WINCHESTER — As Tates Creek quarterback Dee Christopher scrambled, with the clock at 0:00, time seemed to stand still after he lofted a pass into the end zone.
A 15-yard completion would tie Friday night's game. An incompletion would seal a 12-6 Clark County victory.
With two receivers surrounded by twice as many defenders, the ball fell harmlessly to the rain-slickened surface of grass and mud.
"The defense did a great job there at the end," said Paul Columbia, the winning coach. "Tates Creek had a nice drive. They've got a good team."
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The Cardinals (5-3) knocked off their third Lexington opponent of the season, with Lafayette and Henry Clay the earlier victims. At 2-0 in district play, the Cards have clinched the title because it has the tiebreaker versus Henry Clay and Tates Creek.
Tates Creek (4-4) lost to Clark County for only the third time in 14 games.
With a steady rain giving way to a cold drizzle and finally a mist, Clark County led 6-0 at halftime.
The key stat for the Cardinals: no turnovers despite fumbling six times, five in the first half.
"A lot of missed opportunities early in the game," said Mike Harmon, coach of the Creekers. "But I was proud of the kids fighting late in the game. We had an opportunity to win. (We) just didn't come up with the play. We've just got to continue to learn how to finish."
Mason Jones, who carried 16 times for 96 yards, got the first-half score from 1 yard out. That came one play after Darius Skinner's interception and 23-yard return.
Skinner's 5-yard TD run made it 12-0 in the third quarter.
"He called my number, I (saw) the hole and I hit the hole," Skinner said. "I got in there. That's what I had to do to put us up."
After stopping the Cards on downs with 4:28 left in the game, Tates Creek used a minute and three seconds to drive 70 yards. The Christopher-to-Larobert Bett combination was the key. They clicked for a 32-yard gain on fourth-and-6, moving from the Creek 34 to Clark's 34. Two plays later, they hooked up again for a 26-yard touchdown with 3:25 left.
Christopher would finish 13-for-21 for 143 yards. Bett caught nine balls for 107 yards.
The Commodores got the ball back on their 18 with 1:21 left, after stopping a Clark County fourth-and-1 play for a 2-yard loss.
Christopher moved his team to the Clark County 10 with 19 seconds left.
Jones, who finished with 31/2 tackles, sacked Christopher for a 5-yard loss. The quarterback spiked the ball with the clock at :04.
Creek lost a fumble and an interception in the first half but stopped the Cardinals on downs on the 4-yard line and, later, on the 1.
Two plays after the latter, though, the Cards got the ball back on the 1, thanks to Skinner's interception.
"I was trying to get there," Skinner said, indicating the end zone. "I was so close. Coach always says if we get a 'pick six' he's going to take us out to eat."
Jones scored on the next play, right up the gut.
Clark County's Christian Adams and Creek's Jontez Jones led the defensive efforts with seven tackles each. Creek's Corey Hutchens and Cam Ruddell added five each.
Tates Creek 0 0 0 6 —6
Clark County 0 6 6 0—12
CC — Mason Jones 1 run (kick failed); CC — Darius Skinner 5 run (run failed); TC — Larobert Bett 26 pass from Dee Christopher (run failed).
Records—Tates Creek 4-4; Clark Co. 5-3.