By Dan Angell
For the Herald
As the Clinton River Kings walked off the field following their 31-13 loss to North Scott, their faces were the picture of frustration.
The reason was obvious. They knew the game had been a winnable one, if only they could have gotten their offense to execute for four quarters.
But the River Kings couldn't figure out that side of the ball until the final quarter, and by then, it was far too late. Clinton managed just 26 yards of offense in the first half and didn't cross midfield until the third quarter, allowing North Scott to build a 17-0 lead on its way to a comfortable victory Friday night at Lancer Stadium.
“We didn't come out ready to play, and North Scott really got after us on the O- and D-line,” Clinton coach Lee Camp said. “We stepped back and got frustrated. At halftime, I thought we regrouped and did a little better. For whatever reason, we couldn't get some of the holes or reads on offense.”
The River Kings (1-1 MAC) went three-and-out on their first six possessions and didn't record their first first down until Dustin Caldwell broke through for a 12-yard run on their final possession of the second quarter. Clinton averaged just over a yard a play, seemingly stopping as soon as it found itself against the Lancers' front seven.
“We just couldn't get our run game going,” said senior wide receiver Zach Pope, who hauled in a 21-yard score on Clinton's final drive of the game. “The run game opens up the pass game, and we're missing one of our offensive linemen, DJ Bessellieu. That's really hurting the left side of our line. When you can't get the run game going, you can't get the pass game going. That's going to cause a problem.”
Bessellieu, who had impressed Camp with his level of play this fall, suffered a knee injury last week against Davenport North.
The result was that the Lancers (1-1) spent almost the entire first half on the River Kings' side of the field. North Scott ran just five plays in its own territory in the first half, taking advantage of both Clinton's offensive struggles and several timely punt returns from Ty Williams.
“We had some bad snaps, and the punts weren't good,” Camp said. “They broke through. That's definitely an area that we knew needed some work.”
The errors meant that the defense was consistently guarding a short field, which allowed the Lancers to attack. Once Clinton's defense began to tire, North Scott quarterback Matt Sacia made the River Kings pay, throwing a pair of first-half scores to Austin Bowman and Ricky Grimes, both of which came on drives that began in River Kings territory.
Sacia finished with 321 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, all of which came through the air. The final score was the backbreaker, a 36-yard toss to Williams at the start of the fourth quarter that came just two plays after the River Kings had sliced the margin to 17-6 on a 52-yard rushing touchdown by Dustin Caldwell.
“We had a spark of fire there,” Caldwell said. “But that touchdown blew it right out of us. We had a miscommunication, and it brought the wind out for the rest of the game.”
Camp was positive about some of the things he saw in the second half, most notably the River Kings' final drive, which saw quarterback Eric Maddasion take his squad 94 yards in three plays to make the final margin a bit closer. But the fact remained that had Clinton been ready to play offense from the beginning, the outcome might have been much different.
As the River Kings walked to the bus, the offensive players placed the blame squarely on their shoulders, knowing that their defense had given them every chance to win the game.
“I think that the defense played a hell of a first half,” Maddasion said. “But we kept putting them in our red zone, and you can only ask them to do so much.”
NORTH SCOTT 31, CLINTON 13
Clinton 0 0 6 7 — 13
North Scott 7 10 0 14 — 31
NS — Austin Bowman 8 pass from Matt Sacia (Garrett Cone kick), 0:00
NS — Ricky Grimes 38 pass from Sacia (Cone kick), 6:37
NS — FG Cone 38, 1:31
C — Dustin Caldwell 52 run (kick failed), 0:00
NS — Ty Williams 36 pass from Sacia (Cone kick), 11:17
NS — Colin Kreiter 1 run (Cone kick), 1:25
C — Zach Pope 21 pass from Eric Maddasion (Jared Redman kick), 0:40
Rushing — Clinton, Dustin Caldwell 6-72, Alex Caldwell 5-10, Eric Maddasion 5-10, Austin Peters 1-0, Zach Pope 1-minus-1; North Scott, Matt Sacia 22-112, Jacob Ridgeway 16-55, Colin Kreiter 7-21.
Passing — Clinton, Eric Maddasion 8-20-1-100; North Scott, Matt Sacia 18-25-0-209.
Receiving — Clinton, Alex Caldwell 2-68, Dustin Caldwell 3-5, Brady Ernst 2-6, Zach Pope 1-21; North Scott, Ricky Grimes 9-125, Ty Williams 4-58, Jacob Ridgeway 2-3, Austin Bowman 1-8, Jordan Gronewold 1-8, Sam Adkisson 1-11.