By Dan Angell For the Herald
The Clinton Herald
---- — CAMANCHE — In terms of record, Friday night’s game meant little to the Camanche Indians, given that they could neither earn a trip to the playoffs nor notch a district victory. But that was hardly a concern to them.
Far more important to the Indians was what a win would mean to their senior players in the final game of their high school football careers. After everything the seniors had given, the Indians believed they deserved to taste success one last time, and they had no intentions of wasting that opportunity against Columbus Junction.
From the opening play on Friday night, the Indians made it clear just how much their seniors mean to them.
Senior Easton McDaniel took the opening kickoff back 60 yards for a touchdown to give Camanche a lead it would never lose, and junior Brady Beal added three touchdowns to keep the Indians in control. When all was said and done, the Indians had a hard-fought 35-26 victory over the Wildcats, and Camanche had every reason to smile as it ended its season on a positive note.
“I was really pleased with the team’s effort,” Camanche coach Steve Dougherty said. “I think we had a little more emotion on our side, because these kids love this senior class and know how hard they’ve worked for four years. The opportunity to send them off with a win was really important, and we noticed walking out onto the field that there was a little bounce in their steps. We could tell we were in for a good game tonight.”
Beal and the Indians’ offensive line were a large reason why Camanche (2-7) was able to stave off every comeback Columbus (1-8) made. From the beginning, the Indians decided to lean on Beal as their answer to Wildcats star running back Maurico Ramirez, and Beal answered at every opportunity.
The junior finished with 204 yards to go with his three touchdowns and kept the ball out of Ramirez’s hands as much as possible, limiting the damage that the Wildcats could do with their ground attack.
“We stayed together, and tonight showed it,” Beal said. “The line opened up the holes and the blocking was perfect. This is a game where it shows on the scoreboard what we can accomplish as a team.”
Ramirez certainly did his damage, gashing the Indians for 309 yards and four touchdowns, but each time he came up with a score to bring the Wildcats closer, Camanche followed with a touchdown of its own to ensure that Columbus would never be in position to take the lead.
“This feels really great,” McDaniel said. “As a senior group, it’s sad that we all have to leave, but I’m honored to play with these guys and end on a great note.”
As the Indians walked off the field winners for the first time since the second week of the season, Dougherty pointed out to his younger players that the season was merely one part of a four-year journey and made a point to thank his seniors for their hard work over the course of their journey.
“Each year, we challenge the seniors to ask them what is their legacy,” Dougherty said. “We’ve never had the commitment in the summer workouts and the overall effort that we had this year. This is one of the hardest-practicing teams (I’ve had), and it’s a shame we got off to such a rough start and it took a while for us to put the pieces together.”
But on this night, the only thing that mattered was that the Indians gave their seniors the ending they felt they had earned.
“We just wanted to send these seniors out on a good note,” Beal said. “I think we did that, and that’s the way to end it.”
CAMANCHE 35, COLUMBUS JUNCTION 26
Columbus Jct. 6 6 8 6 — 26
Camanche 14 7 7 7 — 35
C — Easton McDaniel 60-yard kickoff return (Seth Connell kick), 11:48
CJ — Maurico Ramirez 70-yard run (kick failed), 11:35
C — Brady Beal 21-yard run (Connell kick), 4:12
CJ — Ramirez 57-yard run (run failed), 4:59
C — McDaniel 1-yard run (Connell kick), 1:31
CJ — Ramirez 48-yard run (Ramirez run), 10:57
C — Beal 23-yard run (Connell kick), 7:09
CJ — Ramirez 8-yard run (run failed), 8:48
C — Beal 11-yard run (Connell kick), 7:23
RUSHING: Columbus Junction — Maurico Ramirez 34-309, Alex Benitez 7-51, Ricky Rivers 2-(-3), Ethan Leyden 6-(-25), D.J. Beechum 1-9. Camanche — Brady Beal 29-204, Ryan Langston 8-27, Mitch McElroy 4-5, Easton McDaniel 4-21, Blake Bialas 1-1.
PASSING: Columbus Junction — Ethan Leyden 4-11-91-0-1. Camanche — Mitch McElroy 5-13-50-0-0, Blake Bialas 4-5-51-0-0.
RECEIVING: Columbus Junction — Chase Finke 2-59, Ricky Rivers 2-32. Camanche — Derek Harksen 6-69, Easton McDaniel 3-32.