CLEWISTON – Clewiston was held to 134 total yards, gave up a safety, and struggled in the run game as the junior varsity football team lost their opening game, 22-7, at Okeechobee Thursday, Aug. 25.
The lone offensive highlight was a 69 yard pass from quarterback Darquan Balkcom to tight end Derrick Bryant in the third quarter. Balkcom hit Bryant in stride at the Okeechobee 45 and Bryant out ran the defense into the end zone.
Verenzo Harper rushed for 19 yards, Cedric Saxton Jr. had 35 yards in receptions and Brandon Shamsundar caught an eight yard pass to lead the Tiger offense.
Coach Brent Johnston told his kids afterward that high school football is entirely different than the middle school level and they can’t treat an away football game as a field trip but as a business trip.
“They are a really young team and as long as they keep working hard and learn how important focus is in football, and execute, and prepare mentally, everything will work out,” he noted.
Johnston said most of his players had never played a high school football game before. He said success at the middle school level is one thing, but the level of the game increases at high school.
“If they go home, keep their heads up and keep working, I think we’ll be fine,” he added.
The Tigers also threw two interceptions and gave up some big plays on special teams. Chamorian Thicklin had a fumble recovery for the defense.
Johnston said he was pleased overall with the effort of the defense. He said they simply had to play too many snaps because the offense couldn’t move the ball.
“Eventually they got tired. If you keep the defense on the field all the time they will get tired. The offense must do a better job and be more successful,” he added.
Okeechobee scored an early touchdown in the first quarter, scored a safety in the second quarter and then added two second half touchdowns. Veyon Washington led Okeechobee with 123 yards rushing yards.
“Okeechobee played a good hard football game. They executed better than we did in all three phases of the game. We have no excuse. They took care of business,” Johnston added.
Johnston said he expects improvement in the coming weeks as some players return to the lineup and his offensive line gains experience.
“Four of the five starters on the offensive line are freshmen. They weren’t focused mentally tonight and didn’t know their assignments. They’re young and we’ll keep working with them,” he added.