Henry Clay's football team did a lot of things wrong in its regular-season finale against Bryan Station on Friday night. The Blue Devils had five turnovers, were terribly inefficient in the red zone, and their defense surrendered 455 yards.
But Henry Clay still found a way to win. It pulled out a 33-31 victory, its 12th in the last 13 games against the district rival Defenders.
Henry Clay finished the regular season with a ho-hum 4-6. record. But Coach Sam Simpson hopes his team gathered some momentum that it can take into the Class 6A playoffs in two weeks.
"I told our kids it'd be nice if every season could be 12-0, 13-0, 14-0 or whatever. But to learn to come back from mistakes like we did tonight, that shows something about your character, and they did that tonight.
"We haven't been successful like we want this year, but I felt if we could stand up against a really fine team like Bryan Station, we could be a little bit significant. Maybe we've got a little 'mo' now."
One of Henry Clay's most significant players was junior cornerback Devin Byrd. He intercepted three passes, including a pick-six that ended up being the difference.
Bryan Station took a 24-20 lead on Ora Johnson's quarterback sneak touchdown early in the second half.
That score stood until Blue Devils' QB Sammy Carter hit Austin Black with a 5-yard TD toss with eight minutes left in the game.
Henry Clay's 26-24 lead looked tenuous ... for about 20 seconds.
On Bryan Station's next snap, Byrd intercepted a Johnson pass and returned it 48 yards for a TD to push the Devils' lead to 33-24.
The Defenders pulled to within 33-31 on Kenyon Hipps' 9-yard TD catch with 5:40 left, but they would get no closer. They had a couple more possessions in the final minutes, but Henry Clay's defense wouldn't budge.
Byrd stifled one threat with his third pick of the night. "I stepped up and did what I could do to help my team," Byrd said. "I wanted this one for our seniors."
Henry Clay's offense was led by junior speedster Elijah Bell, who ran 20 times for 97 yards and two TDs. D.J. Jackson added 71 yards on 13 carries, and got the Devils' first score on a 96-yard kickoff return.
Carter completed 13 of 26 passes for 220 yards and a TD, and was picked off three times. Colby Barnes had three catches for 107 yards.
Bryan Station filled the air with passes. Johnson completed 21 of 48 for 267 yards, but was intercepted four times. Marcus Floyd had 4 catches for 139 yards, including TDs of 50 and 39 yards.
Johnson led the Defenders' ground game, rushing 17 times for 95 yards and a TD.
Henry Clay's defense gave up a lot, but it made big plays when it absolutely had to have them. Jamaal Maddox and Cole McCarty led the Devils with 10 tackles each. Jalen Ludwig and Quentin Gay also came up big on defense.
It wasn't the prettiest finale in Henry Clay history, but it was still special in Simpson's eyes.
"It means a lot to our seniors to go out with a victory on their last night here," he said.
Bryan Station finishes the regular season at home next week against Collins.
Bryan Station 7 10 7 7—31
Henry Clay 13 0 7 13—33
BS—Marcus Floyd 39 pass from Ora Johnson (Anthony Lopez kick). HC—D.J. Jackson 96 kickoff return (Taylor Dunbar kick). HC—Elijah Bell 10 run (kick failed). BS—Floyd 50 pass from Johnson (Lopez kick). BS—Lopez 28 field goal. HC—Bell 52 run (Dunbar kick). BS—Johnson 1 run (Lopez kick). HC—Austin Black 5 pass from Sammy Carter (kick failed). HC—Devin Byrd 48 interception return (Dunbar kick). BS—Kenyon Hipps 9 pass from Johnson (Lopez kick).
Records: Bryan Station 5-4; Henry Clay 4-6