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October 19, 2021

WELL WORTH THE WAIT

in Football

Thrilling a packed homecoming night crowd, the Clifton Cubs score in final seconds to capture first District 13-3A, DII win by downing Buffalo, 33-32

CLIFTON – It may have been a long time coming, but when the Clifton Cubs finally claimed their first victory of the 2021 Texas high school football season, it proved well worth the wait. And during Homecoming Night at Cub Stadium, the thrills and chills along the way gave the hometown faithful plenty to cheer about.

Sophomore Riley Finney scored the tying touchdown and junior Trent Guinn nailed the game-winning extra point with 14 seconds on the clock as the Cubs came from behind for a dramatically thrilling 33-32 District 13-3A, Division II victory over the Buffalo Bison last Friday night at Cub Stadium.

While that first win repeatedly proved elusive during a series of narrow losses, the Cubs (1-3 in district, 1-7 overall) found a way to win and remarkably climb back into the postseason conversation going into their open week with two district games remaining.

“I am so happy and proud for our kids,” Clifton head coach Chuck Caniford said. “This group of young men has continued to fight every week and has never given up, and that persistence paid off in a big way for them on Friday night. To do it in the manner that they did in front of a big crowd on homecoming was a great experience for them and will be something that they remember for a long time.”

After battling to a 14-14 deadlock going into intermission, the Cubs surrendered two touchdowns during a 44-second span to open the third quarter to quickly fall behind, 26-14. Bison junior Craig Shannon returned the second half kickoff 71 yards for the first score, before Buffalo (1-2, 2-5) capitalized on a Clifton interception when senior Ethan Williams darted 33 yards for another touchdown.

Despite the demoralizing adversity, the Cubs promptly responded with back-to-back scoring drives to tie the game back up going into the fourth quarter as the power running of senior Will Simmons produced touchdown runs of 39 and 18 yards.

But with the score still tied 26-26 midway through the fourth quarter, Caniford decided to go for it on fourth down and five from the Clifton 39-yard line, and Finney’s run on the fake punt came up short. On the next play, Bison junior quarterback Zayne Johnson connected with junior wide receiver Kyle Harrison on a 40-yard scoring strike. Finney sacked Johnson on the two-point conversion attempt, leaving Buffalo with a 32-26 lead with 6:08 remaining.

On their next possession, the Cubs mounted a drive deep into Bison territory, but fumbled to give Buffalo the ball on their own 16-yard line with 2:05 on the clock. With time running out, the Clifton defense came up with a big stop to give the Cubs one last chance to pull out the win. Finney led the Cubs with nine tackles, followed by Tunnell with seven as well as junior Makail Brandenberger, junior Jackson Newton and senior Carlos Villarreal with six each.

“I thought we played much better defensively,” Caniford said. “We came up with some big stops throughout the night, with none more important than the last stop that gave us the ball back with a minute to play. We did some different things this week defensively, and I was really proud of the way that our coaches and kids responded.”

Taking over at the Bison 49-yard line with 1:06 remaining, the Cubs mounted a remarkable eight-play drive as senior quarterback Robert Goodman ran and passed Clifton into the red zone before Simmons broke through up the middle for 15 yards down to the Buffalo three. Two plays later, Finney sliced into the end zone standing up for the score.

Offensively, the Cubs received a huge game running the ball from Simmons, who finished with 171 yards and two touchdowns, while sophomore Parker Tunnell scored twice on big plays in the first half. Goodman completed seven of 15 passes for 87 yards and a score while rushing for 62 more. But most importantly, the Cubs scored when they had to for the game-winner.

“We continue to get better offensively every week,” Caniford said. “Will and Riley have both done a great job for us all year. Parker and Alex (DeLaHoya) have both done a really nice job for us spelling both of those guys, and we had a package this week for Parker that came up big. We tell kids all the time that it doesn’t matter how many opportunities you get, what matters is what you do with those opportunities. Parker definitely came up big.”

This week, the Cubs will have an open date in the schedule before closing the regular season out with two more games, a trip to Franklin Oct. 29 and a home game against Lexington Nov. 5. With Class 3A, DII’s top-ranked Franklin (4-0, 8-0) leading the pack and Rogers (3-1, 5-3) close behind, the district’s other five teams – Florence (1-2, 4-3), Riesel (1-2, 3-3), Lexington (1-2, 3-4), Buffalo and Clifton – all head into the home stretch with only one win each.

“We have to get healthy going into the last two games,” Caniford said. “We’ve given ourselves a chance to get back into the playoff conversation, and our district is going to be crazy in the end. Franklin and Rogers are solidly in the first and second spots, but the rest of us all have one district win, so it’s going to be a mess down the stretch. We just have to focus on what we can control. And that’s getting healthy and getting better this week.”

Photos by WENDY OROZCO

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