Earning a win-and-in opportunity in the District 13-3A, DII finale at Florence Thursday, the Clifton Cubs dominate the Elkhart Elks, 49-14, to take control of their postseason destiny
CLIFTON – Facing a do-or-die situation, the Clifton Cubs finally got a victory when they needed it the most. And in the process, the Cubs earned the right to play a win-and-in opportunity for a playoff berth in the final regular season game of the 2022 Texas high school football campaign.
With all phases of the game coming together Friday night, the Cubs became a force to be reckoned with against Elkhart, scoring early and often, coming up with big plays on special teams, and playing shutdown defense on their way to a dominating 49-14 victory in a crucial District 13-3A, Division II showdown at Cub Stadium.
“I’m so proud of our staff and kids,” Clifton first-year head coach Brent Finney said. “They have continued to work hard and stay positive to put us in this position. We knew going into this game we had to win to give us a chance in week 10. Now we have to go out and do it one more time at Florence Thursday.”
This week, the Cubs (1-3 in district, 2-7 overall) play their regular season finale on the road against the Florence Eagles, rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday to avoid expected inclement weather Friday, with control of their own playoff destiny. Riding a six-game losing streak, the Eagles (0-4, 1-7) will be coming off a 48-0 loss to Buffalo, the third time Florence has been shut out in four district games.
“Florence does some things offensively that will require us to be disciplined and play assignment football,” Finney said. “They have some big guys on both sides of the ball, so we must build off of last week. We need to continue to get better at staying ahead of the chains and controlling the line of scrimmage.”
Against Elkhart (1-3, 2-7), the Cubs pounded the ball on the ground for 360 yards, but featured a balanced attack with an extremely efficient passing game in wet conditions. Junior fullback Riley Finney enjoyed a huge night scoring four touchdowns and rushing for a season-high 217 yards, while senior quarterback Trent Guinn returned from an injury to complete five of seven passes for 104 yards, including a scoring strike to junior wide receiver Andres Devora. Junior running back Parker Tunnell added 84 yards rushing on a team-high 21 carries.
“All week long, we focused on the weather and conditions being an ally not a distraction,” Finney said. “We knew we were going to need to pound the ball on the ground, and the offensive line did a great job blocking for our backs all night. We were very efficient at converting through the air when we needed it.”
On the game’s opening kickoff, the Cubs pooched kicked and Elkhart misplayed the ball, allowing senior Mason Williams to recover the fumble. Clifton promptly embarked on a scoring drive, culminating with Finney’s one-yard touchdown dive.
With the Clifton special teams providing game-changing plays, the Cub defense allowed Elkhart very little room to maneuver, forcing two turnovers and sacking the quarterback twice while allowing only 220 total yards of offense. Sophomore quarterback Trystyn Todrow passed for 102 yards and two touchdowns while senior running back rushed for 110 yards in the losing effort.
“Special teams did a great job all night, kickoff team especially,” Finney said. “The defense held Elkhart by keeping their big play guys in check most of the night.”
Defensively, senior Larrett Thomas led Clifton with seven tackles, followed by senior Peyten Urbanovsky with six tackles and a sack, Finney with six takedowns and an interception, along with seniors Carter Tunnell and AJ Lingo with five tackles each.
Clicking on all phases of the game allowed the Cubs to control the game from the opening kickoff. And by recovering the muffed kickoff in the first seconds of the game allowed Clifton to seize momentum and never relinquish it.
“Recovering the opening kickoff and being able to score was huge,” Finney said. “But we were even more happy with the way the guys overcame a couple early penalties and missed big play opportunities, then continued to grind and fight and keep the momentum.”
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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