After winning a share of the district crown in the 2019 regular season finale, the Clifton Cubs return to Rogers for a key District 13-3A, DII showdown
ROGERS – As much as we’ve seen things change in 2020, some things remain the same. That adage will ring true when the Clifton Cubs hit the road to face the Rogers Eagles Friday night.
Riding the momentum of back-to-back wins fresh off a solid District 13-3A, Division II opening victory over the Riesel Indians, the Cubs (1-0 in district, 2-3 overall) return to the scene of their dramatic finish to the 2019 regular season when they take on the Eagles (0-1, 1-4) Friday at 7:30 p.m.
After claiming a share of their fourth straight district title and making their sixth consecutive trip to the postseason, the Cubs opened district competition last week by wearing down Riesel for a 36-19 victory.
“It is always good to get off to a 1-0 start,” Clifton Cub football head coach Chuck Caniford said. “It keeps you from being in a must-win situation early in the district schedule. It was also important to keep the momentum going that we built the previous week against Tenaha.”
Against the Riesel Indians, the balanced Clifton offensive attack picked up right where it left off with Tenaha. With five different Cubs scoring against Riesel, the coaching staff got a variety of players involved, using some big plays in the passing game in the first half to set up the grinding running game in the second half.
“We have gotten better offensively that past couple of weeks,” Caniford said. “The biggest difference between the past two games and the first three is that we have been able to minimize turnovers and penalties and have been able to make some big plays in the passing game when we needed them. Being able to do that helps us open up the run game a little more because they can’t play nine in the box on us.”
In addition to the Clifton special teams delivering a key punt block against Riesel, the Cub defense also came up with three sacks and four turnovers while basically shutting down the Riesel running game. So for the first time this season, the Cubs essentially won all three phases of the game. But Clifton did have a punt blocked as well.
“I thought we played a pretty solid game overall,” Caniford said. “Obviously, there are always things that we need to improve on and each game gives us an opportunity to identify those things and go to work on addressing them. The punt is one of those areas. We didn’t do a good job preparing our kids in that aspect of the game. We spent quite a bit of time addressing that this week.”
As a returning district opponent, Rogers earned a share of the district title last season in a three-way tie with Clifton and Lexington. But the Cubs knocked off the previously undefeated Eagles, 27-21, on the road in the regular season finale last year to force the tie.
This season, Rogers has mirrored Clifton somewhat, playing a very tough non-district schedule, losing three close games to quality opponents. The Eagles opened district with a 46-28 loss at undefeated Buffalo last week.
“There are a lot of similarities between our two teams,” Caniford said. “They are fairly young as well. They have some explosive players on offense, and they force you to play assignment football. That’s been the key for us the past couple of times we have played them. We’ve played disciplined assignment football on defense and made some big plays in the passing game on offense.
“They have good size up front on both sides of the ball, so we have to do a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage. We need to continue to minimize turnovers and penalties and come up with some big plays in the kicking game. If we can do those things, we will have a chance to get the result we want.”
Photos by DAVID HARDING
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