Facing a bye next week and ending the regular season against sixth-ranked Nashville Christian in two weeks, Clarksville Academy sat on five wins coming into Friday’s District 10-A game against struggling Houston County.
Six wins is nearly a guarantee for a playoff berth, and the Cougars secured that magic number in dominating the Fighting Irish 38-7 Friday.
Houston County had to scramble this week to shift players around after its starting quarterback Franky Ramirez left the team. Last year’s all-state player Hunter Moran assumed the QB duties Friday, but the Fighting Irish continued to struggle despite moving the ball.
“It’s been a rough year in terms of injuries,” Houston County coach Brandon Clark said. “That’s not an excuse. Everyone has had to deal with injuries, but we were a team that had no injuries the past two years and it seems like they all happened this year.”
Clarksville Academy (6-3, 3-1) used the ground game to wear out Houston County’s defense as quarterback Michael Conn had more than 140 yards rushing in the first half and would finish the game with 19 carries for 234 yards and three rushing touchdowns. The sophomore also threw a 50-yard scoring strike to Jacob Rugen in the third quarter.
“Mikey just made some great reads and great throws,” Academy coach Todd Hood said. “He only had maybe one or two bad throws. He played quarterback for us in the Jamboree and he’s a smart player for us and makes the right plays.”
From the start it was obvious both teams would spend much of the night grinding up the dirt.
The Academy rushed for a total of 329 yards, and its defense held Houston County to just seven points and 214 total yards. It was only the second road win of the season for Hood’s team.
Moran, playing quarterback for the first time since he was 7 years old, did not complete a pass but was able to induce three pass interference penalties from the Cougars.
“He’s our best athlete, and there was no question who was going to play the position when we lost Franky,” Clark said. “He’s going to compete and play his butt off, and most times you’ll be competitive with a guy like Hunter.”
The Fighting Irish (2-6, 1-3) had an 18-play drive midway through the third quarter fall flat after failing to convert on a fourth-down play.
It was Houston County’s most impressive drive other than the 13-yard TD run that Moran had, sprinting toward the front left pylon, with 4:39 left in the first half that cut the Academy’s lead to 14-7.
But it was too much Cougars. Connor Thomas opened up the scoring with an 8-yard run with 7:24 left in the first quarter, and Conn’s 1-yard plunge with 9:03 left in the second quarter pushed the lead to 14-0.
Moran’s score cut that lead in half, but the Cougars responded when Rugen ran for 22 yards, and a 20-yard Conn run led to his 2-yard touchdown with 1:39 left in the half and a 21-7 lead.
Conn would ignite the Cougars’ crowd in the second half with a 52-yard scoring burst that pushed the advantage to 28-7, and his 50-yard TD hookup with Rugen with 2:51 left in the third quarter gave the Academy a 35-7 lead. Justin Hood would tack on a 29-yard field goal at the end.