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September 12, 2021

FAST OUT OF THE GATE

in Football

Playing challenging non-district opponents, Class 3A, DII Clifton Cubs seek consistency before district begins after losing to Maypearl, 21-0

CLIFTON — Some times, it’s over almost before it begins. Unfortunately, that phenomenon befell the Class 3A Division II Clifton Cubs at home last Friday night. Facing the Class 3A, DI Maypearl Panthers, the Cubs were stunned by two quick touchdowns to open the non-district contest and never recovered as Maypearl coasted to a 21-0 victory.

After falling behind by three scores before intermission, the Cubs (0-3) settled down in the second half, but were not able to get back into the game.

“We did not get off to a good start and dug ourselves a pretty significant hole,” Caniford said. “I thought our kids responded much better in the second half and played with a much higher intensity level. We have to get off to a better start, especially when we are playing the quality of opponents that we have been facing.”

Opening the game with a quick strike 70-yard gain on a pass from sophomore quarterback Heath Graf to senior receiver Heath Roesler, Maypearl (1-1) came out and attacked the Cubs with the passing game early. Senior running back Homer Arizpe powered his way into the end zone to give the Panther a 7-0 lead with 7:08 left in the first quarter.

On their next possession, the Panthers struck again, as Graf connected with senior wide receiver Aaron Jett for a 35-yard gain down the sideline before hitting him on a quick slant in the end zone for the score with 3:45 showing on the first quarter clock.

But Maypearl wasn’t done yet. Early in the second quarter, the Panthers were on the move again when Jett took an end around for a 35-yard gain before Graf fired a pass to freshman receiver Tyson Brooks on a slant for an eight-yard scoring strike with 9:30 before intermission.

But after the rough first half, the Clifton defense settled down and shut out the Panthers in the second half. Defensively, the Cubs were led by sophomore Riley Finney with eight tackles, followed by junior Makail Brandenberger with seven, senior JP Gardner with five and sophomore Andres Devora with an interception.

“We didn’t play well — physical enough or aggressive enough — in the first half,” Caniford said. “We didn’t change anything that we were doing, we just did it with a much higher level of effort and intensity.”

Clearly outsized in the trenches, the Cubs struggled to maintain drives on offense. On the strength of a 46-yard run by Finney, Clifton did mount a substantial march just before halftime, but could not put points on the board to get back in the game.

Clifton finished with 219 yards of total offense Finney finished with 71 yards rushing on 10 carries followed by senior Will Simmons with 61 yards on 13 attempts. Senior quarterback Robert Goodman completed nine of 21 passes for 57 yards, connecting with junior AJ Lingo twice for 25 yards and senior Doniven King three times for 13.

“We had a couple of good drives, and in terms of yardage, we played better again this week,” Caniford said. “But we are not finishing drives. We still have too many drive killers that get us behind the chains.  We have to be more consistent and be able to finish drives if we want to be successful.”

This Friday night, the Cubs will hit the road to take on the Class 3A, DI McGregor Bulldogs (1-2) coming off a solid 36-17 victory over Class 4A, DII Jarrell after opening the season with back-to-back losses to Class 2A, DII top-ranked Mart, 42-7, and Class 4A, DII Hillsboro, 34-29.

“McGregor will have a significant size advantage over us up front, so we are going to have to do a good job negating that with technique and quickness,” Caniford said. “They have playmakers on offense that can go the distance if you don’t tackle well. 

“Right now, our focus is on what we have to do to get better so we can have a chance to achieve our goals in district play,” Caniford said. “This game is against another DI playoff team that will help us prepare for the difficult district 13-3A schedule.”

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

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