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The Clover High School football team laid it on the line before losing to Lancaster on Friday.
The visiting Blue Eagles led 21-14 with eight minutes left, but Lancaster came roaring back in a game that was closer than the 36-21 score would indicate.
The Blue Eagles assumed control from the outset, scoring on the first play when Ladarius Adams broke away from coverage and outran Lancaster pursuers for a 6-0 Clover lead.
“We started strong, something we hadn’t done all year,” interim head coach John Barrett said of the team’s early success. “The offense moved the ball and we played good defense.
“Our coaches had a good game plan and had the kids ready to play.”
Barrett said Lancaster responded in the fourth quarter.
“Our kids were disappointed,” said Barrett. “They knew going into the game that they had an opportunity to win.
“They had great effort.”
A 31-yard Evan Edmunds field goal before the half pushed the Blue Eagles up 9-8.
The Blue Eagles had another chance to score but were turned back on fourth down inside the Lancaster 25.
Clover scored late in the third quarter when quarterback Scott Jackson found sure-handed Landon Harkey open from 23 yards out to make the score 15-14.
When Adams scored four minutes into the fourth quarter, the Blue Eagles led 21-14 and appeared to have control of the game.
Clover defensive tackle Ross Haynes continues to provide senior leadership with three games remaining.
“We had the lead in the fourth quarter at Lancaster,” said Haynes before Monday practice. “We have to learn to finish the game and to not give up.
“You have to play that much harder.”
“With the season winding down, it would mean so much to the seniors to pick up a win,” he said.
Haynes said he’s made an effort to provide senior leadership. “We’ve had players move up from the jayvee team and improve their game,” he said.
Senior defensive lineman Shantarius Brown said the program is on the upswing and that it takes time to reload.
“We’ve improved since the beginning of the season, and it showed Friday night when we had the lead with eight minutes left,” he said. “Some teams expect to win, which is what we’re looking for.
“You have to play hard on defense, go to the ball and finish the game.”
The Blue Eagles host defending state champion South Pointe in the home finale Friday at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. The Stallions are unbeaten and considered by some to be the best 4A team in the state, especially with nationally ranked Byrnes losing to Gaffney.
“South Pointe is a great football team,” said Barrett.
“If they’re not the best team in the state, I don’t want to see who is.”
Barrett said the Blue Eagles will work and practice hard like they do every week. “Our kids will play loose and give it all they’ve got,” he said. “We’ve got nothing to lose.”