Redskins finish runners-up at state
It appeared as if the entire town of Clinton was in Ford Field on Friday, Nov. 29, to watch their varsity football team face the defending division 6 football champions and each and everyone cheered all the way to the end, despite their boys falling 41-22 to the four-time consecutive title holding Yellowjackets.
Clinton fought back from a deficit two times to take the lead from Ithaca but playing both sides of the ball proved costly for the Redskins as they wore out in the second half and couldn’t respond to three Yellowjacket touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters.
“We battled the champs for two and a half quarters,” said Clinton head coach Scott McNitt in the post game press conference. “We knew we’d have to play a perfect game and have a few things go wrong for them. And we did what we could but in the end their defensive line, in my opinion, controlled our offensive front and we were running for our lives a little bit.”
Ithaca scored on its opening offensive drive and stopped Clinton dead in its tracks by intercepting TJ Baker’s second pass attempt of the game just over a minute later and returning it 30-yards to the end zone. Following a good point after touchdown (PAT) kick the Redskins were down 14-0 just 3:21 into the game.
But the Redskins came back to tie the contest with some dramatic action of their own. Clinton put together a five-play drive that concluded in the end zone with Collin Poore rushing 18-yards for a touchdown and Jared Sackett passing to Brett Tschirhart for a good two-point conversion.
Matthew Sexton had Clinton’s fans on their feet when returning a Yellowjacket punt 86-yards to tie the game 14-14 for the Redskins. A good PAT kick by Gannon Nelson gave Clinton its first lead (15-14) of the state final with 49 seconds left in the opening quarter.
The Yellowjackets responded with another touchdown in the second quarter with quarterback Travis Smith passing five yards to Eli Villalobos. Alex Vanderploeg centered the ball on the following PAT and the Yellowjackets held a 21-15 lead with 4:13 left in the first half.
The Redskins received the ball to open the second half and five plays later hit the end zone. Poore capped off the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run and Nelson added another point on the PAT kick for a 22-21 Clinton lead.
It was the last point the Redskins would score.
Ithaca went on to score twice in the third quarter with Smith passing 14-yards to Josh Hafner for a touchdown and 21-yards to Logan Hessbrook for another. Vanderploeg added a point on a PAT kick but failed on a two-point conversion pass attempt and the Yellowjackets were sitting on a 34-22 lead with 6:17 remaining in the third quarter.
The Yellowjackets scored their final touchdown in the fourth quarter (5:21) with Smith carrying the ball into the end zone on a 10-yard run. Vanderploeg scored the game’s final point on a good PAT kick to follow.
“I couldn’t be more proud of a group of young men who overcame a lot of adversity to make it to the state finals, it’s unheard of from where we come from” McNitt said. “Ithaca is a great football team and it was an honor to play them.”
Despite just recording his fourth consecutive state title victory, Ithaca head coach Terry Hessbrook was subdued in his post game interview stating, “Very entertaining game I’ve got to believe from a fan’s perspective. They gave us everything we expected. They’re every bit as good as advertised. Coming into this game we were very, very concerned about their team speed. We were very concerned about their athleticism that they had on the perimeter and how well they matched up with us. I think everything that we were concerned about came true in that first half... We’re very fortunate and very, very happy to be sitting on our fifty-sixth win in a row and our fourth straight championship.”