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With District 13-3A, DII’s final playoff berth up for grabs, Clifton Cubs face must-win scenario in home finale against Elkhart to keep postseason hopes alive

CLIFTON – Despite the growing pains experienced along the way during the 2022 Texas high school football season, the Clifton Cubs enter the final two games in control of their own postseason destiny. Coming off a 40-7 loss to District 13-3A, Division II leading and ninth-ranked Lexington, the Cubs find themselves in a must-win scenario in the midst of a seven-game losing streak.

This week, the Cubs (0-3 in district, 1-7 overall) play their regular season home finale by hosting the Elkhart Elks at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Cub Stadium. Snapping a six-game losing streak, the Elks (1-2, 2-6) posted an impressive 64-22 victory over the Florence Eagles last Friday night. 

“Elkhart plays a very aggressive, attacking defense,” Clifton first-year head coach Brent Finney said. “On offense, they have a very dynamic running back and some really quick receivers.”

Last Friday night in Lexington, the Eagles (3-0, 8-0) struck early to take a 14-0 first quarter lead, leaving the Cubs will the difficult task of playing catchup with one of the top 10 teams in the state.

After scoring a second quarter touchdown when sophomore quarterback Joaquin De La Hoya pitched the ball to junior Andres Devora, who connected with junior running back Parker Tunnell for an 66-yard scoring strike, turnovers proved costly. Parker Tunnell led the Cubs with 103 rushing yards on 17 carries, but Clifton turned the ball over six times on four interceptions and two fumbles.

“We were able to move the ball,” Finney said. “But turnovers plagued us, killing many drives.”

In the meantime, Lexington clearly hurt the Cubs with the passing game as freshman quarterback Kase Evans completed 16 of 24 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns, but suffered two interceptions. Senior running back Daylon Washington rushed for 103 yards and two scores as the Eagles rolled up 391 yards of total offense.

“The defense played well, getting sacks and the interceptions,” Finney said. “But we gave them too many extra possessions with the turnovers.”

Junior Riley Finney led the Cubs with 10 tackles, followed by junior Larrett Thomas with six along with senior Carter Tunnell, junior Andres Devora and junior Levi Knox with five each. Junior Ervin Rodriguez and Devora pull down interceptions, while Knox and senior AJ Lingo collected two sacks apiece.

“We did a lot of good things Friday night, but you can’t win many games with six turnovers, especially against a good team like Lexington,” Finney said. “We must build on the positives from the last two games, try to eliminate the mistakes and play our best game of the year Friday night.”

With a clear understanding and vast experience being a part of where the Clifton Cub football program has been in the past, Finney tokok over as athletic director and head coach with his eyes firmly on the future and well as looking to get back into the Class 3A, Division II playoffs for the first time since 2019.

In his 27th year as a high school coach, Finney embraced his first football head coaching and athletic director opportunity at his high school alma mater as he graduated from Clifton High School in 1991 before graduating from Tarleton in 1996.

“Clifton is a very important part of our lives and the lives of our families,” Finney said. “This was a great opportunity to continue to serve the kids of our community and give back to the community that has done so much for us.”

Finney spent eight years at Cameron Yoe before coming back home to Clifton 18 years ago in 2004. And during the last eight seasons under former head coach Chuck Caniford, the Cubs advanced to the playoffs six times, winning three district championships.

In 2020, Clifton stayed home during the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons and watched as all four playoff qualifiers from the district – Franklin, Buffalo, Rogers and Lexington – advanced to Region IV semifinals. Then the Cubs basically experienced a repeat last season facing the same district lineup. In fact, after losing in the 2020 state championship game, Franklin ranked No. 1 from start to finish before claiming the Class 3A, Division II state title in 2021.

Even though the UIL realignment last February produced the departure of Franklin, plenty of familiar and competitive opponents remained in the revamped District 13-3A, DII as Clifton joins a tough lineup of district opponents – Buffalo, Elkhart, Florence, Rogers and Lexington in the six-team league.

“Our district will again be very competitive, but we believe we will be right in the playoff mix,” Finney said before the 2022 season began. “Many of our returners gained valuable experience last year as we had to play many younger guys last season. Lexington and Rogers are going to be the favorites, and they’re perennial playoff teams. But I see us right in the mix of the playoff race.”

Clearly, the season has not played out exactly the way they had hoped. But with a win this week, the Cubs right back into the middle of it.


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