Clearview has been hanging its hat on defense all season. Now, after getting by one explosive offense in the playoffs, it will have its hands full with another.
But the Clippers know these guys … all too well.
The Clippers have allowed only 13.2 points a game — with only two teams scoring more than 20 against them. They’ve also held five teams to less than 10 points.
They’ll need to keep up that high level of play Saturday at Wooster High School when they take on Clear Fork, once again the top seed in Division IV, Region 14, and the team that eliminated them 44-0 in last year’s opening round.
“It’s a big motivator,” linebacker David Renftle said. “We took that big loss, so we want to go down there and win the game. It taught us to go into this game a lot harder.”
The Clippers are coming off a strong performance in their quarterfinal victory against Marengo Highland — a team that entered the postseason averaging 42.7 points per game. The Scots were held to under 30 points only once before playing the Clippers and that was during their only other loss of the season. But after that, they put up 40 or more in seven of their next nine games, with a low of 36.
Highland then scored 16 points in the first half against Clearview, but the Clippers shut the Scots out the rest of the way while rattling off 22 unanswered points for the win.
“It’s been like that for us all year long,” Clearview coach Mike Collier said. “Our defense responded well. They’ve been put in some tough situations at times. I think this team is special because we just pick each other up. Our kids just respond well. They never get too down and they battle adversity.”
Part of that success stemmed from limiting the Scots rushing attack. While Highland piled up 154 rushing yards for the game, it had just 56 in the second half.
Renftle and fellow inside linebacker Avrey Cruz are a big reason why teams struggle to run against the Clippers. Cruz described Renftle as a special player who brings an energy that’s almost unmatched in high school football. He’s the emotional leader, always making sure everyone’s motor is going. Cruz is the quarterback of the defense. Collier said he calls the plays and is an intelligent player.
The front seven will have to stay disciplined against Colts running back Trevon Trammell, who has rushed for 1,051 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“I know he’s going to have my back every play,” Renftle said of Cruz. “We have great chemistry, even way better than last year. I know that he’s going to take care of his business, especially in the running game. If that running back is cutting, I can trust him to make sure he fills his gap. I know he’s going to be there for me.”
Both linebackers praised their defensive line as being critical to their success. That unit is led by defensive ends C.J. Fleming and Julian Colbert, who have combined for 12 sacks with Fleming racking up nine.
They’ll be key against Clear Fork, which has two quarterbacks who have thrown for 1,000 yards, while combining for 23 touchdown passes and completing 60 percent of their throws with just four interceptions.
“Both of our ends do their job,” Cruz said. “It’s all about trust, all about communication. As long as they do their job, everyone else will be able to do their job. I’m not going to lie, our defensive line has gone out and had some field days against some teams. They want to get out there and get the job done.”
Collier said the teams are different from the last meeting, particularly Clearview now that it’s qualified for the postseason in two straight seasons and advanced for the first time in 15 years.
Clear Fork may have lost some playmakers from last year’s team, but it’s still cranking out points at a machine-like pace — scoring 40 in all but two of its 11 games.
Its defense isn’t too shabby either, allowing more than 14 points only once.
“We’re just sticking to our own game plan,” Cruz said. “We’re not going to play any different or to anyone else’s level. We’re just tuning up ourselves and focusing on making each other better.”
Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or email@example.com and follow him @CSweeneyCT on Twitter.