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Spoiling homecoming celebration, Class 3A, DII Clifton Cubs lose nail biter to Millsap, head into open week before district play

CLIFTON – Proving to be a strong second half team for the fifth consecutive game, the Class 3A, Division II Clifton Cubs fought back to make it a game in the fourth quarter. But for the fourth straight time, it proved to be too little, too late.

Playing in their final non-district tune-up of the 2022 Texas high school football season, the Cub rally came up short in the final moments of the game as the Millsap Bulldogs hung on for an exciting 30-22 victory to spoil homecoming night last Friday at Cub Stadium.

Senior running back Ryder Oliver ran for 240 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs (3-2) as Millsap piled up 419 yards of total offense to control the game before the Cubs (1-4) mounted their late never-say-die rally.

“Obviously, we are never happy with a loss,” Clifton first-year head coach Brent Finney said. “But our kids continue to fight until the finish and play through adversity.”

Trailing 30-14 in the fourth quarter, the Cubs defense stopped the Bulldogs short on a fourth down and one situation to take over at their own 28-yard line. Clifton mounted a grinding 12-play, 72-yard scoring march as senior AJ Lingo took the end around into the corner of the end zone from three yards out for the touchdown. Senior fullback Riley Finney powered his way up the middle for the all-important two-point conversion to make it a one-score game as the Cubs trailed 30-22 with 9:10 remaining.

Responding to the opportunity, the Cub defense held Millsap on downs to get the ball back. Finney led Clifton with 13 tackles, followed by senior Carter Tunnell with 11, senior Larrett Thomas with 10, senior Peyten Urbanovsky with seven and senior Mason Williams with a fumble recovery.

“We held up pretty good against Millsap’s size most of the night,” Finney said. “But there were a couple plays where they just got a body on everyone and hit a couple big plays.”

With the ball in a one-score game and a chance to tie the game to force overtime, Clifton took over on its own 30-yard line. Converting a fourth down situation and moving into Bulldog territory, Millsap shut down the threat with an interception on a trick play.

Earlier in the game, the Cub defense provided the offensive unit the ball in good field position several times. But twice, Clifton could not convert in fourth down deep in Bulldog territory as Millsap limited the Cubs to 181 yards of total offense. Finney ran for two touchdowns while leading Clifton with 64 hard-earned rushing yards on 18 carries.

“Offensively, we had a hard time moving them up front consistently,” Finney said. “We came up short a couple times on fourth down conversions. Those are always possible momentum shifting plays.”

This week, the Cubs will have an open week before opening District 13-3A, DII play Oct. 7 at Rogers. After opening the season with three straight wins, the Eagles (3-2) have dropped back-to-back decisions on the road to Palmer, 36-23, and Johnson City, 23-20. But Rogers will just be the beginning of a tough district battle that includes ninth-ranked Lexington (4-0), Buffalo (2-3), Elkhart (1-4) and Florence (1-3).

“We will focus on ourselves this week and try to fix some things that we have seen over the last few weeks,” Finney said. “Our non-district schedule has prepared us well for what we will see in district.

“Having a week to rest and heal some kids up to begin working on Rogers is nice with open week being at the beginning of district. Rogers has a good football team, so it will be a tough first district game.”


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