With a 37 to 0 loss to host state second-ranked Lester Prairie in the first round of the sections on Tuesday, the Clipper football season came to an expected end, but head coach Erik Hermanson and company isn't wasting any time preparing for next year.
“We have our weight program setup already. The summer workout schedule is pretty much set. We’re all ready talking about the depth chart and looking to recruit more players. We need every single person who played this year to go out and then some, and if that is the case, Cleveland-Immanuel Lutheran fans are going to see a huge improvement.”
But despite their 1-8 record, the Clippers have already upped their game a lot this season, Hermanson said. That was a hefty achievement, especially since at the start of the year they thought they might not be able to field a varsity team, at least not all season, and instead focus on JV and junior high.
“It was not in the cards to play every game this year. Eighth graders and ninth graders should not be able to make it through a whole season, but these guys did. It will be something that they talk about when they are older: how they went through these tough times, and it’s going to be worth it.”
After Cleveland punted in the game’s first series, the Bulldogs ran up the middle for a 59-yard touchdown. Cleveland-Immanuel Lutheran stopped the PAT run.
Following the ensuing kickoff, Kale Kelley took a Blake Lyons throw for a 34-yard catch and run for what was the Clipper’s biggest play of the night. They got to the Lester Prairie 36 before the Bulldogs took over possession on downs.
With a 57-yard sprint across the goal line two plays later and the ensuing PAT run, the Bulldogs were suddenly up 14-0.
After the Clippers went three and out, Henry Strobel’s punt rolled all the way to the Lester Prairie 10. The return man ran the punt for 36 yards, but the Clipper defense stepped up from there, and the Bulldogs had to settle for a field goal for a 17-0 advantage with 1:50 left in Q1.
The Clippers just missed a first down on their next possession and turned the ball over at their own 44. The Bulldogs took advantage with a big run to the Clipper 5 before their quarterback rolled right for the touchdown. The PAT kick put them up 0-24 early in Q2.
From there, both teams punted. The Clippers punted again, and the Bulldogs returned it 69 yards for a TD that, with the PAT kick, put them up 31 to zip with 4:32 left in the half.
The Bulldogs posted their final score early in the third quarter. Brady Bostic’s solo tackle on the kickoff set the Bulldogs on their 25, but they moved downfield from there, scored on a 15-yard run and missed the point-after kick.
It was the end of a career for the four seniors who had the character and courage to stick out the season: Jacob Rohlfing, Marty Gibbs, Strobel and Jack Voit (above).
Rohlfing said being shoulder pad to shoulder pad with his teammates along the scrimmage line created a bond that he would never trade, and that's what he would tell those who are considering gearing up for football next fall.
“It’s more than just a sport; it’s a team and the dedication that goes into it. What you put in is what you get out. Even if the score isn’t what you wanted, the record isn’t what you wanted, coming out and having fun is the most important thing. You are not going to have the chance to do this ever again.”
Voit echoed Rohlfing’s sentiment.
“It was a heck of a time playing with the guys. It sucks to be done. I wish we could have gotten more wins.”
Lyons completed 16 of 28 passes for 90 yards. He got picked off once. With eight catches for a total of 45 yards, Kelley was his favorite receiver. Eighth grader Carson Lyons hauled in three of his older brother’s tosses for 21 total yards. Strobel caught one pass for 8 yards. Freshman Bode Bartell pulled down two catches for a total of 5 yards. Eighth grader Tanner Simonette grabbed two catches for 11 total yards.
The Clippers’ run game had negative productivity with nine total carries for minus a dozen yards.
Strobel punted seven times for 261 yards. His longest was 44 yards. He returned two kickoffs, one for a dozen yards and one for 5 yards. Kelly returned four kickoffs, one for 34 yards and the rest totaling 28 yards. Gabe Sullivan fell on one kickoff.
Sullivan led the defense with two solo tackles and seven assists. One of his tackles was behind the scrimmage line. Carter Barto had five solos and five assists with two behind the line, and he deflected a Bulldog pass. Rohlfing had five assisted tackles. Freshman David Draheim had four assists. Bostic had two solos and two assists.
Gibbs had three assists. Nick Simonette had one solo and two assists. Brother Tanner had two solos and three assists. Kelley had two solos and one assist and deflected a Bulldog pass. Voit had one solo tackle. Strobel had three assists. Blake Lyons had one solo and one assist. Munya Kuvaoga had one assist. Alex Johnson had one solo tackle, and Blake Gibbs had one assist.
Kale Kelley cuts around a Bulldog tackler.
Henry Strobel’s leg kept the Bulldogs deep, but they cruised downfield anyway.
Blake Lyons coils for a pass.
Jaxon Libby on the carry.
Carson Lyons fights for a catch. The Bulldog defender managed to knock the ball away.
David Draheim pressures the Lester Prairie QB. The freshman defensive end was making his starting debut.
Tanner Simonette turns up field after a reception.
Marty Gibbs reaches out for a Bulldog runner.
Blake Gibbs, Tanner Simonette and Nick Simonette go after a Bulldog ball carrier.
Gabe Sullivan goes head-to-head with a Lester Prairie rusher.
Henry Strobel, Carter Barto, Tanner Simonette and Jacob Rohlfing on the gang tackle.
Brady Bostic zeros in on a Bulldog runner.
Jack Voit was held up on this play.
The Bib Girls were out in full force in support of Cleveland football. They are, from L-R, front row: Cassandra Connor, Addie Gibeau, Mariah McCabe, Laci Hollerich, Lacey McCabe, Greta Hahn, Jersie Kelley, Ava Hahn, Savannah Meyer, Kaylee Karles and Harley Connor. Back row: Madison Peterson, Chloe Anderson, Lexy Waldron, Sarena Remiger, Hailey Plonsky and Emma Sweere. In front is Keegan Karels.