SHEFFIELD TWP. — Even though Clearview is coming off of a 9-2 season, a Patriot Athletic Conference Stripes Division championship and the school’s first playoff appearance since 2012, the Clippers weren’t content to rest on their laurels and celebrate their accomplishments in the offseason.
Instead, the team got right back in the weight room and went to work on making this season even better.
Why are the Clippers so focused and so motivated?
“At Clearview, we get up and we’re eating, drink and sleeping football. This is what it is,” said senior guard/defensive end Brandon Moore. “Even though we made the playoffs last year we weren’t happy with the results. This year we’re trying to go deeper.”
“Last year left us with mixed feelings,” Moore said. “We were happy to make the playoffs, that was our dream. We weren’t happy with what we put on the field once we got there.”
After a Week 1 loss at Amherst, the Clippers rattled off nine straight wins, going undefeated in the PAC for the first time since 2008. The winning streak, and the season, ended with a 44-0 loss to Clear Fork in the opening round of the Division IV, Region 14, playoffs.
That playoff loss has become a motivating force for the Clippers.
“We got a taste of the playoffs, we saw what a winning season feels like,” senior wide receiver/linebacker David Renftle said.
“We want to move on from that and do better this season. Once you get a taste of success you always want more.”
Although Renftle is listed as a wide receiver, he’ll also spend time in the backfield alongside Drew Engle and Fabion Kirkwood as part of a running game that should be among the best in the PAC.
Engle was one of the area’s leading rushers last season with 1,430 yards and 16 touchdowns. In limited action, Kirkwood excited Clippers fans by averaging 11.1 yards per carry.
“If our running game is on, we’re going to be successful,” Clippers coach Mike Collier said.
With 12 returning starters, five on offense and seven on defense, Collier believes he has another team capable of doing big things.
“These guys bring a lot of enthusiasm and they have great chemistry,” Collier said. “We’ve had a couple of high-character classes back-to-back. It’s been really exciting to see them work their tails off and grow together.”
Clearview returns three of its top four tacklers in Renftle and fellows seniors Julian Colbert and Avery Cruz. Colbert also led the Clippers with 4.5 sacks.
“Having a winning season allowed us to build winning habits,” Colbert said. “We had a dominant defense last year and this season I feel like we have more talent and even more team chemistry.”
The Clippers held five opponents to eight or fewer points last year and only allowed more than 20 once in league play.
Now, Clearview is ready to show off the end result of an offseason of hard work under the Friday night lights.
“The expectations are high this year and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Collier said. “These guys have been working really hard. We’ve had a lot of good practices. We expect to hit the ground running. We know we have a tough Week 1 opponent (Amherst) but we think we’re on track to be where we need to be.”
One position the Clippers will have a fresh face is quarterback, where junior Chase Christensen and sophomore Robert Davis have been battling for the starting job. Collier expects both players to play a significant role on the team.
Not only did last year’s taste of success breed a hunger in the current crop of Clippers, it also help created excitement throughout the program and the community that paid dividends with more than 50 players coming out this year.
“Football is a longstanding tradition at Clearview,” Collier said. “A lot of these guys eat, breathe and sleep football. It’s kind of a way of life at Clearview.”
If the Clippers get off to a strong start – and they start the season with four home games — they could be on course for a second consecutive playoff appearance.
Moore said the team isn’t looking ahead to the possibility of November football. Instead it’s taking it day by day.
“Our mindset is to go one game at a time and focus on the next opponent,” Moore said. “Once you start thinking about the future, that’s when problems arise.”
CONFERENCE: Patriot Athletic Conference, Stripes Division
2017 RECORD: 9-2 (7-0)
COACH: Mike Collier, 12th year
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 17
RETURNING STARTERS: 12 (5 offense, 7 defense)
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 16
LAST TIME IN PLAYOFFS: 2017 (Lost in regional quarterfinals)
NUMBERS GAME: 231— the number of yards the Clippers averaged per game on the ground last year.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior Julian Colbert. The 5-10, 195 pound senior center/defensive end had 13 tackles for loss and a team leading 4.5 sacks last year. This year not only will he look to improve on those number but he will also be a key contributor on the offensive line.
Aug. 24 Amherst
Aug. 31 Painesville Harvey
Sept. 7 John Hay
Sept. 14 Wellington
Sept. 21 at Brookside
Sept. 28 at Oberlin*
Oct. 5 Columbia*
Oct. 12 at Fairview*
Oct. 19 Lutheran West*
Oct. 26 at Brooklyn*
* Patriot Athletic Conference Stripes Division game
All games start at 7 p.m.