Keelan, Clayton leading Wildcat return parade
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Sept. 21, 2004 - Keenan Clayton and Keelan Green have taken the approach this year of one good return deserves another.

The two seniors have each scored two touchdowns this season for the Sulphur Springs Wildcats on returns and each had two others called back on penalties.

In four games, the Wildcats have scored six touchdowns on various returns and had four others nullified for illegal blocks.

"That's incredible," said head coach Brad Turner. "When you've got special teams that is scoring like we are, and a defense that's scoring, even on a night when you're offense struggles in the first quarter, you look up and we've got 35 points at halftime.

"When you're scoring from so many different areas, those returns really add to the pressure to the other team because it's not just the offense they have to shut down."

Coverage teams last year so how difficult it was to shut down Clayton, who set a school record with three punt returns for TDs on his way to being named All-State. This year, they're finding out it's equally as hard to catch up with Green.

Green, who was fourth last year at the state track meet in the 100-meter dash and set a new school record in the process, has already brought back a kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown against W.T. White and a punt 90 yards against Forney.

The 90-yard return tied a school record for longest in Wildcat history, and the 115 yards in punt returns he had against W.T. White set a new school record, surpassing the mark held by Frank Jimmerson. Green would have had over 200 yards had not a 70-yard return and 52-yard return -both for touchdowns - been nullified.

Both Green and Clayton have the speed necessary to be a good return man, but Turner said it takes more than that.

"It takes more than being fast. You've got to be able to catch it and see the field. You've got to be pretty brave back there," he explained. "It takes more than being fast or a good runner, it takes someone special to be able to do that."

Clayton, the starting free safety who has scored this year on a 48-yard interception return and a 14-yard fumble, has a great combination of strength and speed, since he's 6-2, 210 pounds and runs a 4.4 in the 40. Green, at 5-10, 160, is smaller, but he ran a 10.52 in the 100 meter dash last spring, and plays wide receiver and running back.

The Wildcats had a problem last year with teams continuously kicking away from Clayton. So, special teams coordinator Robert Wallace came up with the idea of putting two men back on punts.

"Not knowing whether he could do that or not, we put Keelan back there. Of course, Keelan has done outstanding," Turner explained. "It doesn't take him much room. When he's out there, he's hard to get a shot on. And, he's not afraid to catch it or hit the hole running."

With both of them back, the opponent has few options.

"It poses problems. I think every game, the other team has had a shank because they're trying to angle kick it or trying to pooch kick it, and they end up getting a 10-yard punt trying to kick it away from our guys," the coach said. "It's a good situation, and if they keep kicking it to us, they'll keep returning it. I think both of those guys are as good as anybody in the state."

The statistics back him up. Opposing punters are averaging just 30.1 yards per kick. The Wildcats have blocked two punts, with Brandon Clayton scoring on one, and the other setting up a TD.

As far as other returns go, the Wildcats have scored defensive points in every game, and a touchdown in every game but the season opener.

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