2:25 left in the third.

The Raiders fumbled again on their own 21, this one recovered by Clinch’s Trey Richardson. On the next play, Dorsey hit Fred Tiller with a 21-yard touchdown pass, giving Clinch a seemingly solid 17-7 lead with 42 seconds left in the third period.

On the first play of the fourth, Curry and Austin again connected, this time on an 89-yard play that pulled the Raiders within three.

Tiller picked off a Curry pass with just over eight minutes left in the game, setting up the deciding score. Clinch moved 47 yards in three plays and Dorsey extended the lead back to 10 with a 5-yard run.

Clinch County 0 7 10 7 – 24

Savannah Christian 0 7 0 7 – 14

C – Damian Magby 42 punt return (Dalton Bennett kick)

S – Will Austin 19 pass from Harrison Curry (Mac Miller kick)

C – FG Bennett 32

C – Fred Tiller 21 pass from Tray Dorsey (Bennett kick)

S – Austin 89 pass from Curry (Miller kick)

C – Dorsey 5 run (Bennett kick)