BURLINGTON — If the Clinton River Kings were going to complete the comeback Friday, Burlington was sure going to make them earn it.
With under two minutes to play, the Grayhounds backed Clinton all the way against the shadow of their own goal posts, with the River Kings trailing 30-28, with enough time and timeouts for one more offensive drive. Clinton coach Lee Camp said, at the time, he was only thinking field goal.
Instead, Clinton marched 94 yards, on eight plays in roughly 90 seconds. And from the 19-yard line, River Kings quarterback Eric Maddasion (as he had seven other times this season) spotted 6-foot, 8-inch Brady Ernst in the middle of the end zone for the go-ahead score, giving Clinton another thrilling, last-second victory and making the team's playoff picture a little less murky.
"We try to keep them exciting," Camp said after the 34-30 victory. "We really picked up our tempo on that final drive. We were getting plays in and called. I thought our offensive line did a tremendous job giving us protection.
"My thoughts were just to get us close to a field goal. They (Burlington) changed around their defense and we found some nice holes in the middle. We really used the clock wisely I thought. ... All of a sudden we have that last shot."
Clinton entered the half trailing 21-7, with Burlington getting the ball to start the second half. The Grayhounds eventually built their lead to 30-14 early in the fourth quarter.
The River Kings responded with a 20-point swing. Maddasion connected with Ernst on their second of three scores on the night. On the next drive, Dustin Caldwell punched it in from the 3, putting Clinton a two-point conversion away from tying the game.
Burlington thwarted the conversion. With just under five minutes remaining, the Grayhounds chewed up clock before punting and setting up Clinton's late drive of desperation.
Camp said the comeback was all part of the challenge coaches placed on the players.
"All the coaches challenged them," he said. "Our first half, we didn't come ready to play. I thought defensively and offensively we really did things well in the second half. It's a great feeling."
Before the touchdown, Maddasion connected with Austin Reyhons and Lucas Laufenberg, setting up first downs. The quarterback rolled up the sidelines for a first down on the ground, and Caldwell's carries brought the River Kings into opposing territory.
By the last snap of the drive, there were 15 seconds left in the game.
"We're running everybody deep to the end zone on that pattern," Camp said. "In this case we had Brady off to the right ... I think Brady had about a foot of height on the cornerback there."
Camp said the coaches drew up a play sending Maddasion rolling right and positioning Ernst roughly 2 yards deep.
"We knew we had to go to the end zone. He just goes up and gets the ball and Brady comes down with it," Camp said.
Ernst had three catches, all of them touchdowns, for 43 yards. Maddasion also hooked up with Zach Pope on a score in the first, giving the quarterback four touchdown passes on eight completions and 108 yards.
The win put Clinton at 3-3, while Burlington dropped to 1-5. The River Kings now focus their attention on Davenport West at home next week.
"This week was the most important game for us making the playoffs," Camp said. "On Monday, next Friday will be the most important game."
CLINTON 34, BURLINGTON 30
Clinton 7 0 7 20 — 34
Burlington 7 14 3 6 — 30
B—Garrett Grimshaw 15 run (Mauricio Cardenas kick)
C—Zach Pope 33 pass from Dustin Caldwell (kick good)
B—Dominique Fleming 1 run (Cardenas kick)
B—Joseph Mack 24 pass from Nick Pierson (Cardenas kick)
B—Cardenas 25 FG
C—Brady Ernst 13 pass from Eric Maddasion (Jared Redman kick)
B—Chanse McChesney 3 run (kick failed)
C—Ernst 11 pass from Maddasion (Ernst pass from Maddasion)
C—Caldwell 3 run (pass failed)
C—Ernst 19 pass from Maddasion (run failed)
RUSHING: Clinton (39-215) — Dustin Caldwell 22-145, Eric Maddasion 12-59, Austin Peters 4-13, team 1-(-2). Burlington (47-201)— Dominique Fleming 18-132, Garrett Grimshaw 10-37, James Watts 7-17, Keaton Hoschek 1-(-3), Nick Pierson 7-2, Chanse McChesney 3-16, Josh Coakley 1-0.
PASSING: Clinton — Maddasion 8-13-0-108, Caldwell 1-1-0-33. Burlington — Pierson 8-13-0-118.
RECEIVING: Clinton — Brady Ernst 3-43, Lucas Laufenberg 2-31, Austin Reyhons 1-11, Zach Pope 2-49, Caldwell 1-7. Burlington — Jerad Porter 1-29, Joseph Mack 3-72, Tristen Roberts 2-15, Hoschek 1-(-1), McChesney 1-3.