WEEK 1: In a defense struggle, Class 2A, DI’s 19th-ranked Bosqueville Bulldogs hold off late rally to edge Class 3A, DII Clifton Cubs, 14-6
CLIFTON — When it was all said and done,the Clifton Cubs got exactly what they asked for in the 2021 Texas high school season opener. After all, playing playoff-caliber teams like Class 2A, DI’s Bosqueville Bulldogs in a non-district matchup has always been Clifton’s approach to getting ready for district under the direction of veteran head coach Chuck Caniford.
Despite trailing 14-0 through three quarters, Clifton rallied in the fourth quarter and put themselves ina position to win the game before falling short against Bosqueville, 14-6, last Friday night at Cub Stadium.
“Despite the end result, we were better this week than we were last week,” Caniford said. “And that’s what we are looking for in non-district, continued improvement. We put ourselves in a position to win, but made too many unforced errors to earn the victory.”
Getting on the scoreboard midway through the second quarter, Bosqueville (1-0) quarterback Justin Moore connected with Newt Schornack for a big gain down the right sideline to set up Jayce Powers’ five-yard touchdown run two plays later.
Then with five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Moore gave the Bulldogs what seemed like a commanding 14-0 lead when he cut up field for a 45-yard scoring run.
In what turned out to be a low-scoring defensive struggle, and the Cub defense definitely proved worthy of that challenge. Sophomore Riley Finney led Clifton with 10 tackles, followed by senior Robert Goodman with five tackles and an interception. Senior Chris Mayes and sophomore Parker Tunnell contributed four takedowns each, sophomore Andres Devora hauled in an interception and junior Peyton Urbanovsky came up with a fumble.
“I thought we played really well defensively,” Caniford said. “There was a significant improvement from the week before. We were able to create some turnovers and did a pretty good job of minimizing their big plays.”
Despite struggling to sustain drives that resulted in points, the Cubs (0-1) responded with a fourth quarter score that left the outcome in question until Clifton’s final possession. On one of only a handful big gains for the Cubs, Finney turned the corner and outraced a host of Bulldogs down the sideline for a 35-yard touchdown run with 9:43 left to make it a one-score game. Finney finished with 107 yards rushing on 14 carries.
“We made too many unforced errors that were drive killers; fumbled snaps, critical penalties,” Caniford said. “We also had some big play opportunities that we missed on that may have changed the dynamic of the game.
“That said, I was really pleased with how hard our guys played, and we have seen a significant improvement between the first scrimmage and this week. We just have to find a way to cut down on the unforced errors in order to keep the chains moving. We can’t work behind the chains.”
Playing to win at home in the season opener, Caniford decided to go for the two-point conversion following Clifton’s lone score.
“We had every intention of going for the win instead of playing for a tie,” Caniford said. “Down two scores, we knew before we started that drive that if we scored, we would go for two. If we got it, then we could kick the PAT on the second score to take the lead. And if we didn’t get it, we could go for two and the tie on the second score.
“We had a play we were really confident in, and we actually got the look we expected. We have to convert on those opportunities.”
With two more opportunities to pull out the victory, the Cubs failed to complete the comeback, turning the ball over on a fumble before being held on downs in the final five minutes of the game.
Despite a disappointing loss in a winnable game against a quality opponent, Caniford felt good about the performance he saw from his team. Hitting the road this week, Clifton will take on another playoff-caliber squad in the Little-River Academy Bumblebees, who posted an impressive 38-28 victory over Rogers. In 2020, the Cubs lost to Little-River Academy, 17-10, at home.
“After watching the film, I am really excited about the direction of this team,” Caniford said. “As long as we trust the process and understand that there is a reason we are playing so many quality opponents in non-district, we will be where we want to be when district begins at the end of the month.
“You don’t get trophies for a non-district record, you get them for winning district championships. And these games are going to help us achieve those goals.”
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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