CHILLICOTHE With a 21-10 Homecoming victory over the Cameron Dragons Friday, the Chillicothe High School football Hornets are off the schneid, at last, thanks to junior Tyler Clampitt's impact on the passing game.
Ironically, though, it was the Hornets' starting quarterback's work in defending Cameron passing late in each half which was his telling contribution, not flinging the ball with his strong right arm.
With the Dragons holding a 10-7 lead and having possession just into Hornets territory, courtesy of Sean Gray's pickoff of a Clampitt throw, with less than two minutes to go in the first half, winless Cameron looked certain to be in front at halftime. The question as its offense took the Bob Fairchild Field artificial turf at Chillicothe's new Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium was whether the Dragons would increase that lead before intermission.
When Chillicothe junior defensive end Elliott Keller, who deflected two other passes in his first varsity start, sacked Cameron substitute quarterback Marshall Colson for a 10-yard loss on the first play, the presumption was – with Chillicothe opting not to call either of its remaining timeouts – that Cameron would run off the remaining time with a running play or two and be satisfied with the 3-points advantage. That thought was reinforced when the Dragons were called for one of the handful of illegal procedure penalties, leaving them in second-and-25 with less than a half-minute on the clock.
However, in one of the most surprising turn of events in Chillicothe football history in the past decade, Colson – a sophomore running back inserted at quarterback due to the ankle sprain sustained by starter Dakota Calhoon early in the previous game and backup Sean Gray's injury the week before that – was called on to throw again, with joyous results for the home team.
Attempting to hit a tight end down the left seam, Colson and the Cameron faithful watched in horror as Clampitt – inserted at free safety for that play only on the off chance Cameron might try to throw deep – read the shorter throw and moved in front of the intended target. Grabbing the ball about head high between the Cameron 47 and 48 yard lines, the Hornet made a bee line for the open east half of Fairchild Field and the north end zone. Nary a Dragon could get there to cut him off and, with a mere nine ticks on the scoreboard, he turned the 3-points deficit into a 3-points lead. Zach Alperin's second of three successful conversion kicks put the Hornets in front 14-10 at the half, instead of down three.
In the second half, Chillicothe's defense remained rigid enough to keep Cameron's hampered offense at bay until the Hornets' DeEll Midgyett, with a strong seal block by left tackle Johnson Young, pulling right guard Justin Metry's outstanding kickout block on the outside, and Clampitt's downfield block on the safety, pranced into the end zone on a 16-yards slotback reverse 28 seconds away from the end of the third period. Alperin's PAT made it 21-10.
Page 2 of 2 - Clampitt made sure it would stay that way – again, not with his arm, but once with his leg and then with his hands. After nice, time-eating drive stalled in Cameron territory, Clampitt's punt from shotgun formation pinned the Dragons back at their 12 midway through the final quarter. Then, after a 27-yards Cameron completion immediately advanced the ball to near midfield, Clampitt – again inserted at free safety with Cameron likely to pass more – ranged over to snare another deep Colson throw at the Chillicothe 18 and return the pickoff 43 yards.
From there, the Hornets killed the final 4:04, Clampitt finally using his throwing skill in a timely way when he hit Alperin for a 15-yards pickup on fourth-and-5 at the 34 to extend the possession to the game's end.
When the clock finally hit 0:00, the 2012 Hornets exulted at last, having evened their Midland Empire Conference record at 1-1 while going to 1-3 overall prior to a game at St. Joseph's Missouri Western State University against Bishop LeBlond next Thursday.
Cameron, unsuccessfully trying to get its first 2012 win and first under first-year head coach Jeff White, led twice in the first half.
Placekicker Andrew Carr impressively converted a 39-yards field goal to culminate an unusual 10-plays, 18-yards drive late in the first period.
Chillicothe, sparked by Midgyett's 36-yards kickoff return, came right back with an 8-plays, 52-yards touchdown march capped by D.J. Gannan's 1-yard plunge to lead for the first time since early in its week two loss at Kirksville. Alperin's extra-point boot made it 7-3 two plays and 27 seconds into the second quarter.
A short Cameron punt gave Chillicothe good field position at its 39, but, after one first down, a fumbled handoff game the Dragons the ball at its 45. Three plays later, Joe Pratt took a first-down inside handoff and, with a quick cutback and hard-charging carry that broke four attempted arm tackles in the first 10 yards, burst into the open at the 30 on his way to the end zone. With 5:51 to go in the opening half, Cameron led again by three, 10-7.
However, just when it looked certain that would be the halftime tally, Clampitt made Cameron's boldness backfire and sent the home team on its way to a happy and relieved Homecoming weekend.
Aside from Clampitt's two interceptions and 93 return yards, the game was devoid of notable statistics. Neither team had a rusher or passer threaten 100 yards on the night. Cameron turned the ball over three times and Chillicothe twice. According to team statisticians, Cole Nichols' 10 tackles and eight by Hayden Major led the Hornets' tackling, while Keller and Clampitt provided five standout plays between them.