Keith MacPherson, Sports Editor
Gainesville Daily Register
CALLISBURG — Clay McKenzie can do a little bit of everything.
Friday night in a 27-7 win over Bowie, the Callisburg senior rushed for three touchdowns, intercepted two passes and forced a fumble – but more importantly, he helped the Wildcats clinch the District 5-2A Division I title.
“He wanted this as bad as I’ve ever seen a young man want anything,” Callisburg coach Ritchie Pinckard said. “’Just like last week at the Whitesboro game, he came to me and said, ‘Coach, I don’t care what happens, I want the ball.’ When someone does that, it’s just unbelievable.”
McKenzie finished with 161 yards on 25 caries to go along with his three touchdowns. He intercepted a pass in each half and stripped the ball out of the hands of a Bowie player on a long reception for another turnover.
Callisburg (9-1, 5-1) will have a bye the first round of the playoffs before moving on to the bi-district playoffs. The opponent, time and location have yet to be determined.
The Wildcats running game was in control of the game for most of the night. The Wildcats racked up 303 yards on the ground as a team – 66 of which came on an opening drive that saw Dakota Tinney punch it in from a yard out.
“Going into it we felt like we could run the football,” Pinckard said. “We’ve had a lot of success with the ground game so we have a tremendous mindset for it right now.”
Tinney finished with 85 yards on 21 carries. Kyle Rochell had 20 yards on five carries and Rheyce Childress had 31 yards on three carries.
McKenzie scored on runs of 5, 7 and 45 yards. His three touchdowns were the latter part of a 28-0 run to start the game that lasted until Bowie’s Marcus Vaughan found pay dirt with 8:51 to go in the game.
Vaughan led the Jackrabbits (6-4, 2-4) with 36 yards on 8 carries. Quarterback Garland McCoy passed for 65 yards on 8 of 12 passing and an interception.
McKenzie’s second touchdown came with 1:17 left in the first half. The senior went untouched up the middle for the score to put the Wildcats up 14-0 with a two-point conversion run from Tinney.
McKenzie would then put the game out of reach with scoring runs of 7 and 45 yards in the third quarter. The 45-yard run was set up by a nice block by Tinney, allowing McKenzie to scamper into the end zone with 18 seconds left in the quarter.
The win and district championship is a far cry from the 2-8 season the Wildcats experienced a year ago. The hard work of the coaches and players has made all the difference, Pinckard said.
“For this group of kids and coaches, to be as resilient and hard working as they have been – it means the world to me,” he said. “This is one of the neatest things I’ve ever been a part of. I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished.”