Despite unpredictable season, ‘Cats make playoff run
By: Ethan Schmidt
CLARKSVILLE, TN – The year 2020 was different for everyone, including the Clarksville High School football team. It would be a season of wearing masks and major restrictions from number of fans in attendance at games to how many players could be in the field house at one time; however, the Wildcats were up for the task.
The season would begin on the road at Stewart’s Creek High School in Smyrna. After allowing a Red Hawks score in the first quarter, Junior – Rayshawn Bowling would even the game with the first touchdown of the season. The Red Hawks would then score 35 unanswered points to hand the Wildcats their first loss 42-7.
In week two the Wildcats would host Rockvale in their home opener. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this game would also serve as the team’s Senior Night. Clarksville High celebrated their seniors with a dominating performance that saw the Wildcats defeat the Rockets, 49-28. Seven different Wildcats would find the end zone in the victory. Sophomore Quarterback, Davin Garinger, would throw three touchdowns in the contest while rushing for another. Chris Bagatini (JR), Ja’ Mauri Cobbs (SO), and Robert Riley (SO) would be on the receiving end of the Garinger strikes. Juland LaFortune (JR) would find pay dirt twice in the contest while Bowling would score his second touchdown in as many weeks.
Week three would put the Wildcats back on the road to open their district play against Henry County. Clarksville High School would struggle early against the Patriots with their lone score coming in the third quarter, but would not be enough to make a dent in the Patriots 55-7 victory.
Clarksville High would take their longest road trip of the regular season in Week 4 as they trailed to Dyer County. The Wildcats would play physical from the start. After dropping an early score, Garinger would strike on a 4-yard score to knot the game at 7 in the second quarter. Before the half, the Wildcats would find themselves in another hole, but Bowling would even the scoreline with a 17-yard score, sending the game to halftime at 14 all. Out of the break, LaFortune would break a huge 45-yard touchdown run that would give the Wildcats the 21-14 advantage, but Dyer would find some success late and hit the eventual game winning field goal with under a minute to play to claim a 24-21 victory.
Returning home in Week 5, the Wildcats would host long-time rival Northeast at Hilda J. Richardson looking to snap a two-game losing streak, but instead they would struggle against a dominating rushing attack, by the Eagles. Northeast would put up 24 points in the first half en route to a 44-14 victory over the Wildcats. This would drop CHS to 1-4 on the season with an 0-3 division record.
The Wildcats would return to action on Thursday night of the following week in a must win situation against the Kenwood Knights. Clarksville High School would start the scoring off with a 47-yard run by Bowling and would conclude the first quarter with another rushing touchdown by Garinger and Chris Allen (JR). Kenwood stayed close in the first half, but a 2-yard rushing touchdown by Jamar Carnell (SO) would give the Wildcats a two score lead. The Knights remained relentless in the contest taking an eventual one point lead, before Jeremiah Martin (SR) got revenge on his former team with a 35-yard fumble recovery touchdown. After another Kenwood score, Carnell found the end zone for the second time in the game and on the season to regain the advantage; however, the ‘cats would score twice more in the 4th quarter (Bowling and Garinger, respectively) to snap their three game skid, 55-38.
Off of their first district victory of the season, the Wildcats turned their attention to the Northwest Vikings at home. The game would remain scoreless in the first quarter, but Carnell would eventually power his way into the end zone for the games first score, while also picking up a two point try. This would be the case just before the end of the half as well as Carnell bullied his way in for his second score and two point try. Coming out of the half with a 16-0 lead, the Wildcats would get another rushing score from Bowling this time and another successful two-point conversion by Carnell. Garinger would get in the mix with a passing touchdown in the contest to Bagatini from two yards away, then completing a 17-yard strike to Cobbs for a successful two-point try off a penalty. The Wildcats would close out the Vikings, 32-7, which would secure the final spot from the district in the playoffs.
There would be one final regular season game for the Wildcats as they went on the road to West Creek. It would be all Wildcats in this contest as they shut out the Coyotes 40-0. Bowling would score the games first two touchdowns from 50 and 40-yards respectively, Carnell and Bagatini would each convert on two-point attempts. LaFortune would have the lone score in the second quarter, with Garinger completing a pass to Neko Clark (SR) for the games third successful two-point try. The Wildcats would add two more scores in the third with Garinger finding Kyelar Edwards (SR) from 12 yards away and later a 1-yard Allen run. Allen would also convert a two-point try along with Riley on a pass from Garinger. The Wildcats would end the regular season at 4-4 with a trip to Munford in store for the opening round of the playoffs.
The Wildcats made the trip to Munford as underdogs, but never showed signs of fear. An Andrew Irvin (JR) field goal would give CHS the early lead followed by two second quarter scores from Carnell which gave the Wildcats a 16-0 lead heading into halftime. Clarksville High would give up 14 points in the remaining quarters, but had a huge fourth down stop late in the game to pull out the victory and live for another week.
In the second round of the playoffs, the Wildcats would get a rematch against Northeast on the road. This time the Wildcats would stay tough against the Eagles powerful rushing attack. The Wildcats answered first with a two-yard score from Carnell, but a failed extra point attempt would keep the ‘cats at only six points. Northeast would take the lead, bur Irvin would hit a 35-yard field goal to take it back. The Eagles managed to regain the lead just before half, 10-9, before eventually taking a 17-9 lead in the third quarter. Clarksville High finally got back on track early in the fourth quarter when Garinger powered his way in for a 5-yard score, but CHS failed on the game tying two point try. The Wildcats would have one last try after recovering a fumble deep in Eagles territory, but an Eagle interception the final minute of the game sealed the Wildcats fate, 17-15.
Clarksville High School finished the season with a 5-5 record, a second round playoff run, and having nine players receive All-Region honors. Senior offensive lineman, Nick Edwards would earn All-Region Offensive Lineman of the Year. Junior linebacker, Chris Bagatini was the Region 7, Class 5A Linebacker of the Year. Sophomore quarterback, Davin Garinger would be named All-Region Quarterback of the Year. Senior Coltyn Stansberry, Juniors Rayshawn Bowling and Juland LaFortune, and Sophomore Jamar Carnell would also receive All-Region honors. Junior Jordan Kennedy and Sophomore Ja’ Mauri Cobbs would receive Honorable Mentions.