Despite second half rally, Clifton Cubs fall short in 41-28 loss to Rogers Eagles in District 13-3A, DII clash
CLIFTON — In a game that became the tale of two halves, it proved to be too little, too late for the Clifton Cubs. After falling behind 34-7 before halftime, the Cubs battled back to rally in the second half, but it wasn’t enough as the Rogers Eagles secured a 41-28 victory in the District 13-3A, Division II clash Friday night at Cub Stadium.
Despite a disastrous start that led to a 21-0 deficit less than a minute into the second quarter, the Cubs outplayed Rogers for the better part of the next three quarters. Unfortunately, it proved to be too big of a hole to climb out of for Clifton.
“First, Rogers is a very good football team, and they are difficult to defend,” Clifton football head coach Chuck Caniford said. “We did a much better job in the second half of sustaining drives and making the plays we needed to make to put points on the board.”
Coming out of the locker room, the Cubs offense looked like a different unit in the second half, putting up 21 points. Relying on the ground game to carry the load, Clifton (0-2, 0-6) grinded out 332 yards on 52 carries. With four different backs getting into the end zone, sophomore Riley Finney ran for 128 yards and a touchdown and senior quarterback Robert Goodman scrambled for 110 yards and a score, while seniors Alex De La Hoya and JP Gardner cashed in for six points each.
“We played much more aggressively in all phases in the second half, and that gave us a chance to make it a game,” Caniford said. “We had some injuries early in the game that affected us on both sides of the ball, and I was really proud of the way the kids responded and jumped in to fill those roles.”
After giving up 34 points in the first half, the Cub defense settled down and only surrendered a single score the second half. Clifton made it a two-score game in the fourth quarter, but Rogers (2-0, 4-2) responded with their only touchdown of the second half with 3:33 left in the game to ice the victory.
“Although we are disappointed in the outcome, I am extremely proud of the way our kids battled and never quit fighting,” Caniford said. “It would have been very easy for them to fold up their tents in the second half, but they chose not to and battled until the final play.”
This Friday, the Cubs will hit the road to take on the Florence Buffaloes (0-1, 3-2) who opened district last Friday night with a 40-37 road loss to Buffalo.
“This is a very important game for us this week,” Caniford said. “If we can go on the road and get a win over Florence, we can put ourselves right back in the playoff race.”
Competing in a seven-team district, this week’s match-up represents the midway point in the race to secure postseason berths. And to maintain a realistic chance to make the playoffs for the seventh time in the eight seasons under Caniford, the Cubs face an almost must-win situation.
Last season, Clifton crushed the Buffaloes, 41-3, at home. In fact, the Cubs have won their last three straight meetings with Florence by a combined score of 155-15. But after losing their 2021 season opener to Johnson City, 14-13, the Buffaloes stampeded to three consecutive wins over Bangs, 45-14, Bruceville-Eddy, 48-18, and Goldthwaite, 10-7, before dropping the district opener to Buffalo.
“Florence does a good job with their read game on offense and will hit you with some quick passes to keep you honest,” Caniford said. “It will be similar to defending Rogers in that you have to play assignment football and trust each other to do their job. Defensively, they have a very aggressive front, and we have to do a good job on controlling the line of scrimmage.”
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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