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West Greene escapes Claiborne with win

The morning of Sept. 6 was supposed to have been the start of a great day for Claiborne High School and its students celebrating homecoming, but instead it began in somber fashion. The loss of Katelyn Cunliffe shocked the community but brought the students closer to each other; even paying tribute to their friend who also played soccer with the Lady Bulldogs as well as being part of the color guard.

Fans honored Cunliffe by wearing purple and displaying her jersey numbers “6” and “8” on their clothing, on signs plus wearing her trademark handkerchiefs. Homecoming activities were moved to the next game, but the game against West Greene had to be played.

Claiborne took the ball and drove into West Greene territory before fumbling a good chance away. At the 5:00 mark in the first, the Buffaloes completed a touchdown-scoring drive and led 7-0.

Claiborne responded with a drive of their own featuring Storm Livesay, Haydn Hollin and Eli Stone. The Bulldogs scored with 1:05 remaining in the first but missed the point after, 7-6.

A personal foul on the Bulldogs helped complete their next scoring drive that went into the second quarter. At the 10:57 mark the Buffs led 14-6.

The Bulldogs next drive stalled and then West Greene scored again at 7:44 making the score 21-6.

Claiborne scored just before the half on a Stone to Hollin pass play that allowed the Bulldogs to pull to within nine points at 21-12.

During the half, the band played their show and it was immediately followed by a moving ceremony to pay tribute to Cunliffe. As the balloons rose up to the sky the tears fell down, but the students needed the release to assist in healing and understanding.

The Bulldogs made a strong effort in the second half. Stone hit Hollin deep down field. Hollin’s catch fired up the home team and set up a QB sneak by Stone. The conversion failed, but Claiborne narrowed the margin to eight, 28-20.

West Greene scored via a field goal after a penalty gave them a second kick to lead 31-20. Stone, Livesay and Daniel Eversole combined for another Bulldogs score at 7:50 to draw closer at 31-26.

West Greene was again driving and crossed into Bulldogs territory but fumbled the ball over to Claiborne, who now had the chance to score and take the lead. Faced with a fourth-and-4, Claiborne converted and a few seconds later Stone hit Ethan Poore for what seemed to be the go ahead touchdown.

The pass play counted but a personal foul penalty took the points away. Stone was pressured and his pass was picked off with a minute remaining. Claiborne forced the Buffs into a punting situation, but they chose to take a safety.

The score was now 31-28, and the Bulldogs were going to get one more shot after the free kick. The kick was immediately downed with only a few seconds left on the clock. The Bulldogs tried to clear the sideline out for a play underneath the secondary, but the pass was too long and the Buffaloes escaped with the 31-28 win.

After the game, coach Medlin told his Bulldogs team this, “Well you almost came back and won another one. This all starts with practice, and we need you all to be here on time.”

Medlin assured his team that positions will be open Tuesday at practice and the backups will have their chance to beat someone out of their spot. His advice was, “Just be ready to go.”

Claiborne will battle Unaka in a non-conference game on Friday.