By Dan Angell
For the Herald
As the first half wound down in Clinton's 21-7 loss to Muscatine, it appeared that the River Kings had an excellent shot at taking control of the contest.
Clinton only led by one touchdown, but its defense had been rock-solid in the trenches from the beginning. Even better, the River Kings' offensive line was starting to gain the upper hand on the Muskies' defense, seemingly setting Clinton up to pull away from its host.
Then, disaster struck.
With the River Kings driving toward a second score, Clinton's Delante Chamberlain lost the handle on the football and Muscatine fell on it on its own 28-yard line. Three plays later, Muscatine quarterback Clayton Sloan hit Spencer Beatty down the sidelines for a 57-yard touchdown, a play that proved fatal to Clinton. The River Kings never recovered, as Muscatine took the momentum in the second half and pulled away on the strength of two Austin Moss touchdowns for a win Friday night at Muscatine High School.
“It's never one play, but that was where we started to fall apart,” Clinton coach Lee Camp said. “We dropped our heads, and you can't do that. Meanwhile, they get a touchdown to tie right before the half and they were able to regroup.”
While the Muskies (3-1 MAC) used that play as their spark and successfully regrouped, the River Kings (2-2) were never the same. Clinton spent most of the first half harassing Sloan in the Muscatine backfield, but when the teams came out for the second half, the aggressive, hungry River Kings defense that had forced two turnovers was gone.
Instead, Clinton played the second half without fire, which opened the door for Moss to take over. After holding him in check for a half, the River Kings forgot how to stop Moss, and the Muskies kept giving him the ball at every opportunity. Outside of punts and kneeldowns, Moss touched the ball on 30 of the Muskies' 32 second-half snaps.
The senior picked up 168 of his 209 all-purpose yards in the second half, including a 12-yard and 1-yard rushing scores in the third quarter that ended the River Kings' chances.
“In the second half, we just lost our momentum and weren't pushing hard enough,” Clinton junior Kristian Bahnsen said. “Our hearts just weren't in it in this game.
“I don't know what happened. In the locker room, we got a pretty good speech from Alex Caldwell, but when we came out there, I wasn't feeling the same. I don't know what it was, but I just felt it wasn't the same. The first half was pretty solid, but then we came out and we were a different team. We couldn't stop them. They had good blocking, but our guys should have just driven them back.”
That was exactly what Clinton did during the first half, almost to the point of forcing Sloan to give away the game. Throughout the first half, the River Kings easily won the battle in the trenches, leading to one interception from Caldwell and a Sloan fumble that Nate Harden fell on inside the Muscatine 5, leading to Dustin Caldwell's 4-yard score.
But that would be the high mark of the night for the River Kings, as from then on, in Camp's words, Clinton imploded and buried itself in a wave of mental mistakes.
“I think they just beat us mentally,” Harden said. “We didn't play right; we didn't make tackles. I think they just had the momentum coming out of halftime. We got down and weren't really excited that it was tied.”
The result was that instead of taking a 3-1 mark into their homecoming game against Davenport Assumption, the River Kings headed home with a .500 record and the feeling of a lost opportunity for a road victory.
“We definitely could have won,” Bahnsen said. “We had a real good chance of winning, and we just let that slip.”
MUSCATINE 21, CLINTON 7
Clinton 7 0 0 0 — 7
Muscatine 0 7 14 0 — 21
C — Dustin Caldwell 4 run (Jared Redman kick), 1:42
M — Spencer Beatty 57 pass from Clayton Sloan (Daylan Oldfield kick), 2:21
M — Austin Moss 12 run (Oldfield kick), 6:57
M — Moss 1 run (Oldfield kick), 1:39
RUSHING — Clinton, Dustin Caldwell 18-68, Eric Maddasion 7-10, Delante Chamberlain 3-8; Muscatine, Austin Moss 33-140, Jonathan Centro 1-2, Spencer Beatty 1-9, Clayton Sloan 6-minus-6.
PASSING — Clinton, Eric Maddasion 5-13-0-36; Muscatine, Clayton Sloan 12-17-1-159.
Receiving — Clinton, Lucas Laufenberg 2-23, Dustin Caldwell 2-5, Austin Peters 1-8; Muscatine, Austin Moss 6-69, Spencer Beatty 3-73, Jonathan Centro 1-4, Drew Minder 1-3, Stephen Hansen 1-10.