By Brenden West Herald Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON -- There’s no doubt about it: Clinton High’s thrilling victory over Mississippi Athletic Conference foe Davenport Central is the type of win that can make or break a season.
Consider -- The last time the River Kings had a similar regular-season win was in 2009 over Davenport Assumption, a year in which they went undefeated and made a deep run in the playoffs. This year’s squad is hoping for similar success, with a goal of making the postseason.
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To do that, coach Lee Camp said the team will need to ride the momentum it built with the 27-21 overtime win over the Blue Devils last Friday.
“Twice now, we ended up with an overtime win like that,” he said. “Back then, (the players) responded like this is a great opportunity for us to get better. I think I see that with some of the players we have now.”
Against Muscatine on Friday, Clinton’s road to victory will have to be paved without one of its top yard producers. Senior halfback Alex Caldwell -- the River Kings’ leader in total yards with 265 -- ended the game against Central with a broken thumb and had his hand wrapped in a cast this week. In general, Camp said the tough win over Central left his team with some bumps and bruises.
“We’re a little banged up after that,” he said. “I thought it was a pretty hard-hitting game. It causes you to pull back and take it easy in the beginning of the week.”
Camp said Caldwell still would be a factor on defense in Clinton’s secondary, but his loss as a ball carrier means Delante Chamberlain and Austin Peters will be looked upon to fill the void, joining Caldwell’s brother -- Dustin -- in the backfield alongside quarterback Eric Maddasion. Wideout Lucas Laufenberg could play a larger role in the passing game to make up for Alex Caldwell’s catches.
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“We’ve got plenty of confidence in those guys, and they do a good job,” Camp said. “Alex is still able to give us that support on defense.”
Camp seemed less worried about his team’s productivity offensively, although he said a major focus this week has been on punching it in in the red zone. Last week, the River Kings had two first-quarter opportunities near Central’s goal line go awry, giving the Blue Devils the ball while the game was still scoreless.
“We need to take better advantage when we’re in the red zone,” he said.
However, a bigger concern when it comes to Muscatine is silencing the Muskies’ rushing attack. Senior halfback Austin Moss is the leading rusher in the MAC with 432 yards and eight touchdowns.
“They’ve possessed a really good running attack as of late,” Camp said. “We’re going to have to control the line of scrimmage from a defensive point of view. We’re going to have to cause some disruption in there.”
One River King he highlighted was senior nose tackle Kurtis Williams. He said Williams’ ability to wreak havoc on the front line would hopefully open the door for Clinton’s linebackers to reach Moss and other Muscatine runners before too much damage was done.
Defense, in general, will be a key to keeping the game within reach. Like Clinton, the Muskies are 2-1 with wins over Davenport North and Burlington. Last season, Camp said the two teams played a “seesaw” contest, but Muscatine was eventually able to run away with the win when Clinton couldn’t keep up with the scoring.
“We’ve given up a lot of points,” he said. “I’m expecting our defense to step up.”
Aside from an overtime victory, one thing the Kings have going for them is a win over Central. Muscatine lost to the Blue Devils in Week 1 of the season, 30-27. Since then, the Muskies have secured two road victories.
Camp said a win over Muscatine would get Clinton a long way closer to reaching its season goal of the playoffs.
“It’s really important for the whole scheme of things in the season,” he said. “To get off to a great start like that with three wins would be tremendous. Back-to-back wins over teams favored higher than us in the conference would be tremendous.”