116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — Matt Haddy might have chosen a more relaxing way to make his Clear Creek Amana coaching debut.
He wouldn’t have chosen a better finish.
The Clippers erased a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to nip the big-play Marion Wolves, 36-35, Friday night at Thomas Park.
“Our kids kept believing,” Haddy said. “I know it’s a cliché at times, but our kids stayed with it.”
The big play hurt the Clippers for much of the night. Marion had four plays of 45 yards or more. The Clippers had little trouble moving the football, but found themselves down 35-23 with 11:10 remaining when Max Lovell beat the Clippers to the corner on third-and-goal from the 12.
Ben Swails, making his first high school start at quarterback, led the Clippers down the field, hooking up with his favorite target, Harrison Rosenberg, for their second touchdown connection of the night.
With seven plays of 20 yards or more, the Clippers offense was humming all night, but they were missing that elusive stop.
It finally came.
A penalty pushed the Wolves back. Quarterback Alex Mota was dropped for an 11-yard loss and the Wolves were forced to punt deep on their own end. A host of Clippers broke through and blocked the kick. Bryce Mougin pounced on it at the Marion 2.
“The thing that’s going to separate us the most is our special teams,” Haddy said. “We won special teams tonight. We won the field-position battle consistently, and then obviously the big play was the blocked punt.”
Two plays later Swails found Brody Clubb in the end zone for his third touchdown pass of the night and the Clippers suddenly found themselves ahead with less than three minutes remaining.
Just enough time for the Wolves’ explosive offense to regain the lead? Almost.
A pair of Mota scrambles put Marion in position. Runs of 8 and 10 yards put Marion at the Clippers 34. Kai Glade, who rushed for 151 yards on 26 carries picked up 8 more.
With 1:05 to play, Marion lined up for fourth-and-1 at the Clippers 24. The defensive line won the battle, breaking into the backfield to drop Mota for a 1-yard loss.
But it still wasn’t over.
The Clippers failed to gain a first down and the punt was shanked for just 11 yards.
With one final chance at the Clippers 46 with 32 seconds remaining, the Wolves turned it over on downs. The Clippers raced onto the field as the dejected Wolves walked off to their sideline.
“I think we’re gonna bounce back,” Glade said. “We’re gonna get them next week. All I’m going to say is that this is going to propel our whole season.”