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Clarence Begins Season With Aim to Reach the Next Level

Clarence came into the new season with the simple motto “Next Level.”

If they hope to get to the competitive level of Class AA powerhouse teams like Lancaster and Orchard Park they will have to take their game to the next level.

So far things are looking good.

Jonathan Stevens had three touchdowns as the Red Devils beat Kenmore West, 42-14, in their Section VI non-league match up at Crosby Field on Saturday.

“I think it went well,” Stevens said. “A lot of new guys stepped up. When guys got tired new guys stepped up. They came in right off the bench and fit in. Our depth is good and we’re going to keep continuing to get better. From our starters to our bench players.”

What head coach Paul Burgio liked the best was the way his team came back from adversity. From the extreme heat to the Blue Devils striking for a couple of quick touchdowns to take a 14-7 lead, the Red Devils never lost composure.

“Last year in those situations we were our own (worst) enemy, when we faced adversity and we really talked about we’re gonna play good football teams that are gonna make plays on us. How are we gonna respond after that?” Burgio said. “I’m most happy because we came out. Big kick off return score on one play, everyone’s fired up and boom two plays later they’re in the end zone. Last year we would have folded there. This year we just stayed the course and you saw that we met that challenge.”

Clarence drew first blood when Jack Putney (104 yards passing) connected on a 20 yard TD pass. The play was set up thanks to a 56 yard kick return by Cole Harris. Putney, who rushed for 66 yards, had a TD on the ground that put his team up 36-14.

The Blue Devils would take the lead thanks to back-to-back touchdowns. Zac Boyes hit Joe Stewart (70 yards rushing) on a 41 yard screen pass. Boyes also added a 45 yard TD run and hauled in the pass from Joe Stewart on the two point conversion for the lead.

The Red Devils took a 29-14 lead into halftime courtesy of three short yardage touchdown runs by Mason Davis  (one yard), Zach Norton (seven yards) and Stevens who scored the first of his two rushing TDs from 1-yard out. Stevens (97 yards receiving/30 rushing) would also cap off his team’s scoring with an 18 yard scamper in the fourth.

Stevens agreed that, on this day, when clutch time came the Red Devils were up to the challenge. They didn’t panic. They played their game and set the tone.

“We weren’t really worried,” Stevens said. “We were confident in what we were running and confident in the defense. We knew that we could comeback and get a win.”

Burgio also believed that team depth was key. With 50 players suiting up Clarence was able to rotatate more guys into the game, thus staying fresher.

As the second half wore on the fatigue factor set in for the Blue Devils as the combination of being outnumbered in extreme heat took its toll. But head coach John Haynes said execution on defense, particularly tackling, hampered their efforts all game.

“Execution wise, and again I want to watch game film,” said Haynes. “I felt we were in the right spots, especially on defense. The problem is we didn’t tackle. We didn’t finish. That’s been one of our mottos and we just didn’t finish.”

Quentin Burke led the Clarence defense with three tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.

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