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.