Preview: Aiken strength is defense against the run

The focus for Clinton High football will be “us”, not “them” going into a third consecutive non-region matchup on Friday. The Red Devils will make a long road trip to Aiken, and will be playing against an unknown quantity. “Not a thing,” Clinton football head coach Andrew Webb said Friday about what he knows about Aiken. “We have to focus on us,” the disappointed Webb said after the Devils 21-7 loss at Greer. Coaches will develop a game plan later. This week, the Red Devils will go back to the fundamentals - blocking and running. Greer shut down Clinton’s running attack that was effective the week before against Laurens. The ball-hawking Red Devbile defense came up with turnovers - one fumble recovery stopped a Greer drive at the Re Devil goal line, and a Greer personal foul gave the Devil offense some room to work - but the difference against Greer was the turnovers did not produce points. Except for one. Twon Robertson took a pic six five yards into the Greer end zone. Aiken came into Friday’s game 1-1. The Green Hornets lost the season-opener to White Knoll, 19-12, and won a week later, 27-26, at home against Strom Thurmond. The weather played havoc with the football schedules in South Carolina this past weekend, so Aiken’s score was not immediately available. Aiken will travel to Greenwood Sept. 16, before starting play in Class AAAA, Region 4. Friday Night Football Carolinas said Aiken, 6-5 last season, had its quarterback and receivers positions still up in the air in the pre-season. Senior running back Brayton Sanders “led them in rushing a season ago, and possesses home run ability,” FMFC said. Seniors linebackers Collin Flanders and David Harris, defensive back Kendrick Sanders, and offensive lineman Cannon Gray are among the players to watch. FNFC says, “The defensive front seven will be stout this season, led by Flanders and Harris. The Hornets typically swam to the ball, and running on them will be a difficult task this season.” That is a bad sign for Clinton, as the Red Devils had all kinds of trouble running against Greer Friday night, in a 21-7 loss. Greer and Aiken both are Class AAAA teams, after Clinton opened the season with a home win over Class AAAAA Laurens. Ball-hawking on defense is proving to be one of Clinton’s most potent weapons. Laurens and Greer fumbled a lot against the Red Devil defense. Against Laurens, the difference way the Clinton offense wound ways to turn the turnovers into points. Clinton did some of that against Greer. A long Jalen Carter catch and touchdown run was taken off the scoreboard by a trailing-the-play block in the back penalty. The Greer game was really chippy - the Yellow Jackets did not want to go to 0-3 on the season losing, again in 2016, in front of the home crowd (Greer had already suffered a rare home loss to Westside). Clinton’s Aaron Copeland barely survived a forearm to the head as he tried for a leaping catch in the end zone, tangled up with a Greer defender. Carter and Donte Reeder combined for more than 100 yards receiving, taking passes from Charlie Craven. But Craven throwing the ball 30 times, as he did against Greer, is not Clinton’s game. The run-pass success balance was way off against Greer, so the Yellow Jackets were successful in making Clinton adapt to the Greer defensive game plan. Directions to Aiken High, 449 Rutland Dr. NW in Aiken: From Clinton High, take Springdale Drive to Hwy 56 (Jacobs Highway), turn left. Take Hwy 56 to Hwy 39 South (Chappells), take 39 S to Hwy 178 in Saluda, continue on 178 East to Batesburg and connect with Hwy 1 South. After 16 miles, turn right on Rutland Drive, destination is on the left. Alternative: in Saluda, connect with Hwy 121 to Johnston. After Johnston, left onto Hwy 191 to Hwy 19 and into Aiken. Trip is about 72 miles, 1 hour and 25 minutes, one way.

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