Despite a 2-0 start, Southern Lab has had it's share of offensive woes. The Kittens won a thriller over Scotlandville 20-19 in week one despite throwing for zero passing yards.
In week two, the defense set the offense up nicely in a 30-6 route of Capital High School. Offensively the Kittens managed just 110 yards.
At some point the miscues on the offensive side of the ball were bound to catch up with the 1A state title contenders and tonight they did.
Southern Lab fumbled the ball five times on the night losing three and had four passes intercepted. Five first half turnovers set Clinton up with the short end of the field and they were able to take advantage.
The first score of the night came on a nifty eleven yard roll out touchdown pass that gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
After a trade of possessions, Clinton Quarterback Joshua Robinson threw an eighty-two yard scoring strike to give the visitors a bit more breathing room.
A PAT that was certain to be blocked was scooped up and eventually fumbled away to the Clinton kicker who picked it up and bulled his way into the end zone for a two-point conversion. It appeared it was going to be that kind of night for Southern Lab.
Leading by fifteen, Clinton was driving again before Earl Patin, the heart and soul of the Kitten defense, picked off a pass and returned it inside Eagle territory to put Southern Lab back in business.
A pleasant surprise on the night was the play of running back Aaron Johnson. Johnson ran well outside the tackles and set the Kittens up inside the ten yard line only to see the offense commit pre-snap penalties on three of the next four snaps.
Not to be denied, a swing pass out to four star prospect Chad Jones turned into a highlight reel worthy play. Jones made the catch just outside the five and then drug a Clinton defender with him as he ran over another Eagle on his way to paydirt.
The PAT failed and the first half ended with Clinton leading 15-6.
The half time adjustments seemed to be just what the Kittens needed as they took the opening kickoff of the second half and began driving down the field. A screen pass to Aaron Johnson brought the ball out to midfield.
The Kitten coaching staff went to the well one too many times and called the play again only to see it batted around and eventually intercepted and returned fifty-six yards for another Clinton touchdown. The PAT failed and after three quarters the score stood Clinton 21 Southern Lab 6.
Clinton did a good job short kicking the ball away from Chad Jones most of the night. With the game slipping away, Southern Lab staked Aaron Johnson deep alongside Jones to prevent the Eagles from punting the ball away from their star, Jones.
The special teams' ploy worked as Johnson fielded a low punt and returned it just outside the Eagle ten yard line. Two plays later a QB sneak brought the Kittens to within nine as the visitors led 21-12.
The balance of the fourth quarter was relatively uneventful, but Southern Lab defensive end Frank Alexander would not quit and chased ball carriers down the field as if the game was tied.
Defensively the Kittens are as talented as any team in the area if not the entire state. Linebacker Earl Patin was everywhere. If the Kittens needed a big play, he made it. Patin had three tackles for loss, an interception and a forced fumble. His motor did not quit until the final horn sounded.
The bitter disappointment of losing the chance to be number one may prove to only be a temporary one. Last season the Kittens nearly pulled off the upset of top ranked Evangel in the second round of the state playoffs, but came up just four points shy.
The only poll that really counts is the last one and the Kittens could be right there.
If the Quarterback situation settles and the Kittens can eliminate the turnovers and pre-snap penalties Evangel may have their hands full.
It's a long season. Scout.com will be in the Superdome for the state championship. Will Southern Lab?
Next week Clinton hosts Scotlandville while Southern Lab will visit St Helena Central.