Clarksdale peaking for state title game

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 6, 2004

Tradition-rich Clarksdale brings a 7-game winning streak anddreams of returning to the Class 4A throne room to Saturday night’sstate championship game against the Brookhaven Panthers. TheWildcats have made six title game appearances in the last sevenyears, winning four of the gold football trophies.

“We are peaking right now,” said third-year head coach JayHughes. “We have a lot of pride on our team.”

Hughes has been on the Clarksdale staff for 22 years, serving asdefensive coordinator and helping the Wildcats win four statetitles. Their last state crown came in 2001 when they defeatedSouth Pike 13-0.

“We are the best in the North,” said Hughes. His Wildcatswalloped Lafayette County 48-7 in last Friday’s North 4A finals atOxford.

“We ran the ball well against Oxford,” said Hughes, noting histeam’s 307 rushing yards. “We need another great effort againstBrookhaven.

“Brookhaven has an awesome team.”

The Wildcats are led by strong-armed quarterback Brandon Strong(5-11, 180, sr.) Strong has passed for 2,253 yards and 25touchdowns. He’s rushed for 754 yards and 13 touchdowns.

“Our quarterback is a playmaker,” said Hughes. “He has lots ofspeed. We run a spread offense and it’s fun to watch.”

Clarksdale’s chief running back is Carlos Kern (190, sr.) whohas rushed for 943 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Strong’s primary receiver is Sam Jurden (180, jr.) who hascaught 31 passes for 679 yards and 7 TDs. Lee Jackson (175, so.)has 24 catches for 426 yards and 8 TDS. Kern has caught 36 passesfor 393 yards and 4 TDs. Cornelius McGee has 31 catches for 433yards and 3 TDS.

“We are clicking on offense and defense,” said Strong. “I’ve gotgreat receivers and my running back is good, too.”

Clarksdale has dominated its four playoff opponents, beatingAmory 20-6, Pearl 33-0, Noxubee County 39-14 and Lafayette Countylast week. The win over Lafayette avenged a 35-19 loss in theseventh game of the season.

On defense, the Wildcats are led by linebacker Neal Mitchell(190, sr.) who has accounted for 97 tackles. Linebacker CordellFields (185, sr.). is runner-up with 81 tackles.

Safety Eddie Hicks (175, sr.) leads Clarksdale in interceptionswith 5. He also has 70 tackles to his credit.

“I love playing defense and I love football,” said Hicks,showing a wide grin. “Our defense likes to make things happen. Wetry to get around the football.”

Hicks also returns punts and kickoffs. He averages 29.4 yardsper punt return and 34.1 ypr on kickoffs.

“Back in August, I though we could make the playoffs,” saidHicks. “Now we’re playing for the state championship.”