DEWITT — The Central DeWitt football team fought through sloppiness, mistakes and turnovers, but made it out of the first round of the playoffs alive.
The Sabers are moving on.
Central DeWitt (5-3) defeated Clinton 48-27 Friday to advance to the second round of the Class 3A playoffs, where the Sabers will take on Davenport Assumption (7-0) on Oct. 23 in Davenport.
“It feels awesome,” Sabers senior Sean Kinney said. “We played great, everybody held their own, everybody executed. We played at a high level and the intensity was high — it just feels awesome to advance.”
Clinton ends the year 0-7.
“Clinton played great,” Sabers coach Ryan Streets said. “They really improved and they did a good job. We came out with a little bit of playoff jitters, but give a lot of credit to them. They played really well and made some good catches, good plays and we’ve just got to make sure we clean up the mistakes. We had a lot of uncharacteristic offside penalties, lining up and just stuff like that. We’ve got to clean that up next week for sure.”
The Sabers got on the board first with a 35-yard touchdown run by Garrett Sailor four minutes into the game.
On the ensuing drive, Clinton faced a fourth down and short from the Sabers’ 38-yard line, but Clinton quarterback Jai Jensen’s pass fell incomplete to turn the ball over on downs.
However, Clinton recovered a Sabers fumble at the CD 34-yard line to regain possession.
But Clinton would not have the ball for long.
Fourteen seconds later, Sabers sophomore David Harper picked off Jensen and returned the ball to the Clinton 41-yard line.
With 2:13 remaining in the first quarter, Sabers quarterback Henry Bloom made a throw on the run to Gibson McEwen, who made a tough catch in the end zone for a 26-yard TD.
The Sabers led 13-0 by the end of the first quarter, but the River Kings didn’t go away.
After Clinton running back Jamari Jones had a 13-yard run on a fourth down to keep the drive alive, Jensen threw a pass to receiver Zach Connell, who bulldozed his way into the end zone by pushing a pile-up of River Kings and Sabers across the goal line.
That cut the Sabers’ lead to 13-7 just two minutes into the quarter.
Two minutes later, Sailor had a one-yard TD run to make it 20-7, but Clinton’s Calob Leu returned the ensuing kickoff to the Central DeWitt 28-yard line.
Jensen scored on a five-yard read option a few plays later, cutting the Sabers’ lead to 20-13 at the six-minute mark.
“I know we definitely got them scared and a little bit nervous,” Jensen said. “We all just came together finally and this is what we wanted to do the entire season, obviously. We scored, our defense got turnovers — it was awesome. It was fun. I loved playing football today.”
Clinton kept the momentum going when junior Nathan Beeler recovered a Sabers fumble on a bad snap with 3:32 until halftime, but again, it was only temporary.
The Sabers’ Kinney intercepted Jensen and returned it all the way back for a TD.
“I knew what they were going to do,” Kinney said. “They passed the ball short and I anticipated that. I just jumped in front, had my hands ready and I took it to the house.”
Central DeWitt took a 27-13 lead into the half and controlled the second half.
Clinton coach Nate Herrig thought his team played some of its best football of the season.
“It was a culmination of everything that we’ve talked about all year,” Herrig said. “We talked about our kids believing, about our kids buying in, talked about our kids doing everything we asked and they started to put it together. We put a great first half together, a good third quarter together and we finally did some things.
“We talked about getting better every single week and we did that. We got better as a football team, better as a program and hopefully we continue to grow from here.”
Sailor had two more rushing TDs in the second half and Bloom had a 17-yard TD pass to Kaiden Muhl.
Sailor had another big game after having one of the best games of his career against Clinton during the regular season.
“It felt really good, but of course, I think everyone likes scoring touchdowns,” Sailor said. “Our line did a good job again and we just controlled the line of scrimmage.”
Jensen had a 66-yard TD pass to Connell in the fourth quarter. Clinton sophomore Tavian Bailey had a touchdown run. Ashten Corbin had an onside-kick recovery.
Bloom said the team has plenty to work on before facing Assumption, who had a first-round bye.
“I know we didn’t play our best football,” Bloom said. “It was a pretty rough game — a lot of turnovers, pretty sloppy, but we got the win, we’re going to put it past us and prepare for next week. We’ve got a lot of things to work on throughout the week if we’re going to beat a bigger team, a better team on paper.”
Easton Valley 62, Dunkerton 12 (8-man football)
The River Hawks (6-1) topped Dunkerton (2-3) in the first round of the 8-man football playoffs Friday in Preston.
EV led 42-6 by halftime.
Easton Valley will face Springville in the second round. Springville defeated Midland 36-28 Friday.
Beckman Catholic 28, Northeast 6
The Blazers (5-2) defeated the Rebels (1-5) in the Class 1A playoffs Friday in Dyersville, ending the Rebels’ season.