SHEFFIELD TWP. — Sometimes the toughest lessons yield the best results.
Clearview finished the 2013 season in rough fashion, losing three of its last four games to finish with a 4-6 record — the first time in coach Mike Collier’s tenure that the Clippers finished below .500.
This year’s team has learned from last year’s mistakes and is ready to return to prominence in what is expected to be a wide-open Patriot Athletic Conference Stripes Division.
“This year’s senior class is a really close-knit group,” senior quarterback Roger Engle said. “We work hard to try to get the younger guys in the mix. We learned last year that if you want to win conference or think about going to the playoffs, you need to bond as a team.”
Engle, who has been the Clearview quarterback since midway through his freshman year, put up big numbers as a junior, throwing for 2,655 yards and 27 touchdowns while completing over 62 percent of his passes. He also ran for four touchdowns.
Collier said Engle’s experience could help take the Clearview offence to new levels in 2014.
“Having Roger back there as a four-year starter is like having another coach on the field,” Collier said. “He knows exactly what the coaching staff wants, usually before we ever tell him we want it. He’s a great leader, a great field general.”
Engle and junior wide receiver Lance Billings promise to give Clearview one of the league’s top aerial attacks, but Collier hopes that the Clippers offense will be more balanced after passing the ball 59 percent of the time last season.
“We hope to be a little more balanced. But that depends week to week on the opponent and what they are giving us,” Collier said. “Our offensive line has worked hard to become a better gelled group. They will determine how well we will be able to run the ball, protect Roger and how explosive our offense will be.”
Billings was also the Clippers’ top defensive back last year, intercepting six passes.
Engle sees a new energy among his teammates this season, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“Practices have been more intense and the defense has really been getting after it,” he said. “The defense is really battling on every play. I’m so excited for the season to start. It really needs to get here already.”
The defensive side of the ball was Clearview’s Achilles’ heel last season. The Clippers allowed 49 or more points three times in seven PAC games. The return of senior linebacker Luke Krasienko along with a group of four sophomore — Jamel Billings, Jacob Collier, Deari Todd and Dakota Stout — which Collier calls his “super sophs,” has the team excited going into the new season.
“I feel like the defense looks real good right now,” Krasienko said. “We have young guys who worked exceptionally hard in the offseason to help us get to where we are now. I know we still have a lot of room for improvement.”
Clearview has a chance to get off to a quick start with non-conference games against Vermilion, Open Door and Cleveland Rhodes — teams that went a combined 7-20 in 2013.
With just four returning starters on offense and three on defense, the Clippers will not only need to win those games for valuable computer points but also to get the younger players ready for league play.
“The disappointment of going to the postseason two years ago and then not doing our best last year makes everybody in this locker room anxious to get after it from Day 1 and succeed,” Krasienko said. “Everybody’s stepping up because they don’t want to have disappointment again. We’re still angry about last year. This year we want to have a good record and end the season on a happy note.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONFERENCE: Patriot Athletic Conference, Stripes Division
2013 RECORD: 4-6 (2-5)
COACH: Mike Collier, eighth year (46-26)
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 15
RETURNING STARTERS: 11
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 15
LAST TIME IN PLAYOFFS: 2012
NUMBERS GAME: 2,655. Senior quarterback Roger Engle passing yardage in 2013
PLAYER TO WATCH: Junior wide receiver/defensive back Lance Billings. Billings led the Clippers defense in interceptions last year with six and will also assume main receiver duties as well this season.
Aug. 29 Vermilion
Sept. 5 at Open Door
Sept. 13 at Rhodes (noon)
Sept. 19 Keystone*
Sept. 26 at Black River*
Oct. 3 Brooklyn*
Oct. 10 Fairview*
Oct. 17 at Oberlin*
Oct. 24 at Lutheran West*
Oct. 31 Columbia*
All games at 7 p.m. unless noted
* Patriot Athletic Conference game