Defense Leads Clarence To Blowout Win at N-W
Generally when a football team puts 40 points on the scoreboard, it’s an indicator that the offense stole the show. That wasn’t quite the case for Clarence High School on Saturday afternoon.
In fact the Red Devils defense was largely responsible for both sides of the scoreboard in a 40-0 Class AA North victory over Niagara-Wheatfield.
The Red Devils forced six turnovers that led to 34 points and posted a shutout for the second straight week.
“I can’t thank my defense enough,” sophomore quarterback Jack Putney said. “They put us in a great spot every time. When you go out there and you only have 40 yards to go, it makes it nice.”
Junior Jack Shaver returned an interception 56 yards for a Clarence touchdown and the Red Devils recovered four fumbles in Niagara-Wheatfield territory, setting things up for the offense, which turned all four of those opportunities into touchdowns.
“It’s about these kids and the effort they put in,” Clarence coach Mark Layer said. “They’re talented, they work hard and they do what you ask them to do. We executed well defensively and did what we wanted to do and offensively, we bounced from the spread to the double-wing and I thought both offenses gave us some options.”
Four different Red Devils found the end zone in the rout. Jake Reger collected a pair of 5-yard touchdown runs, Niko Mullen ran one in from 12 yards away and Jon Stevens had a touchdown rushing and another receiving.
In all, seven different ball carriers combined for 161 yards on the ground.
“We all love getting the ball but it’s all about getting the team into the end zone,” said junior Brandon Cimerman, who ran for 34 yards. “We have a lot of threats here that can do a lot of things.”
Putney was 5-for-11 for 111 yards, the vast majority of those coming on the final drive of the half. The Red Devils took over with 45 seconds left in their own territory, but Putney led a quick drive down the field and hit Jon Stevens for a 22 yard TD with 7.6 seconds left in the half that gave the Red Devils a 21-0 lead entering the lockerroom.
“We’re a no-huddle team when we want to be,” Layer said. “We practice no-huddle and that’s how we work in practice so when we get into those situations, the kids are used to it.”
The game was sealed early in the third when Shaver intercepted a deflected pass and found some space down the left sideline for the back-breaking TD.
“I looked and it was tipped right to me,” Shaver said. “Then I saw the open field and just ran behind my blockers. Everyone contributed. I can’t say enough about my teammates. They work their butts off and do everything they can.
For Niagara-Wheatfield (1-1 overall, 0-1 in Class AA North), running back K.J. Welch was the star, collecting 147 yards on 20 carries. The Falcons reached the red zone twice, but stalled both times. Late in the first quarter, N-W had a first-and-goal at the Clarence 10 but on fourth down, Welch was stopped short by a host of Red Devils, led by Sean Kloss and Zack Frey.
The Falcons’ final drive ended when Noah Corry intercepted a pass in the end zone.
The win moved Clarence to 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the league. It’s a good start to a season-opening four-game road trip before the new field debuts in Week 5.
“We’re OK going on the road to play,” Layer said. “We’re excited to get back home and play when we get the chance because we have something beautiful waiting for us. But we’ll handle this business for now.”