If there was one team at the Tally Classic that was surprising people, it was the Clemson Joint Chiefs. The boys from Upstate South Carolina had spent their morning forcing Virginia to double game point, trouncing Miami and beating Georgia Tech in the first round of the ACC Bracket. Across pool play and in the crossovers, things were going pretty much to seed but Clemson was threatening that balance.
Meanwhile, Virginia had more or less pranced through all of their games except against Clemson and, as night was settling, most of the spectators were not expecting the Joint Chiefs to be able to compete on the level that they had the first time they squared off against Night Train.
Those spectators were in for a huge surprise though, as Clemson beat Virginia handily, 13-8.
The most important thing to note from the ACC South Championship game is that Clemson had 0 turnovers on their offensive points. Feel free to go back and reread that sentence again, we typed it correctly. It’s not just that Clemson’s offensive line gave up no breaks, they had no turnovers at all.
This performance could be attributed in large part to the play of graduate student Ben Slade and senior Keenan Watson, both of whom were already having an excellent tournament before finals. However, in reality, it was a true team effort from the Joint Chiefs with every player getting involved, some in ways that they never have before.
The game began as expected, with Slade hitting a streaking Watson deep for a score. However, Virginia was not rattled as they had seen this show before, Night Train put a hammer into the endzone to tie the game 1-1.
Slade took control of the first half for Clemson. Clemson took an on-serve, 4-3 lead and Slade had either caught or thrown all four of the team’s goals. Including a hammer score to Watson that drew “Ooos” and “Ahhhs” from the sidelines.
At this point, both teams offenses were firing on all cylinders but the second that one snapped, the other team took advantage. Night Train was the first to make an error and Clemson took a 5-3 lead. That one break lead was one that the Joint Chiefs would not relinquish for the rest of the game. No matter what or how Virginia tried, Clemson clung to the lead for dear life.
The two teams continued to battle though. Just before half Slade hit freshman James Cox for a layout score in the back of the endzone, not to be outdone, UVA’s Tyler Conger tracked down a full field throw from one of the Neov brothers. Clemson would finally take half with a 7-5 lead.
However, Virginia’s play showed their resolve and will to not go down without a fight. Night Train scored right out of half but, as they did all game, the Joint Chiefs had an answer for that. Slade found graduate student Tyler Van Hook on a slash cut for a score, Clemson held onto its lead 8-6.
After another Conger score Clemson turned on the jets, getting a block and another break to take a 10-7 lead. UVA would score on its next possession but Watson and Slade took over the game and Night Train didn’t put the disc in the endzone again. At 10-8, Slade worked his mark to a high stall count before breaking the mark for a score. At 11-8, Watson got a block and didn’t waste any time in hitting his receiver in the endzone to extend the Clemson lead. At 12-8, after another Virginia error, a floaty pass into the endzone was brought down by Watson for the score and the title of ACC South champs.
Virginia was kind enough to host a small trophy ceremony, passing the trophy that they won last year in Chapel Hill on to Slade and company. The Joint Chiefs couldn’t have been happier and Slade quickly ran over to us to talk about his team’s play.
“We had a perfect game, zero turnovers,” he said, he could hardly contain his excitement. “(The ACC South Championship) is going to go a long way with our club sports department.”