Clay High School football snaps its 33-game losing streak
SOUTH BEND — Thirty-three games and more than three seasons. That’s how long it had been since Clay High School won a varsity football game. The last time the Colonials won back in 2015, Barack Obama was still the President and gas was … well you get the point.
But all that came to an end Friday night at Clay Field as the Colonials (1-2) outlasted Hammond (0-3), 14-8, to put an exclamation mark on Clay’s homecoming and give the seniors their first taste of victory.
“It means so much to me,” said senior defensive end Jackson Jones after the win. “I lose sleep over this. I dream about this. I’ve been here for four years busting my butt, and it has finally paid off.”
As quarterback Macey Ginzer took a knee to end the game and as the Clay student section rushed the field, the emotion was evident in the celebrations of players who had experienced heartbreak so many times before. Thirty-three times to be exact. But no longer.
“These kids come to practice every day and work hard and every day they try to get better. To get this win is huge,” Colonials head coach Garrett Fields said. “Just to get that monkey off their back, they deserve to have the feeling of having a victory.”
A sloppy, penalty-filled first half gave way to a game-changing set of events to open the second half for Clay. Junior Jalen Pigee found a seam and took the second-half kickoff all the way to Hammond’s 25-yard line. Two plays later, Ginzer (who didn’t play in the first half) found Verrontae Johnson in the back of the end zone for a touchdown pass to give Clay its first lead of the season.
“That kickoff return was huge,” Fields said. “That gets the momentum going, and they start to believe again.”
The touchdown gave Clay the confidence it has lacked so often in the past few years, and the Colonials ran with it. Clay stuffed Hammond deep inside its own territory and took over at the Wildcats 36-yard line. After a third-and-long conversion, Ginzer scrambled to his left and chucked a pass to Jamon Miller in the front corner of the end zone to put Clay up 14-0.
But Hammond wasn’t about to go quietly. The Wildcats stripped Ginzer on the first play of the fourth quarter and took the fumble to the house for a score. A two-point conversion meant the Colonials had to hang onto a 14-8 lead for a little less than a quarter.
A 47-yard punt by DaVaun Arnold to pin Hammond inside the 1-yard line helped. So did Pigee getting carry after carry to run the clock.
It all led to Hammond taking over at its own 31 with 1:52 left to drive all the way down the field. But as it had all night long, Clay’s defense stood firm. This time Miller forced a fumble, which Clay recovered to seal the game.
“I thought the defense played outstanding and we made just enough plays offensively to get the lead,” Fields said.
The end result was great, but how Clay got its first since 2015 was rarely pretty. The two teams combined for 29 penalties, including eight personal fouls — something Fields admits he needs to address.
Ginzer finished his night 3-for-3 passing for 49 yards and two touchdowns. Pigee led the Colonials with 52 yards rushing. Kristrin Alexander paced the Wildcats with more than 90 yards of total offense
Hammond’s next game is a home matchup with Andrean, while Clay will visit Washington next week in a rivalry clash.
Hammond: 0 0 0 8 —8
Clay: 0 0 14 0 —14
C — Verrontae Johnson 13-yard pass from Macey Ginzer (Max Szucs kick)
C — Jamon Miller 16-yard pass from Ginzer (Szucs kick)
H — Rigo Andrade 25-yard fumble recovery (Kristrin Alexander 2-point conversion)