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Class 3A, DII Clifton hits the road to take on third straight opponent from larger classification by traveling to Maypearl Friday night

MAYPEARL — Upon his arrival over six years ago, Clifton football head coach Chuck Caniford has always approached scheduling non-district opponents with a little bit of David vs. Goliath in mind — with his Cubs assuming the role of the young and diminutive Israelite taking on the Philistine giant.

Never has that been more true than this season as Class 3A, Division II Clifton prepares to take on its third straight team from a larger classification as the Cubs visit the Class 3A, DI Maypearl Panthers at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Despite being in a position to win in the fourth quarter during back-to-back games, the young and inexperienced Cubs (0-2) have fallen victim to turnovers in losses to Class 4A, DII Sanger, 25-14, and Class 3A, DI Little River-Academy, 17-0, to open the 2020 campaign.

This week, Clifton will be taking on the larger Maypearl (2-0), a team the Cubs will be facing for the fifth straight season.

“When you play someone as frequently as we have played Maypearl, there aren’t a lot of secrets,” Caniford said. “We have a pretty good understanding of what each other are going to try to do, and now it comes down to who can execute their game plan most efficiently. 

“Our goal this week is the same as it is every week in non-district; be better than we were last week. That’s all we want to do is continue that progression of improving every week leading up to district play.”

While Clifton’s grinding offensive attack has proven to be it’s own worst enemy with turnovers and untimely penalties, the Cub defense has risen to the occasion. Junior Griffin Phillips leads the team with 18 tackles, followed by junior Jimmie Taylor with 14 takedowns and two sacks, and senior Elias Tebo with 11 tackles.

Despite playing two bigger classification schools in Sanger and Little River-Academy, the Cubs have played well enough to have a chance to win in the fourth quarter for both games. Now at the halfway point of the non-district schedule, Clifton will be looking to take their game to the next level.

“We have put ourselves in a position to have a chance to win the first two games, but have not been able to break through,” Caniford said. “There’s not a magic formula. It’s pretty simple really. We just have to be more consistent to beat teams of the caliber that we have been playing. 

“We’ve played well enough to win at times, but haven’t played consistently enough to close the game out. We will have to do that this week to beat Maypearl.”

With junior quarterback Heath Roesler and junior linebacker Timmy Gracey leading 13 returning starters, Maypearl opened the season with a 20-6 victory over Ferris before defeating Venus, 49-20 on the road last Friday.

“Maypearl is playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Caniford said. “They are clearly comfortable in their system, and we will have to put together four quarters of consistent effort to win on the road.

“To win these kinds of games, we have to win the turnover battle, finish drives on offense and limit big plays on defense. If we can do those things, we will have a chance to be successful on Friday night.”


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