COMING UP SHORT

in Football

Despite trading blows with Lexington in first half, Clifton Cubs fall in District 13-3A, DII finale, miss playoffs for second straight season

CLIFTON – Going into the regular season finale with a chance to make the playoffs, the Clifton Cubs went toe-to-toe with a talented Lexington team in the first half of their District 13-3A, Division II showdown. But in the second half, the playoff-bound Eagles soared to a convincing 28-7 victory last Friday night at Cub Stadium to bring Clifton’s season to an untimely end.

“I thought we played really well in the first half and had the game where we wanted it going into the second half,” Clifton head coach Chuck Caniford said. “We had some big opportunities in the third quarter that were negated by penalties, which put us behind the chains, and we weren’t able to overcome them. I was proud of our kids for the way that they continued to fight throughout the night.”

As it turned out, a victory over Lexington would not have been enough to put the Cubs in the playoffs as the Riesel Indians knocked off Buffalo, 49-19, to secure fourth place in District 13-3A, DII and clinch the final postseason berth.

After denying Lexington throughout in the first half, the Cubs (1-5 in district, 1-9 overall) could not keep the Eagles out of the end zone in the second half. Scoring 21 unanswered points, Lexington (4-2, 6-4) ended up with 410 total yards of offense. Senior quarterback Sheldon Springer ran for three touchdowns and threw for another to account for all of the Eagle scores.

“We couldn’t keep our defense off the field in the second half,” Caniford said. “And when you give kids with the ability that they have that many opportunities, eventually they are going to make a play. We didn’t do a good enough job of moving the chains on offense, and that put our defense in a bind.”

Indeed, it did. Lexington ran 63 plays from scrimmage, while the Cubs only stayed on the field long enough to get off 45. In the meantime, senior Robert Goodman and junior Jackson Newton led Clifton with 10 tackles each, followed by junior Payton Urbanovsky with nine and senior Sergio Garcia with seven.

Despite doing a lot of positive things, every time the Cubs offense appeared on the verge of grabbing some momentum, an untimely penalty took them off schedule and kept them playing behind the chains. As a result, the Cubs only produced 168 yards of total offense.

“Penalties were a killer for us on Friday night,” Caniford said. “We would make a play and then end up behind the chains, which kept us from getting into any consistent rhythm offensively.”

Goodman led the Cubs with 38 yards rushing on five carries and completing five of 18 passes for 72 yards while suffering three interceptions. Despite scoring Clifton’s only touchdown, senior running back Will Simmons managed only 27 yards rushing on 10 carries while the Eagles limited sophomore Riley Finney to 20 yards on eight attempts along with three receptions for 38 yards.

Earlier in the season, losing games to Riesel (3-3, 5-4) and Florence (1-5, 4-6) by a total of 13 points proved to be the difference in the Cubs returning to the playoffs this season in what once again proved to a be a very tough District 13-3A, DII.

“We knew going into this season that this district was going to be a dog fight,” Caniford said. “We didn’t make the plays we needed to make in those two games to put ourselves to be in the postseason.”

As the 2021 Texas high school football season comes to an end for the Cubs, Caniford and his coaching staff will be saying goodbye to 12 seniors.

 “I’m really proud of this group of seniors,” Caniford said. “They never gave up on their team and came to work every day ready to get better. They were truly a pleasure to coach every day. I think this group is going to be very successful in life because of their positive attitude and work ethic, and I can’t wait to see them continue to grow.

“The true measure of the work that coaches do isn’t revealed on the field of play. It’s revealed 10 years from now when these young men become husbands and fathers. And I think this is going to be a really special group.”

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

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