By Kurt Ritzman
Assistant Sports Editor
After a tumultuous homecoming week and a turnover-filled fourth quarter, all that was left for Clinton on Friday night at Coan Field was heartbreak.
Burlington’s Gauge Pender kicked his third field goal of the night as time expired to give the Grayhounds a 16-13 win over Clinton.
“I had my mind clear,” Pender said. “I wasn’t really thinking anything.
“It felt really good.”
After losing some players to team rules violations, Clinton was hurt more by injuries during the game, including starting quarterback Will Carr aggravating his leg injury.
“We talked about the week of preparation,” Clinton coach Lee Camp said. “Not one event or one person, nothing costs the game. With some distraction we had earlier in the week, it put us in a rocky position. All of the sudden, we’re scrambling and adjusting some people. Things like that are a life lesson. You get let down. We’ve got to adjust faster. It was frustrating.
“Pretty soon, you’re trying to run through your head where everybody can go.”
Even with all that, Clinton (1-5) had a chance to win. The River Kings trailed 10-7 late in the third quarter. Eric Maddasion handed the ball to Ryan Driscoll on second-and-6 at Clinton’s 31. Driscoll was stopped at the line and fumbled the ball. Maddasion scooped up the ball and raced 69 yards for a touchdown to put Clinton ahead 13-10.
“What a great job on the scoop on the fumble,” Camp said. “He’s a competitor.”
The teams traded punts and Clinton had the ball again near midfield. The River Kings fumbled again, but this time Burlington recovered.
The Grayhounds (2-4) moved 48 yards on 11 plays — converting two fourth downs — and faced a third fourth down on Clinton’s 8. Pender came out and kicked a 25-yard field goal to tie the game.
Clinton picked up a first down at its own 44 and called timeout with 1:26 left. But Maddasion threw an interception.
“I was just talking with him,” Camp said. “I said, ‘If the game’s still going, who do you think I’m going to put the ball in the hands of right now? Who am I going to put the ball in the hands of and expect to throw it? You can’t put your head down and you can’t give up. They made a break on the ball. We’ve got to learn from it and go forward. It’s OK to feel bad but don’t second guess yourself and beat yourself up.’”
Burlington marched down the field and called timeout with 2.8 seconds left on Clinton’s 11. Pender ended the game with a 28-yard field goal, putting Burlington in good position for a postseason berth.
“This means a lot,” Pender said. “It’s a really emotional win for everyone.”
Clinton’s playoff chances look a lot more dismal after the loss. The River Kings now need to win next week at Davenport West and beat Pleasant Valley or Bettendorf at home in the final two weeks to have a chance.
“It’s a tough challenge,” Camp said. “The kids right now, you’re heartbroken. We’ve got to refocus. We’re looking at some things outside the game that left us. We’ve got to regroup and make some adjustments.”
The River Kings had other chances as well but missed two field goals — one right before halftime and one after reaching the red zone on their first possession of the third quarter.
Things started off well for the River Kings. After receiving the opening kickoff, Clinton let Dustin Caldwell run the wildcat offense and with good success.
Caldwell had six rushes for 57 yards on the drive, including a 6-yard touchdown. Driscoll ran for 8 yards on the drive’s only other play.
“We started to play with that a little bit when Will first got hurt,” Camp said. “It does a nice job. The thing is after a while, they’re going to adjust to it. We hammered it down the field with some heavier bodies. It left a little void with (Trent) Hessing out or we could have been even bigger. I think Dustin did a nice job of picking and choosing. Ryan had a carry in there. The line was great at surging. Then our offense kind of stagnated again.”
Hessing missed the game because of an injury.
On its next drive, Burlington faced third-and-8 at its own 35, but then the Grayhounds sprang to life. They completed a 12-yard pass and then Matt Seabold rushed for 17 yards and a 36-yard touchdown to tie the game.
“I thought our guys did a great job up front,” Camp said. “Seabold is a tremendous running back. He’s been dominant in the games he’s been there. We made some adjustments and our kids did well. The big play in the first half was because we had somebody slid in at a new position. We had to switch around and we can live with that. Then I thought our kids settled down and did some things really well. Maybe we’re finally getting a step in the right direction, defensively.”
Camp said he thought Carr would miss next week’s game and he thought the offense needed some more confidence after dealing with uncertainty at quarterback the past two weeks.
He also said he expected his team to respond.
“Ryan Driscoll pulled them together,” Camp said. “You’re teammates. You’re going to stick together. We’re going to ride through it and we’re going to get better.”
BURLINGTON 16, CLINTON 13
Burlington 7 3 0 6 — 16
Clinton 7 0 6 0 — 13
C — Dustin Caldwell 6 run (Jeremy Peters kick), 9:55
B — Matt Seabold 36 run (Gauge Pender kick), 2:12
B — FG, Pender 28, 8:31
C — Eric Maddasion 69 fumble return (kick failed), 2:34
B — FG, Pender 25, 3:25
B — FG, Pender 28, 0:00
Rushing — Burlington (36-149), Matt Seabold 20-110, Chance Carman 9-34, Josh Coakley 1-3, Mauricio Cardenas 1-minus-1, Nick Pierson 1-minus-15; Clinton (48-231), Dustin Caldwell 8-71, Ryan Driscoll 16-68, Eric Maddasion 7-30, Will Carr 8-28, Jaylen Broadenaux 2-20, Cody Collender 7-14.
Passing — Burlington (9-18-0, 89 yards), Pierson 9-17-0, 89 yards; Seabold 0-1-0, 0 yards. Clinton ( 4-12-2, 28 yards), Maddasion 3-6-1, 24 yards; Carr 1-4-1, 4 yards; Alex Caldwell 0-1-0, 0 yards.
Receiving — Burlington, Joe Gates 3-32, Seabold 1-20, Dominique Fleming 2-13 Carman 2-12, Marquantey Brown 1-12; Clinton, Ben Lauritzen 1-10, A. Caldwell 1-7, Tyler Thacker 1-7, Maddasion 1-4.