EVERYTHING ON THE LINE

in Football

Seeking a seventh straight trip to the playoffs, the Clifton Cubs face a do-or-die District 13-3A, DII showdown at Lexington

LEXINGTON — For the Clifton Cubs, the playoffs start a week early.

Seeking their seventh straight berth to the Class 3A, Division II postseason tournament, the Cubs must hit the road for a do-or-die District 13-3A, DII showdown with the Lexington Eagles Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Eagle Stadium.

Despite all of the obstacles the Clifton football program has faced this season — restructuring the schedule due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, limited time to work with and develop a young, inexperienced group, playing a gauntlet of exceptionally strong non-district opponents, and taking on the toughest district schedule in years — the Cubs will be playing for a playoff spot in the final game of the season.

“With all of the challenges we have faced this year, we are very excited to have the opportunity to earn our seventh consecutive playoff appearance with a win on Friday,” Clifton football head coach Chuck Caniford said. “Our kids understand that the playoffs is never a goal in our program — that is the minimum expectation.  We expect to be there every year, and we need to prepare and play that way this week.”

To do so, Clifton (2-3 in district, 3-6 overall) had to put its 47-0 loss to the seventh-ranked and district champion Franklin Lions (6-0, 7-2) behind them quickly. Despite the Cubs staying in striking distance early, Franklin used a 21-point second quarter to build momentum on its way to a convincing victory.

“Franklin is definitely as advertised,” Caniford said. “They are solid in all phases of the game and have several explosive playmakers. We did some good things at times, but we were able to finish drives and turned the ball over too much to have success against a team of their caliber.”

With both teams playing for a playoff berth at Lexington, Clifton returns to the scene of one of last season’s surprises as the Eagles upset the Cubs, 29-13, thanks to some previously unknown players that ultimately led Lexington three rounds deep in the playoffs.

No surprises this season, though, as Lexington has been a postseason favorite all season long. But the Eagles have struggled a bit late in the season, losing two of their last three games — suffering a 33-27 loss at Rogers, struggling to knock off winless Florence, 13-7, then dropping a heartbreaker at Buffalo, 38-37, last week.

“They have some dynamic playmakers and are solid on defense,” Caniford said. “They have battled some injuries as well, but we have to assume that they will be a full strength on Friday night. 

“This is going to be a physical battle for four quarters with everything on the line. Our playoffs start this week, and we have to do everything we can to earn another week of football.”

Photos by DAVID HARDING

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