By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
TIFFIN– Turnovers and penalties took a heavy toll on the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Clippers Friday, Sept. 6, as they entertained the Golden Hawks of Mid-Prairie, Wellman.
The Hawks took the non-district contest, 27-13.
The game opened on a sour note with a fumble on the Clippers’ first possession, giving the Hawks a drive toward the goal line. CCA held them from scoring a touchdown, but Mid-Prairie still managed a field goal for a 3-0 lead.
A second fumble gave the Hawks the ball on the Clippers’ 13-yard line. A right side scamper led to a Mid-Prairie touchdown, but a holding penalty negated it. On their next attempt, the Hawks got the ball across the line and led 9-0.
Late in the first quarter, the Clippers again turned over the ball setting up a Golden Hawk drive, which culminated in a touchdown off a quarterback keeper and put the visitors ahead, 17-0.
With 12 seconds remaining in the first half, the Clippers took over the ball at their own goal line. A Nile Rourke pass was intercepted and ran-in for another Mid-Prairie touchdown and the Hawks took a comfortable 24-0 lead at the half.
“Unfortunately we’ve got a bit of a turnover bug going on the last two weeks,” coach Matt Hughes said. “If we can figure out how to hang onto the ball and control the penalties, I think we’ll have a real good football team.” Hughes conceded it was a messy game all around with penalties on both sides. “But you know, you can overcome penalties a little bit more than you can turnovers. When you turn over the ball in the first two series of the game, that’s hard to bounce back from.”
The brightest spot on the night for the Clippers came late in the third quarter when Tanner Bandy intercepted a pass in the CCA end zone and ran the full length of the field to score a touchdown. However, it looked as though it would be called back on a penalty call. A conference by the zebras led to the conclusion that both teams had committed unsportsmanlike conduct, and the touchdown stood. Jon Jacobson’s extra point kick was good and the score was 24-7.
“It was amazing,” Hughes said of Bandy’s 103-yard run. “(Tanner) Bandy is an unbelievable athlete, he’s a leader on this football team, and he does everything right.”
In the fourth, the Hawks pounded the ball to the Clipper goal line again, but were held-off in a back-and-forth ground war full of penalties. Finally Mid-Prairie settled on another field goal to extend their lead to 27-7. With just under three minutes remaining in the contest, Robby Swails handed-off to Jon Nzombo who scampered 6 yards to score.
Hughes said the Clipper defense was stronger in the second half. “They started adjusting, guys started playing harder. We’ve got to find a way to get these guys rolling a little bit earlier in the game instead of playing catch-up all the time.” The coach agreed the team had caught some breaks, capitalizing on Mid-Prairie mistakes, “but we had more things go wrong.” Hughes said Jon Nzombo “ran the ball really hard tonight, at times our offensive line created some nice holes, but at other times we missed a lot of blocks. It was one thing or the other, and we just kind of pieced this thing together.”
The Clipper air attack suffered as Rourke completed two of eight passes for 28 yards, Swails made one out of three for 3 yards and Andrew Beckler’s one pass went incomplete. Nzombo pounded-out 75 yards of rushing on 19 carries, Beckler went 61 yards on seven and Rourke kept the ball three times for 14 yards.
With a 1-1 record going into district play, Hughes is optimistic about the Clipper program. “It’s a learning process. These kids have got a whole brand new system they’ve never seen before, and it takes time to buy into it to learn it all. They’re doing good.”
The Clippers will face Benton Community Friday, Sept. 13, at home.
“We’ll come up with a good game plan and try to come up with a better performance next Friday night,” Hughes said.