By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
TIFFIN– The Fort Madison Bloodhounds sniffed around for a victory and a chance to spoil homecoming for the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Clippers Friday, Sept. 27. Instead, they were sent to the pound as the Clippers played dogcatcher with a 28-8 victory. The win improved the Clippers to 2-3 overall (0-2 in Class 3A District 6) with the regular season half-over.
Tanner Bandy, in at quarterback, got the party started for the Clippers with a 42-yard keeper good for a touchdown in the first quarter. Jon Jacobson kicked the ball down Main Street for a 7-0 lead. Bandy’s scamper came on the first play of a drive that started thanks to a Bloodhound fumble.
John Nzombo recovered another Fort Madison fumble in the second quarter. Nzombo scored the first of two touchdowns with his own 43-yard yard run, which Jacobson added to that with another on-target kick for a 14-0 lead with 10:31 remaining in the half.
The Clippers capitalized on another Bloodhound mess on the carpet mere seconds later when Javon Manard intercepted a Fort Madison pass and took off downfield for 34 yards and a CCA touchdown. Jacobson again hit his mark and the Clippers loved their 21-0 lead.
The Bloodhounds gave CCA two more homecoming night gifts in the form of passes picked-off by the Clippers in the closing minutes of the first half, the second of which was snagged one-handed by Keyan McAreavy. However, the closest the boys in blue came to scoring was a field goal attempt with 3:42 left in the half. This time though, Jacobson’s kick nailed an upright dead-on and the 21-0 lead held through halftime.
The third quarter bogged down into a scoreless quagmire for both squads and ended with the Clippers in possession. Nzombo ran 1 yard to score with 9:31 left in the fourth quarter, and Jacobson’s good kick made it 28-0. Robby Swails relieved Bandy at quarterback for the final five minutes as the Clippers made substitutions.
The Bloodhounds finally found the end zone in the final minute, rushing for a touchdown. A successful two-point conversion with 32-seconds remaining made it 28-8. With the win, the Clippers ran out to the bell from the USS King and rang it with great vigor.
“The kids finally came out and played relaxed,” coach Matt Hughes said after the game. “They played in the first half, and we haven’t seen that all season. They came out and they just did what they had to do.” Hughes added, “they’re just tired of being pushed around.” The coach said the effort came on the heels of a great week of practice. “It was by far the best week of practice we’ve had all year. We took it back to the basics and fundamentals of blocking and tackles, and they played hard all week. You don’t just turn it on Friday night, it takes a full week of effort and those guys practiced like champions and they played like champions.”
Looking at the second half of the season, Hughes sees no lightweights on the Clipper schedule. “I like our chances if we come out and play like we did tonight, we can play with anybody, I believe.” Hughes pointed to the youngness of his squad, saying “a lot of these kids, it’s their first time playing varsity.” They’ve had to grow up and become veterans quickly, he noted. “And they’re responding. They’ve just come out everyday and gotten better.”
As for the bell, Hughes was taken a bit by surprise. “I was like, ‘where’s everybody going?’ and they said, ‘we’re ringing the bell!’ I mean, I knew about it, we just haven’t had a chance to ring it at home, so this is the first time.” The coach added, “it’s a great tradition and something we obviously want to build on.”
Hughes reiterated how his staff and he are working to establish a program full of character and class, “and doing things the right way, and the kids are buying-in, so I couldn’t be more happy for them.”
Friday, Oct. 4, the Clippers travel to DeWitt to face the Sabers and coach Mike Miller, brother of Solon coach Kevin Miller. “I’ve known him for a long time as a friend and I know he’s done a great job of building a program over there, and it’s going to be tough for our guys. It’s their homecoming, there’s a lot of things stacked against us, but we’re a pretty tight family so we’re going to stick together and give it everything we’ve got.”