CLOVERDALE -- Cloverdale football players don four-leaf clovers on their helmets and could have used a little luck Friday night when hosting county rival South Putnam Eagles. Cloverdale lost the contest 21-8 but showed a different face in the second half.
"I think we won despite me tonight, despite some of my play calling," South Putnam coach Troy Burgess said.
The Clovers came out and worked to establish their run game, rushing six times in their opening drive but it would be the Eagles that would strike first.
After a Cloverdale punt, the Eagles drove the ball on the ground, with Jacob Parrish providing much of the muscle, gaining a total of 28 yards, the last 11 of which would result in a South Putnam touchdown.
The Clovers and Eagles would trade possessions for much of the first half with both squads putting together drives of at least nine plays but ultimately leading to no points for either team.
With time winding down before the half, the Clovers had to punt after two unsuccessful throwing attempts. With 38 seconds on the clock, it looked like the Clovers would enter the half down only seven.
But Eagles sophomore Drew Cash had other ideas.
After fielding the Cloverdale punt, Cash streaked up the right sideline, dodging would be tacklers along the way. Seven seconds and 48 yards later, the Eagles were up 14-0 heading into the half.
"We were in a rut in the first half. We'd go and get some good plays and then we'd jump off sides. We're not built for third and thirteen. We are a running team," Winkler said.
Normally Cloverdale lives and dies on the run, but in the second half a passing game emerged and helped open up the field for the Clovers.
In the third quarter, the Clovers switched quarterbacks, bringing in freshman Jordan Hayden. Hayden would not disappoint.
The Cloverdale passing attack revitalized its sideline as well as the throngs of Cloverdale faithful packing the stands behind them.
After Jake Gould missed field goal attempt, Cloverdale began an 11-play drive that would find the end zone.
Cloverdale stuck to the ground to begin the drive, but a pass from Hayden to Sam Spinks for 12 yards fired up the bench. Hayden's next toss would be a bomb to Zach McCallie for a 26-yard touchdown. Dillin Gray added the two-point conversion to bring the Clovers within six of the Eagles at 14-8. Hayden would pass for 55 yards on the night.
On a drive midway in the third, the Cloverdale defense stepped up and held the Eagles to negative five yards on three plays.
With a cheering bench and crowd behind, the air on the field became almost electric and the Clovers could sense the tide beginning to turn. But the luck for the Clovers was about to run out.
Cash pinned the Clovers deep in their own territory on a punt the brought the ball to rest inside the five-yard line.
Hayden connected with Chad Cumming twice for eight yards and completed a pass to McCallie on fourth and two, but his next pass would seal the game for the Eagles.
Hayden's pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage and caught by the Eagles' Brad Bunten in the end zone for a score. The game would end on the Clovers next possession when Hayden was intercepted by Tomaw, giving South Putnam a chance to run out the clock.
Special teams were on the minds of both coaches after the game.
"Field position was big tonight. They had a great kicking game. The punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter was a dagger in the heart for us," Winkler said.
"That was the difference in the game," Burgess commented. "That's what hurts us a little bit each game. We really tried to focus on that. We were at a stalemate at times on offence and defense, but our special teams is what made the difference tonight."
After picking up his second win of the season, Burgess gave kudos to his team.
"I'm too stubborn and I was just going to keep running because I felt we could run that thing," Burgess commented. "That's a sign of a good football team. They can take some of the bad calls their coach makes and still win football games.
"I owe them one," Burgess said with a smile.
The Clovers will travel to Greencastle at 7 p.m. Friday, while the Eagles will host Speedway at 7 p.m. Friday.
South Putnam 7 7 0 7 -- 21
Cloverdale 0 0 8 0 -- 8
South Putnam -- Parrish 11 run (Gould kick) 3:53
South Putnam -- Cash 48 punt return (Gould kick): 31
Cloverdale -- McCallie 26 pass from Hayden (Gould kick) 5:17
South Putnam -- Bunten Int. (Gould kick) :31
South Putnam (35-135) -- Tomaw 8-53, Parrish 11-40, Cash 8-32, Edwards 4-4, Knight 4-3.
Cloverdale (31-119) -- Dayhuff 9-54, Gray 16-45, McCallie 2-10, Secrest 2-8, Spinks 2-2.
South Putnam -- Edwards 0-1, 0 yds. 0 TD, 0 INT.
Cloverdale -- Hayden 5-9, 55 yds., 1 TD, 2 INT, McCallie 1-5, 12 yds., 0 TD, 0 INT.
Cloverdale -- Cummings 3-25, McCallie 2-30, Spinks 1-12.
Next game -- The Clovers will travel to Greencastle at 7 p.m. Friday, while the Eagles will host Speedway at 7 p.m. Friday.