Weekly Feature

2017-10-11 / Sports

Gridders top Falcons for Homecoming win


Brendan Cimerman, middle, blocks for Jacob Reger as he runs for 11 yards to set up a third Clarence touchdown late in the first quarter during the Red Devils’ 42-29 Homecoming Game triumph over Niagara Wheatfield on Friday. 
Photo by James SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Brendan Cimerman, middle, blocks for Jacob Reger as he runs for 11 yards to set up a third Clarence touchdown late in the first quarter during the Red Devils’ 42-29 Homecoming Game triumph over Niagara Wheatfield on Friday. Photo by James SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com The value of putting together what coach Paul Burgio called “our best week of practice” was apparent to all in attendance at Friday’s Homecoming football game, as the Red Devils were able to take down Niagara Wheatfield, 42-29, in a crucial Class AA contest.

Both teams were on as close to an even plane as possible where offensive production was concerned, with each gaining 416 yards of offense. The Red Devils had the advantage in first downs, 15-14, and in passing yards, 186-142, but Wheatfield finished with more total plays, 55-52, and yard rushing, 274-230.

The most important metric, however, went in Clarence’s favor, thanks in part to a 21-point outburst in the first quarter that gave the Red Devils the cushion they would need in an otherwise back-and-forth battle.

“We had everything going for us on Friday night, which led to a good team win that featured contributions from a lot of players,” Burgio said. “It was our best week of practice and our best game performance because of it, and it was just nice to see us finally play fast, physical and complete football.”

Jacob Reger was instrumental in pushing Clarence to its early advantage, scoring on drive-capping runs of 6 and 3 yards, respectively. Jack Putney, who led the ground attack with 126 yards on

12 carries, also completed a

28-yard scoring strike to Jon

Stevens for his first of three touchdown throws of the game.

Clarence’s second and third touchdowns were made easier by the fact that the Red Devils recovered a pair of onside kicks to start each drive on the Falcons’ side of the field.

“We noticed right away that their front five were bailing out on the kick, so we called an audible after our first score — we waited until they lined up, looked at their spacing and figured we’d have a shot — and lobbed the ball in the right spot to get it the first time. The second time we just squibbed it and got it. It was a huge special teams night for sure and definitely played a role in our fast start. Having that success in the kick game let me be aggressive with our play calling.” Burgio said.

After the Falcons finally got on the scoreboard before the end of the first quarter, Niagara Wheatfield and Clarence would wind up answering one another’s scoring drives to close out the game, reinforcing the importance of Clarence’s strong start to the contest.

“Every week we tell our kids that we have to have a fast start because when we do, we win — and when we come out flat, we fall behind,” Burgio said. “This week was our first time since the first game of the year that we had all five of our starting offensive linemen together — Marcus Wardour was back at left tackle for us this week — and having them all back and practicing together for the first time in a long time, you could see the difference it made in our offensive production.

“The line definitely helped Jack dominate the first half and be a huge weapon for us all night in general,” Burgio continued. “When he broke into the open field, he shook kids and made other moves that allowed him to finish his runs. It was like the perfect storm where we finally had everything going for us offensively.”

Clarence added to its advantage in the second quarter with a 25-yard pass from Putney to Stevens that gave the Red Devils a 28-14 lead heading into the second half. The Red Devils opened the scoring in the third quarter, bumping their lead up to 35-14 on Brendan Cimerman’s 40-yard run, and then closed out the contest with a 23-yard run by Putney in the final frame.

“We just tried to run out the clock towards the end because it was certainly a slugfest kind of game, and they were able to hang with us outside of the first quart er,” Burgio said. “We had a lot of trouble containing their quarterback when he ran the ball.”

Reger added 35 yards on nine carries to complement Putney’s effort in the ground attack. Putney also finished the night 9-of-15 through the air for 186 yards, with Stevens snaring six of those passes for 132 yards. Noah Corry also had multiple receptions, gaining 37 yards on his two catches.

Defensively, Collin O’Brien had 11 total tackles to guide Clarence, while Quinten Burke added nine. Reger, Dillon Tharp and Yianni Hallios each added five tackles, while Stevens chipped in with three tackles and a pair of interceptions.

The Red Devils (3-3, 3-2 AA North) close out their regular season Friday night by traveling to Riverside to face Hutch-Tech (2-4, 2-3 AA North). A win would all but guarantee a home playoff game for Clarence in the upcoming Federation playoffs, and Burgio is confident that his players know the stakes and will respond accordingly come game time.

“We feel that if we got a good call in the Bennett game to win it on the two-point conversion, we’re winning three games in a row right now instead of two of our last three,” Burgio said. “We feel like our play is rising now, but at the same time we have to finish this week strong. Hutch-Tech has to win to get into the playoffs, so we know we’ll get their best.

“We’ve really got to have the exact same week of practice that we did this week,” Burgio continued. “We need to get back to our conditioning and technique work. We haven’t won on the road all year, so we have to do it now. It’s going to be tough because they’ve held their opponents to the lowest points against in our league. Their defense really concerns me, but if we make sure we’re holding onto the ball we’ll give ourselves a fighting chance for sure.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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