By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
FORT SUMNER — You might say Fort Sumner junior Cass Dimitroff shouldered the load on Saturday.
Only back a couple of weeks after missing three games with what was thought to possibly be a season-ending shoulder injury, Dimitroff rushed for 225 yards on 39 carries and scored both touchdowns as the Foxes beat district rival Clayton 14-3 on Saturday to capture their second consecutive state Class 1A football championship and seventh since 1995.
Dimitroff put the Foxes ahead with a 23-yard run in the second quarter and added insurance by scoring from 15 yards out in the fourth quarter.
“I can’t say enough about Cass Dimitroff,” Foxes coach Dexter McDaniel said. “He’s the horse that brought us here, so we just rode him to the end.”
They did that especially in the fourth quarter. He carried on 16 of the Foxes’ final 18 plays from scrimmage.
The Yellowjackets (8-4) converted a fumble on Fort Sumner’s first series into a 13-play, 54-yard drive that ended in Aaron Bradley’s 25-yard field goal. But they managed only three first downs the rest of the way.
“Our defense played well today,” Clayton coach Gary Durham said. “We just couldn’t get the ball in the end zone.
“They’ve got a very good team. Their physical strength was the difference in the game.”
Fort Sumner (8-4) finished with 17 first downs to six for the Yellowjackets, and outgained them 334-145. The Foxes appeared to wear Clayton down as the game went.
“It was fun; it’s always fun to win,” Dimitroff said. “It took us a while to get going, but we got through it.
“I think once we scored our first touchdown, we got after it. Everything carried over, and we got more confidence on both sides of the ball.”
Sophomore running-back linebacker Berry Stinnett added 51 yards rushing, caught a 36-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Hall and helped preserve the win with two second-half interceptions.
“It feels awesome,” Stinnett said. “We started making big runs and we got more confidence as the game went.”
The Foxes survived four turnovers to beat Clayton for the second time this fall. They defeated the Yellowjackets 32-13 in October at Clayton in a District 2-1A matchup.
Stinnett said the first meeting had little impact on this one.
“We really didn’t think about that,” he said. ‘We just wanted to give 100 percent on every play today.”
Bradley completed 6-of-7 passes — spread among five receivers — in the first half, but Fort Sumner’s pressure made it tougher for him as the game went. He was sacked three times and finished 9-of-22 for 102 yards.
Fort Sumner also held the Yellowjackets to 43 yards rushing.
“It’s all about our program with these kids,” McDaniel said. “They work hard year-round. We had lots of kids who stepped up for us.”
The Foxes battled injuries and a difficult schedule featuring numerous Class 2A opponents. At one point, they lost three in a row and were outscored 120-31 in that time.
“It was a learning process,” Dimitroff said. “It helped us get ready for this game.”
Clayton 3 0 0 0 – 3
Fort Sumner 0 7 0 7 – 14
C – FG Bradley 25, 1:44
FS – Dimitroff 22 run (Derrick Terrell kick), 5:44
FS- Dimitroff 15 run (Terrell kick), 8:09