CLINTON — Clinton seniors rode the emotional roller coaster last week, wondering if there would be at least one more football game for them in their River Kings uniforms.
What seemed like a sure thing after they won their fourth game on Oct. 11 became an uncertainty in the final week of the regular season when it appeared that 17 Class 4A teams in the eastern part of Iowa would have four or more wins and only 16 of them would advance to the postseason.
“When we got that fourth win, I thought we were in for sure,” said senior receiver Lucas Laufenberg, who got a chance to be part of the playoffs when he was a sophomore and the River Kings lost in the first round against Marion Linn-Mar. “But, that week leading up to Bettendorf, I was hearing that it might not even be good enough with four wins.”
Everything worked out, even though the Bulldogs won 44-13 to drop the River Kings’ record to 4-5. Dubuque Senior was the 4-5 team left out of the postseason, while Clinton wound up with the 13th seed.
“Now that we’re back, it feels good,” Laufenberg said.
“Everyone was ecstatic as soon as we knew it was 100 percent locked up that we were in the playoffs, and it was a good feeling that we have put in hard enough work that we deserved to go into the playoffs,” senior Duncan Winoski, a starting guard and linebacker, said. “It’s just nice to play after Week 9.”
For all the seniors, the chance to prolong their high school careers is welcomed.
“It feels good to be playing one more week since I’m a senior,” Nate Harden, a starter at offensive tackle and linebacker, said. “I don’t really want to stop playing.”
The next obstacle to keep the season going even more is Cedar Rapids Xavier. The River Kings travel to Cedar Rapids on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. with the Saints (8-1), the fourth-ranked team in Class 4A. While the Saints provide a stiff challenge, the Kings are happy to play someone other than a Mississippi Athletic Conference team since all of their regular-season games are conference games.
“It’s neat to play somebody new,” Laufenberg said. “We’ve played the same teams for four years now.”
Harden said: “I think we’re pretty ready. We’re all excited to be in the playoffs and play somebody different.”
But, most of all, the most exciting part for the seniors is getting a fresh start and at least one more chance to play a game they love.
“It feels good, and its a lot more motivation,” Winoski said. “Everybody is 0-0 going into the playoffs, and everybody is on the same playing field. It motivates you a lot to know that with one game your season can be over. You have the goal to push on to next week.”
And, hopefully, get at least one more game.