For a team that appears headed to the Iowa football playoffs, it certainly hasn’t been a typical week for the Clinton River Kings.
They head into their final game of the regular season Friday at 11th-ranked Pleasant Valley with a 3-5 record and holding the 16th and final spot in the eastern half of the state for the Class 4A postseason. But they’re coming off a game that coach Lee Camp described as “bizarre.”
It’s not that the 44-6 loss to Mississippi Athletic Conference co-leader Bettendorf was an upset or anything like that, it’s what happened off the playing field that was so unusual for a team with so much to look forward to. Following a safety, leading rusher Torris Green received a personal foul, had some words and was sent to the locker room. Starting defensive backs Tyler and Skylar Thomas also apparently decided they no longer wanted to play.
“It’s disappointing in the decision they made last week,” Camp said. “As far as being without them, I figure it’s a decision they made.”
As a result, none of the three are with the River Kings as they prepare for the Spartans and a probable playoff game next Wednesday.
“For everything that unfolded we still had a lot of kids keep focus and keep their priorities,” Camp said. “They focused on Friday night.
“I think the team is solidified and supports the guys getting an opportunity to step in. It has created some team unity.”
Junior Ryan Driscoll, Clinton’s leading rusher last year after a promotion from the sophomore team, will step into the spot at tailback that Green had manned, gaining more than 1,000 yards along the way this season. For help in the secondary, Delonte Chamberlain and Lucas Laufenberg have been called up from the sophomore time and are expected to share time at cornerback.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Ryan back there,” Camp said. “He was kind of dinged up early in the season, then with the way things developed with Torris running, we used him as a receiver. We still have quality two deep with (junior) Jaylen Broadenaux coming on stronger and Ryan.”
Camp said the coaching staff and players weren’t letting those issues take the focus off what lies ahead. And even he, for once, has used the word “playoffs” before the regular season is over.
“It does look pretty positive for us,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for them.”
When Dubuque Hempstead lost last week at Cedar Rapids, it removed the primary roadblock standing between the River Kings and the postseason. Now, the only thing that could prevent Clinton from moving on would be a Cedar Rapids upset Friday at ninth-ranked Iowa City High.
For now, though, the Kings are trying to forget about that and about last Friday.
“We struggled a bit last Friday, but a lot of that had to do with Bettendorf, not us,” Camp said.
Things don’t get much easier this week with Pleasant Valley, however.
“Pleasant Valley is a pretty good team,” Camp said. “They’ve created some breaks for themselves and played well. They have a very diverse offense that makes it difficult to defend, and their defense is aggressive and flies to the ball. They’re a well-rounded team.”
But, with a playoff berth fairly certain, the RIver Kings should have some of the pressure taken off them as they prepare to hit the field.