TAKING ON THE BEST: Cubs face 4th-ranked Gunter in Class 3A, DII Area

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Class 3A, DII Area Playoff: CLIFTON CUBS (8-3) vs. GUNTER TIGERS (10-1)

WAXAHACHIE – In the midst of achieving an unprecedented run of success during the course of the last six seasons, the Class 3A, Division II’s Clifton Cubs want to take it to the next level. To do so, the Cubs will have to beat one of the best teams the state has to offer once again.

After winning a bi-district playoff game for the sixth consecutive season last week, the Cubs face two obstacles tonight, winning an Area Playoff championship for the first time since 1993 and beating the fourth-ranked Gunter Tigers tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Waxahachie’s Lumpkins Stadium.

“Those are only obstacles to achieving our goals if we allow them to be obstacles,” Clifton head coach Chuck Caniford said. “We need to be confident in our ability to perform, and approach the game the same way we have approached every game.”

In the regular season finale, the Cubs (8-3) knocked off state-ranked Rogers, 27-21, to claim a share of their fourth straight District 8-3A, DII title. To live to play another day, Clifton will have to do the same to the Gunter Tigers (10-1), who enter the game riding a nine-game winning streak, during which time the Tigers have outscored opponents, 403-61.

Only two other playoff teams challenged Gunter on its way to the District 5-3A, DII title this season, third place Holliday, 20-7, and runner-up Wichita Falls City View, 31-27, and both teams have advanced to the Area playoff round. Deploying a flex bone option offensive attack and a split scheme on defense, Gunter crushed Tolar, 53-7, in its Bi-District playoff game.

“Gunter is very similar to Rogers in their offensive and defensive schemes,” Caniford said. “Offensively, we need to be patient and sustain drives. They will play a lot of three deep zone and try to not to give up the big plays. We need to be disciplined enough to take what they give us. 

“The key for our success offensively is pretty simple, win the line of scrimmage, don’t have negative plays and protect the football. If we do those things, we will have an opportunity to have success on offense. 

“Defensively, they make you play assignment football with their option game. Everyone has to do their job and trust that the others will do theirs. Where they get people in a bind is when guys try to do too much and try to do someone else’s job.”

For the second straight week in the playoffs, Clifton plays a team it has never faced on the football field, and the two teams lack any common teams for comparison. But that’s nothing new for the Cubs. And to win an Area Championship, they will have to go where no Clifton football team has gone in a long time.

“The most important thing we need to do to win this game is to have confidence in ourselves,” Caniford said. “We have earned the right to be here just as they have. And whoever performs tonight at 7:30 p.m. will advance. Our guys need to believe in themselves and trust each other. If we do that, then it will be a fun night for the Cubs.”

Photos courtesy of CLIFTON CUB FOOTBALL

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