Highland struck first in their Saturday night Division IV regional quarterfinal playoff game at Lorain Clearview, but the Clippers had the last laugh in claiming a 30-16 win that ended the Scot season with a 9-2 mark.
“It’s very disappointing now, but it’s hard to take away from anything the kids did all year,” said Scot head coach Chad Carpenter after the game. “I want them to keep their heads up and the sad memories will hopefully turn to joyful ones in their lives.”
In the opening minutes of action, it looked like Saturday’s game would be full of good memories. Brock Veley took the opening kickoff and evaded Clipper tacklers all the way to Clearview’s 18-yard line. The senior back also moved the team to the Clipper three with a 12-yard run on second-and-seven, setting up a three-yard touchdown run by Tate Tobin. Tobin added a two-point conversion run and Highland led 8-0 after a mere 88 seconds of play.
Clearview immediately showed that they could advance the ball, as well, going from their 33 to the Scot 10 in only eight plays. However, after forcing a one-yard loss on a running play, the Scots got a huge defensive play, as Reese Weissenfluh picked off a Chase Christensen pass in the end zone to end that threat.
A 10-yard run by Jack Weaver and a 10-yard pass from Ian Taylor to Brody Matthews helped Highland advance the ball to their 42, but the team’s drive stalled and they had to punt the ball away. Clearview started with the ball on their 41 and held it for 15 plays on a drive that ended with senior back David Renftle bulling into the end zone on a one-yard drive. Christensen completed a two-point pass to Jordan Reed and the game was tied at eight with 8:46 left in the first half.
Carpenter felt that his team’s offense struggled at times due to how well Clearview did at holding the ball for extended periods of time.
“There were lots of turning points in that game — some for us and a lot against us,” said the coach. “It didn’t seem like we got into a rhythm on offense. They did a good job of holding the ball and keeping it out of our hands.”
Highland got decent field position on their next drive, as Jarin Vasquez returned the Clearview kick to his team’s 42. An 11-yard run by Matthews moved it into Lorain territory, but the drive stalled on the 37 and the Scots had to punt.
The team would get a big break when, after forcing a three-and-out, the Clippers had problems executing on a punt attempt, resulting in Highland recording a block and falling on the ball at the Clearview three. Tobin immediately ran the ball in for a score and also added a two-point conversion for a 16-8 lead with 4:16 remaining in the half.
“That was very beneficial momentum in our favor and we were able to take advantage of that,” said Carpenter of the big punt play.
However, that momentum immediately swung back in Clearview’s favor. On their next drive, Christensen wasted no time in hitting Dustyn Smith for a long touchdown pass to make it 16-14. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, the Clippers kicked the ball short and were able to field it before the Scots to get the ball back.
On their next drive, the Clippers converted on fourth-and-10 with a 30-yard pass from Christensen to Smith to set up a four-yard run by Renftle for a touchdown. Christensen then hit Smith again for a two-point conversion to give Clearview a 22-16 lead.
“I told our guys after the game they made plays when they needed to and we didn’t,” said Carpenter. “That dictated the momentum of the game.”
The Scots had a chance at the end of the half, as Taylor passed to Isaiah Stoneburner, who promptly pitched the ball back to Veley who ran for a 30-yard gain to move the ball to the Clearview 31. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t be able to advance to the end zone, as the half ended with them on the 21.
Getting the ball first in the second half, Clearview quickly boosted their lead to a 14-point margin, as Christensen connected with Smith again, this time for a 38-yard score. A pass to Renftle added a two-point conversion to make it 30-16.
Highland had multiple scoring opportunities over the remainder of the game, but simply couldn’t convert. On their next drive, they received the ball on their 38 and held it for 16 plays before throwing an interception in the Clearview end zone.
After forcing a punt, they took possession on their own 28. Two runs by Veley netted 12 yards and another Taylor-to-Stoneburner-to-Veley pass moved the ball to the Clipper 43 before the team eventually turned it over on downs.
Then, getting the ball back with just under three minutes remaining, Highland got runs of 16, 19 and 10 yards by Matthews to get them from their six to the Clearview 49. The Scots continued to advance the ball further into Clipper territory, but wound up turning it over on downs at the 23. From there, the Lorain school was able to run out the clock and advance to the next round of the postseason.
Carpenter noted that he’ll greatly miss this year’s senior class, a large group of players who played a huge role in the Scots making the playoffs two straight years.
“I’m gonna really miss these guys,” he said. “I followed them from Colt League and through high school. We’ve got a lot of great kids returning and now it’s their turn, but I’ll miss that group.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS