The “Battle of 61” proved to be one of the more breath taking crosstown clashes here Friday night at Parker Field-McCool Stadium.
The Cleveland High School Wildcats and the East Side Trojans lit up the scoreboard. At the end of the evening, the Wildcats escaped with a 41-36 victory. Cleveland High improved to 4-2, while East Side fell to 3-3.
Cleveland High's Sam Coleman-Dancer was on his A-game in this showdown finishing the night with 184 yards with four touchdowns on 16 carries. Coleman-Dancer had full control of the offense and kept the Trojans' defense on their heels all night much to the delight of Cleveland Head Coach Kelly Causey.
“He came out and took advantage of what they were giving him,” Causey said. “They took away (Zach) Linkous early. He was getting some hard yards. We were making the right reads and Sam was pulling and getting up the field and making plenty of yards.”
Causey was pleased with the overall effort and the way his team battled.
“We push’em hard, we really do,” Causey said. “We ask a lot of them. In our practices, we don’t except you doing things halfway. When you make mistakes, we expect you to correct it. They know that they have to do right and they know they can do right. They’re coachable kids. That’s what we want.”
East Side head football coach Kendrick Woodard was proud of the effort his team gave.
“I thought the guys played really well and played hard,” Woodard said. “Unfortunately, the other guys came out on top. I feel real good about what we did tonight. We were able to move the ball and throw the ball as well as run the ball. We just have to figure out how to get a few stops.”
The second half gave the fans the most excited part of the game as the Trojans and Wildcats traded touchdowns on every possession. Cleveland scored touchdowns on its first three possessions, while East Side scored touchdowns on all four of its possessions in the second half. The Wildcats scored their biggest touchdown of the night with 1:14 left in the game as Garriett McGee turned on the jets and sped on a 22-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion was no good, but Cleveland led 41-30. The Trojans weren’t out of it yet. East Side was able to answer back as Ladarius Mayhall hit Kendrick Thompson on an 11-yard touchdown pass, but the two-point conversion was no good, but the Trojans still had hope as they were down by just six points at 41-36 with nine seconds left to play.
The Trojans went for the onside kick, but King was able to recover it to give the Wildcats. Cleveland on its first play ended up taking a knee to seal up the victory and bring the sears trophy back to CHS for a third straight year. When Cleveland took the knee, it oddly gave the Wildcats the only possession neither team scored on in the second half.
The Trojans were plagued by penalties particularly in the second half. Most every penalty East Side was called for helped make Cleveland’s path to the end zone in each a little easier.
“We had a bunch of penalties,” Woodard said. “You don’t want to bring the refs in the game, but we were flagged a whole bunch of times. It seemed like when we would be close to getting a stop, a flag would bring it back every time.”
Despite their struggles through out the game, the Wildcats’ defense made some big stops in the early part of the game but keep the Trojans scoreless on their first three possessions. East Side was able to drive the ball down to the Wildcat 5-yard line on its first possession, but ended up turning the ball over downs.
Cleveland was able to force East Side to punt the ball away on its second possession, and the Wildcats were able to get a huge turnover on East Side’s third possession as Demontavius King intercepted a pass on the Wildcat 3-yard line. A penalty on East Side ended up giving Cleveland possession on its 20-yard line.
On the flip side, the Wildcats’ offense scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions with quarterback Sam Coleman-Dancer marching into the end zone each time. Dancer marched on a 1-yard TD run in the first quarter with Hunter Norwood kicking the extra point and charged on touchdown runs of two yards and 46 yards respectively in the second quarter to enable Cleveland to take a 19-0 lead.
The Trojans finally broke through on offense with 2:34 left in the first half as Kaelan Hall ran into the end zone from three yards outs. The two-point conversion attempt was no good, and Cleveland held a 19-6 going into halftime. The slow start in the first half put East Side in a hole it couldn’t climb out of.
The Wildcats had some other players do huge things on offense. McGee rushed for 150 yards with a touchdown and 2 point conversion on 18 carries; Linkous with 94 yards on 17 carries and Keveon Wade with 53 yards on eight carries with a touchdown.
Travion Craig led the Trojans with 47 yards on nine carries with a touchdown while also catching four passes for 64 yards and two touchdowns, Kaelan Hall added 121 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown, LaCharles Ramsey had 47 yards on nine carries with a touchdown and Mayhall finished completing 12-of-23 passes for 137 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Chris Graham led the Trojans' defense with 17 tackles, Damion Burns had nine tackles and Cam Howard added eight tackles in the loss.
Cleveland is off this week and will return to action on Oct. 9 against Yazoo City for homecoming. East Side will travel to play Velma Jackson.