WOOSTER — Clearview chased top-seeded Clear Fork just about all night with the idea it could win the game and advance in its Division IV, Region 14 semifinal.
It certainly had its chances but in the end, unbeaten Clear Fork was just a bit better in ending the Clippers’ season 26-8 Saturday night at Wooster High School’s Follis Field.
The scoreboard overlooking Clearview’s postgame and season-ending huddle with coach Mike Collier remained lit with the final score but the game was much closer than the final 18-point deficit might indicate.
“They’re obviously a great team,” Collier said of the Colts. “They’re the No. 1 seed for a reason. Our guys were able to adjust like they have all season. They saw that first drive and they kept fighting.”
Clear Fork (12-0) won last year’s first-round game over Clearview 44-0 and the way the game started, it probably figured it would eliminate the Clippers with ease again.
The Colts fell on C.J. Fleming’s opening squib kickoff on their own 32-yard line and went right to work. They picked up two straight first downs on runs, threw an incomplete long pass and rolled up 41 more yards on the ground to set up their first touchdown — a 2-yard run off tackle by Trevon Trammell. Gabe Blauser’s point-after made it 7-0 with only 2:27 gone in the first quarter.
But Clearview (10-2) wasn’t about to roll over. As it’s done all season, the defense — led by Fleming, David Renftle, Joseph Norris, Julian Colbert, Dylan Rebman, Avrey Cruz and Stacey Littlejohn — proved its resiliency and forced Clear Fork into three turnovers and nearly found a way to win.
“We’ve been very opportunistic in creating turnovers all season long,” Collier said. “That’s why we’ve had the success that we’ve had. Just tough kids — mentally, physically — Clearview football players.”
Three times in the first half the defense came up with huge turnovers to stop Clear Fork from extending the lead. The Colts successfully ran a fake punt from midfield, but just two plays later Norris made a spectacular interception inside the 10-yard line to turn away the threat.
On Clear Fork’s next drive, Fleming’s big hit jarred the ball loose and Colbert, who made a number of big plays, fell on it at Clear Fork’s 44 to set up Clearview’s touchdown.
The Clippers closed the margin to 7-6 five plays later — the biggest a 23-yard tipped reception by Renftle at the 17. Chase Christensen then found Colbert with a 16-yard TD pass with 9:27 remaining in the half.
“I knew I had to get the first down on that comeback,” said Renftle of his catch on a third-down play to set up the touchdown. “It’s just sad to see it all end.”
Renftle’s other long play came off a screen in which it appeared he was completely bottled up at the line of scrimmage. However, as he’s done many times before, he shook off the initial hit and ended up with a 38-yard gain that had the Clippers at the doorstep of taking the lead in the second quarter. But a failed fourth down turned the ball over to the Colts at the 15.
Clearview’s Jordan Reed recovered another fumble inside the 10-yard line late in the half to keep the score 7-6. Early in the second half, Fleming picked up a low snap on a punt attempt and turned it into a first down but again the Clippers couldn’t capitalize on the break.
“I saw the lineman coming for me and just took off to the outside and got what I could,” Fleming said. “I just wanted it.”
Clear Fork put together another scoring drive but Colbert blocked the point after to keep the score 13-6. He then blocked a punt that scooted out of the end zone to pull the Clippers to within 13-8 with 10:18 still left in the game.
Again, however, Clear Fork proved its lofty status following the safety. It stopped Clearview on an interception and took control from there, scoring twice to put the game out of reach.
“That was frustrating,” Collier said. “We were hoping to play off that momentum and get one there on a shorter field. We just weren’t able to put it together. Credit to Clear Fork. They have that great defense and they do some things that are very tough.”
Clearview couldn’t generate much offensively. The Clippers were held to 80 yards on the ground. Leading rusher Drew Engle had 40 yards on 11 carries the first half but wound up with just 47 on 16 attempts for the game. He finished his outstanding career with a school-record 4,265 yards.
“We responded very well,” Engle said. “Not putting our heads down. Knowing that we’re still in the ball game. We just couldn’t capitalize on the score.”
Clear Fork outgained Clearview 389-186 and had 21 first downs to just seven for Clearview.
“They’re one of the toughest teams we faced all year,” Engle said. “Credit to them for handling us the way they did.”
“We didn’t lose this season,” Colbert said. “I’ve had a smile on my face the entire time. This season couldn’t have gone any better. We left it all out on the field and we have no regrets.”
Collier knows the loss stings but he’s proud of what the team accomplished.
“They’re the epitome of what Clearview football has always been,” he said. “It’s real hard right now but these are memories they’ll have for the rest of their lives.”
Clear Fork 26, Clearview 8
Clearview 0 6 0 2 — 8
Clear Fork 7 0 6 13 — 26
CF—Trevon Trammell, 2 run (Gabe Blauser kick)
CV—Julian Colbert, 16 pass from Chase Christensen (run failed)
CF—Trammell, 24 pass from Jared Schaefer (kick blocked)
CV—Safety (blocked punt out of end zone)
CF—Schaefer, 10 run (pass failed)
CF—Trammell, 15 run (Blauser kick)
First downs 7 21
— by rushing 5 17
— by passing 2 4
— by penalty 0 0
Yards rushing 80 274
Yards passing 106 115
Total offense 186 389
Passes att./comp. 19/6 11/6
Intercepted by 1 1
Fumbles/lost 2/0 2/2
Penalties/yards 2/10 3/29
RUSHING—(CV) Drew Engle 16-47, David Renftle 5-11, Fabion Kirkwood 2-17, C.J. Fleming 1-9, Chase Christensen 4-(-4). CF—Trevon Trammell 27-213, Jared Schaefer 12-38, Zach Homerick 5-29, Brennan South 3-(-6).
PASSING—(CV) Christensen 4-17-94-1-1, Jaylen Paschel 1-1-6-0-0, Robert Davis 1-1-6-0-0. (CF) Schaefer 6-9-115-1-0, South 0-2-0-0-1.
RECEIVING—(CV) Renftle 4-92, Jordan Reed 1-8, Davis 1-6. (CF) Caden Flynn 2-55, Trammell 2-38, Jay Swainhart 1-20, Homerick 1-2.
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