Braeden Smith run

While every team goes into a football game hoping for a victory, when you’re widely the underdog, it comes down to staying healthy, upping your skills and looking for little victories.

And the Clipper varsity boys had a few of them on Thursday during their 40-14 loss to visiting Mayer Lutheran, ranked fourth in the state in Class A. They also got an example of what it takes to compete at a high level.

“They learned what it is like to play at full speed against a team that is big and fast and strong,” said head coach Erik Hermanson. “This is what kind of football we have to play in order to be competitive, and they saw that, and as the game went on, they adapted to it. It was our best defensive game of the year. If we played like that since the start of the season, we’d have three wins right now because we had so many mental mistakes before. Tonight we were in the right spots, but the opponent was so much bigger and faster, and that shows the progress we made.”  

The offense is improving too, Hermanson said.

“We can do 100 more things. That shows how we work in practice and how we retain stuff. Most of these guys are coming back next year, and it’s going to continue to stack, and they will improve.”

Trailing 34-0, the Clippers scored late in the third quarter. Caleb Possin ran for 6 yards and then 40 yards, and Blake Lyons hooked up with his brother Carson Lyons for 20 more before the siblings connected again for a 28-yard touchdown pass. Possin’s PAT kick was good.

The Clippers tried an onside kick. Mayer grabbed it though, but the Clippers forced a punt. They moved the ball well in their following possession, but Possin’s field goal kick was just short of the cross bar.

The Knights took over on their 20 but went three and out. After Kale Kelley returned the punt to the Mayer 38, he hauled in an 8-yard Lyons pass. Possin ran for a net 4 yards before the Lyons brothers connected for a 26-yard touchdown pass. With the Possin kick, the Clippers trailed by 20 with 5:31 left in the game.

Mayer still had one touchdown left in them though. The Clippers halted the PAT run though for the 40-14 final.   

The Clippers were three and out after the opening kickoff while the Knights, scored on a 62-yard drive after the punt return. It included a 53-yard run to the Cleveland 10 and then scored from 3 yards out. With the PAT kick, Mayer went in front 7-0 with 6:14 left in Q1.

After another Clipper three and out, the Knights, with the ball on the Cleveland 19 ran three times before a 9-yard TD pass. With the PAT kick, they led 14-0 at the 4:20 mark.

With a 36-yard Blake Lyons-to-Tanner Simonette screen pass, the Clippers moved the ball down to the Mayer 47 after the kickoff, but penalties and a sac put an end to the drive, and, after a 54-yard run to the Cleveland 3, Mayer scored again with 32 seconds left in the first frame. The PAT kick was off target, but the Knights still led 20-0.

Mayer held the Clippers to minus 4 yards after the kickoff, but the Clipper defense, getting stronger, kept the Knights in check on the ensuing series and took over on downs.

After a 7-yard loss in three plays, the Clippers punted again, but Braeden Smith grabbed a Knight fumble and took it back to the Mayer 38. But besides a 15-yard gain on a facemask call, the Clippers didn’t get much going. Mayer picked off a Lyons pass at the Cleveland 2, but time ran out in the half before they could do more damage.

A little victory was the Clippers kept Mayer off the scoreboard in the second quarter.

The Knights scored again after the second-half kickoff though with the TD coming on a 44-yard run. The PAT kick that followed put them in front 27-0. Mayer held the Clippers to negative 13 yards on their next possession, 10 from a holding penalty, and then scored again on a 43-yard drive with the touchdown coming on a 1-yard dive. With the point-after boot, the were up 34-0.

“The first half was a little rough, but in the second half we came out really well, I think,” said Brady Bostic, who plays nose guard and linebacker on defense and lineman on offense and is one of three active seniors on the team. “I think everyone was scared at the start because they are a bigger and a school with more players.”

Bostic agrees with Hermanson that the team is improving.

“Obviously not win-wise, but I think we’re getting better every game. I’m having fun. I like the energy and getting in on the plays.”

Blake Lyons completed 17 of 36 pass attempts for 176 yards and a pair of TDs. He got intercepted once. Carson Lyons caught four of his brother’s tosses for 81 total yards and the two TDs. Simonette and Possin each had one catch for 36 yards. Kelley had six catches for 17 total yards. Smith hauled in three catches for a total of a dozen yards.

As a team, the Clippers only gained a net 12 yards on the ground. Possin ran the ball eight times for 19 yards.

Possin punted three times for a total of 81 yards. His longest was 35 yards.

Gabe Sullivan had five solo tackles and five assists and forced a fumble.  Bostic had four solo tackles and five assists. Ian Vlasak had two solo tackles and five assists.

Blake Lyons had two solos and three assists. Alex Johnson had two solos and two assists. Kelley had three solos and one assist.

Simonette had two solos and four assists. Smith had two solos and two assists with one tackle behind the line. He also recovered a fumble. Mason Kluntz had four solos and four assists.

Possin had one solo and one assist. Noah Hermel and Carson Lyons each had two solos and one assist. Gavin Karels had two solos and three assists. Sam Ternes made two solo tackles. Garrett Heldberg had one assist.

The Clippers take on host Randolf on Friday. While Cleveland used to play the Rockets back in the nine-man days, this year they are one of five 2A schools on the Clipper schedule. The Rockets lost to NYA 42-7 last week.

Elsewhere in the district, Medford lost 29-0 to host USC, WEM lost 14-6 to host JWP, GFW beat visiting Lester Prairie 32-18, and NRHEG fell to visiting St. Clair/Loyola 17-0.

Above: Braeden Smith on the catch and run.

Running back Caleb Possin faces a Mayer Lutheran defender.

Brady Bostic tries to strip the ball from a Knight runner.

Freshman Sam Ternes gets tackled after a catch.

The Knights break up a Blake Lyons pass to Tanner Simonette.

Kale Kelley returns a kickoff.

Carson Lyons was interfered with as he went up to grab this pass.

QB Blake Lyons coils for a throw.