A power outage prior to the game, the threat of darkness during the first half and uncertainty as halftime loomed, both Clarksville High and Fort Campbell didn’t let a little season opening drama rattle the nerves as both put on a show at Hilda J. Richardson Field Friday night.
It was an instant classic considering the circumstances that were out of both teams’ control. Yet the Falcons remained poised enough first half mistakes as running back Triston Luke led Fort Campbell to a 26-20 double overtime victory against the Wildcats in the season opener.
“That was a memorable one,” Fort Campbell coach Shawn Berner said. “I’ve never quite been in a game like that. But I thought both teams held its composure, especially in the second quarter when we couldn’t see the football.”
But power returned for the second half and the two teams played a game to remember. Fort Campbell rallied from a 14-6 halftime deficit to tie it at 20-20 by the end of regulation, thanks in large part to Luke’s night. He finished with 34 carries for 229 yards and caught a pass for 21 yards. He also tallied three touchdowns the final of which finally ended the game in the second overtime.
“That’s an incredible kid,” Wildcats coach Ken Busbee said about Luke. “I hope he can stay healthy and help that team win throughout the season because he’s special. That was evident all game long.”
Luke plunged in from 3 yards out for the win after Clarksville High (0-1) missed two field goal attempts in the extra periods. The first missed field goal in the first overtime could have sealed the win for the Wildcats after Fort Campbell’s field goal try never got off the ground.
“I won’t blame this loss on our kicker,” Busbee said. “He’s not the reason why we lost this game. Fort Campbell’s speed, talent and my mistakes on some play calls really is what did us in. Our kicker kept us in the game with his kickoffs and punts.”
The Wildcats’ first shot to win the game came with just under a minute remaining in regulation. After Webb’s 11-yard run stopped the clock after he got out of bounds. He, then, tried to float a pass over the middle at Fort Campbell’s 30 yard line. But Drayton Simmons picked if off and returned it into Clarksville’s territory with 51 seconds left in regulation.
Fort Campbell’s chance to win faded after a 21 yard pass from Williams to Luke left the ball sitting 16 yards away.
But the Falcons tried a screen pass on second down and Jaylen Williams’ throw was tipped by a falling Aaron Wallace from his defensive tackle position. Wallace caught the ball while on his back with 24 seconds left and the Wildcats decided to run out the clock.
“We gave away a lot of opportunities in the first half and I told our kids that the way we played in that first half was not Fort Campbell football and our kids responded,” Berner said.
The Falcons (1-0) had two turnovers that resulted in both Clarksville High touchdowns early in the game. Williams threw an interception on a slant pass that Austin Brown snagged at the goal line. That led to a 1 yard touchdown run by Dallin Bridges for a 7-0 lead. Bridges would finish with a pair of TDs on the night, one rushing and one receiving.
On its ensuing possession, Fort Campbell fumbled a snap that Clarksville’s Garrett Carroll scooped up and returned for a 35-yard touchdown and a 14-0 advantage in the opening quarter.
Fort Campbell got a field goal back late in the quarter as darkness loomed and David Sahms connected on a second late in the quarter.
“That was the craziest game I’ve been a part of,” Busbee said. “It was certainly an interesting way to start the season and a heck of a game to boot.”