BETTENDORF — Ever since the schedule had been set, nothing about the regular season’s final two games favored the Clinton football team.
Closing with road games against Mississippi Athletic Conference powers Pleasant Valley and Bettendorf, the River Kings had to shine their brightest.
In Friday’s regular-season finale at Bettendorf, Clinton overcame a lopsided stat sheet to stay close through much of the game. But ultimately, the Kings couldn’t overcome a big, deep, quick Bulldogs team, which won 44-13 to secure a home playoff opener.
Clinton (4-5) will open the playoffs Wednesday, again on the road.
“They’ve been pretty good at adjusting at halftime and really believing that something’s going to happen,” Kings coach Lee Camp said of his boys. “I was really proud of the defense again, coming out.”
Indeed, Clinton’s defense performed extraordinarily, particularly given that the unit was on the field more than 19 of 24 first-half minutes. Senior linebacker Kristian Bahnsen ensured Bettendorf wouldn’t get off too easily, returning an interception 70 yards for a touchdown to pull the Kings to within two points at 9-7 midway through the second quarter.
Bettendorf (7-2) led 16-7 at halftime and again found itself unable to break the game open in the third quarter. After its offense produced only negative-1 yard in the first half, Clinton had 141 after intermission.
Leaping over Bettendorf defensive back Austin Broyles, Clinton junior Brady Ernst snared a 17-yard touchdown reception from Eric Maddasion to cut the deficit to 22-13.
“Our O-line did a great job in the second half getting a push,” Ernst said. “We got the offense going, and that just opened up everything.
“Eric does a great job throwing the ball up, and I just do my best to go get it.”
The final 15 minutes of the game weren’t nearly as kind to the Kings, and Bettendorf finished with almost 500 yards of total offense.
Still, given the unrelenting conclusion to the MAC schedule, Camp and company boast a healthy optimism entering the second season.
“We’ve shown we can keep up with the best,” Ernst said. “Our defense helps us out, but we have to help them out by moving the ball and getting in good field position, putting points on the board.”
BETTENDORF 44, CLINTON 13
Clinton 0 7 6 0 — 13
Bettendorf 3 13 14 14 — 44
B — Charlie Cox 30-yard field goal, 4:34.
B — Gabe Rees 10-yard pass from Cyle Cox (kick blocked), 10:49.
C — Kristian Bahnsen 70-yard interception return (Jared Redman kick), 8:17.
B — Cyle Cox 1-yard run (Charlie Cox kick), 0:43.
B — Cyle Cox 10-yard run (kick failed), 6:28.
C — Brady Ernst 17-yard pass from Eric Maddasion (pass failed), 3:43.
B — John McLaughlin 1-yard run (Cycle Cox run), 1:13.
B — Tyler Scheib 47-yard pass from Cycle Cox (Charlie Cox kick), 6:58.
B — Xavier LaDouceur 16-yard run (Reid Behrens kick), 0:13.
RUSHING — Clinton 25-42 (Dustin Caldwell 17-49, Eric Maddasion 5-(-17), Alex Caldwell 2-(-3), Kristian Bahnsen 1-13), Bettendorf 51-342 (John McLaughlin 12-99, Cyle Cox 18-85, Mark Wells 2-10, Gabe Rees 12-81, Owen Ridenour 1-(-5), Xavier LaDouceur 7-72).
PASSING — Clinton 12-19-98-1 (Maddasion 12-18-98-0, D. Caldwell 0-1-0-1), Bettendorf 15-23-155-1 (Cyle Cox 15-23-155-1).
RECEIVING — Clinton (Lucas Laufenberg 1-1, A. Caldwell 7-45, Brady Ernst 3-43, D. Caldwell 1-9), Bettendorf (Tyler Scheib 5-91, Wells 4-42, Matt Penrose 2-9, Ridenour 2-0, Rees 2-13).