By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
CLINTON — It's been a storyline much of the football season, so why should homecoming be any different?
Clinton's defense put up a solid effort but simply was on the field too much Friday night at Coan Field.
The result was a 35-0 loss to Davenport Assumption that didn't look as bad as the score might sound.
"It didn't feel like 35-0," said Clinton senior defensive back Alex Caldwell, who played with a cast on his hand just days after having seven screws and a plate put in his broken thumb. "Our defense played real well. A couple heres and theres, but there were quite a few stops."
The River Kings even made a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter, stopping Assumption on fourth down at the Clinton 1-yard line.
But, two big plays in the third quarter turned the game from a manageable deficit into a lopsided affair as Assumption improved to 4-1.
First, Ben Lauritzen tried to punt after fielding a snap that skidded on the turf. Assumption sophomore Joe Argo raced in and blocked the ball, picked it up in a scramble and ran it 30 yards into the end zone for a 21-0 lead with 9 minutes, 51 seconds left in the quarter.
"Their blocked punt really stabbed us right in the heart; it cut us open pretty big," Caldwell said.
"The snap was bad, and that's a hard decision for a punter to make," Clinton coach Lee Camp said. "You'd rather he eat it, but he made the best decision with the information he had."
The second big play came about seven minutes later. Assumption quarterback Jake Gervase took the snap in the pistol formation, kept the ball and cut up field, finding a gaping hole that produced a 55-yard touchdown run and a 28-0 lead with 2:33 remaining in the period.
"That one big play compounded the situation," Camp said.
"We made a stand on the next drive (after the punt)," said Caldwell, whose brother Dustin intercepted a Gervase pass in Clinton territory on Assumption's next possession. "Then, Jake Gervase, a very good athlete, broke one. They smelled blood in the water and went after it."
While those two big plays sealed Clinton's fate, a bigger problem was Assumption's defense, which entered the game as the Mississippi Athletic Conference leader in fewest yards allowed. The River Kings (2-3) managed just 120 yards on 44 offensive plays while recording just one first down in the first half and six for the game.
"Their defense was getting lots of penetration that caused us some fits up front," Camp said. "We completed a few passes to loosen them up but not with any consistency.
"That put our defense on the field too much."
That has become an all-too-familiar scene for the Kings, who held Assumption to 272 total yards, more than 125 below its average.
"We did a fairly successful job of corralling (Gervase)," Camp said. "We took away some of his pass options. We just gave them some short fields, and that was us not getting some things done on offense."
The River Kings went three-and-out on their first two possessions, and the third ended with a lost fumble that set up the Knights at the Clinton 39-yard line. Eight plays later, with Clinton trying to call its second timeout on the play, Gervase spotted Ryan Coughlin all alone on the left side for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
That combination struck earlier, too, on a 5-yard connection for Assumption's first score with 3:44 left in the first quarter. It capped a five-play, 35-yard drive after a 25-yard punt return.
Assumption's final score also was a short drive. Two plays after Clinton's goal-line stand, Gervase returned an interception to the 6, and Myles Ollinger scored from inches away on his third consecutive carry.
Caldwell said the key now was to rebound. The next two weeks will be key for Clinton's playoff push. The Kings play Burlington and Davenport West before closing the regular season with ranked opponents in Pleasant Valley and Bettendorf.
"You've always got to take something positive out of a loss or a win," said Caldwel, who still holds out hope of getting the cast off and rejoining the offense before the season ends. "We should start to come on toward the end of the season."
DAVENPORT ASSUMPTION 35, CLINTON 0
Assumption 7 7 14 7 — 35
Clinton 0 0 0 0 — 0
A — Ryan Coughlin 5 pass from Jake Gervase (Nate Campbell kick), 3:44
A — Coughlin 11 pass from Gervase (Campbell kick), 8:18
A — Joe Argo 30 block punt return (Campbell kick), 9:51
A — Gervase 55 run (Campbell kick), 2:33
A — Myles Ollinger 1 run (Campbell kick), 6:17
RUSHING — Assumption (40-238), James Hua 17-86, Jake Gervase 7-79, Kolton O'Day 3-47, Myles Ollinger 6-27, Michael Neubauer 2-8, Joe Argo 2-5, Benson Nguyen 1-3, Ben Beck 1-0, Team 1-minus-17. Clinton (28-68), Eric Maddasion 12-25, Dustin Caldwell 8-22, Kristian Bahnsen 6-16, Austin Peters 2-5.
PASSING — Assumption, Gervase 4-11-1-34. Clinton, Maddasion 9-16-1-52.
RECEIVING — Assumption, Ryan Coughlin 4-34. Clinton, Ben Lauritzen 2-21, Brady Ernst 2-14, Luke Laufenberg 2-12, Jake Espey 2-6, Zach Pope 1-minus-1.