Coming out of open week, Clifton Cubs remain in contention for postseason berth in top heavy District 13-3A, DII, visit top-ranked Franklin Friday
Coming out of their open week in district and riding high from their first win of the season, the Clifton Cubs return to action Friday in the middle of the District 13-3A, Division II postseason conversation.
Remarkably in what has turned out to be a top heavy district, the Cubs enter the final two weeks of the 2021 Texas high school football regular season in a virtual four-way tie for fourth place and remain in contention for third place.
Needing at least one win in the final two games to stay in the mix, Clifton (1-3 in district, 1-7 overall) hits the road to take on the Class 3A, DII’s top-ranked and undefeated Franklin Lions (5-0, 9-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“Currently, every team in the district is still in the hunt,” Clifton head coach Chuck Caniford said. “The bottom line for us is that we have to beat Lexington in the last game of the year to keep ourselves in the mix. This game against Franklin could certainly help us, but either way you still have to beat Lexington because of the tie-breakers. We are excited to still have the opportunity to compete for a spot and will do everything we can to make that happen.”
Coming off their open week, the Cubs should be rested and healthy for the stretch run. And certainly, Clifton notching its first win of the season in thrilling, dramatic fashion with a 33-32 last second victory over Buffalo put the Cubs in the right frame of mind to build on.
“The first thing the open week did was allow us an opportunity to get some guys healed up,” Caniford said. “We were pretty banged up after the Buffalo game, so it gave those guys a chance to get a lot of mental reps without the wear and tear on their body. We primarily focused on the areas that we need to improve the last two weeks of the regular season in order to give ourselves a chance to stay in the mix in the standings.”
With the ground game producing 77.6 percent of Clifton’s offense, sophomore Riley Finney leads the Cubs with 725 yards and six touchdown, followed closely by senior Will Simmons with 703 yards and six scores.
Through the air, senior quarterback Robert Goodman has completed 48 of 108 passes for 538 yards with four interceptions and three touchdowns, connecting with his primary target sophomore Andres Devora 13 times for 174 yards and a score while Jadyn Simmons leads the Cubs with two touchdown receptions.
Defensively, Finney leads Clifton with 58 tackles, followed by junior Makail Brandenberger with 30 takedowns, senior Carlos Villarreal with 26, sophomore Parker Tunnell with 23 and senior Griffin Phillips with 22, while Devora has pulled down two interceptions and Simmons has come up with two fumble recoveries.
But realistically, the Cubs will have their hands full on the road this Friday night. On the season, Franklin has outscored opponents, 518-107, riding a 16-game regular season win streak. The Lions have scored more than 70 points in three of their previous five district games, completely overwhelming Florence, 73-6, and Buffalo, 77-3, coming into their regular season finale against Clifton.
“They are one of the most complete teams that I have seen in over 25 years of coaching,” Caniford said. “They have tremendous depth, especially at the skill positions. They are not complicated in what they do, they just do it really well. The key for us on both sides of the ball is going to be first down.
“Offensively, we have to stay ahead of the chains. Defensively, we have to force them into passing situations. It will be a tremendous challenge, but our kids are excited about the opportunity ahead of us.”
Photos by WENDY OROZCO
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