AMBOY – If I was an Amboy player, I probably wouldn’t want to hear about what a great football game it was, either.
But as a staunchly objective, nonbiased (cough, cough) member of the media, I hope the Clippers can find solace in the fact that they were one of two heavyweights in a slugfest for the ages Saturday.
At the very least, they should puff their chests knowing they lost to the likely Class 2A state champs. Forget that my 3A and 7A state champion picks went down swinging Saturday. I’m pretty sure about this prognostication.
And so is Cooper Nelson.
“Personally, I felt like this game was the state championship right here,” he said afterward. “I tried to treat it that way, because there’s a chance the winner of this game would win the whole thing.”
He admitted that he and his Clippers surpassed the expectations he had when his family moved back to Amboy from Galena earlier this year. It took an bona fide buzzsaw for Nelson and Co. to stop surprising even themselves.
The shiniest teeth on said buzzsaw are those at skill positions – big, laser-rocket-armed quarterback Tanner Matlick and his loyal army of fleet-footed receivers and backs.
But the game ball should go to his offensive line. Usually, when we sports meatheads throw the linemen a bone, it’s for their ability to open holes for the running game. Perhaps that’s simply dictated by the fact that most of the dominant prep programs we as a staff have covered have won with run-first, pass-when-we-have-to offenses.
But these big fellas earned a steak dinner and dessert from their quarterback on Saturday. Amboy coach Gary Jones spent the week emphasizing that his team had to put pressure on Matlick, no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. He, his staff and his players refined blitz packages throughout the week and then liberally sprinkled them into the play-calling.
But the only sniffs the Amboy linebackers got of Matlick was that left in his wake the very few times he was flushed from the pocket.
Give the Clippers credit. When they got their shots, they made good on them. Andrew Klein put quite a stick on the big guy for the team’s lone sack. Wrestling fans, think Bill Goldberg. It was a clean, snot-knocking spear.
And when Matlick sneaked for a first down in the first half, he got flat-out belted by linebacker Taylor Ikens. As the pile formed, the Clippers continued to take advantage.
“There was some dirty play going on, I guess – some kid twisting my leg while I was down under the pile,” Matlick said. “No big deal. I shook it off. It’s fine.”
While the Clippers brought their “A” game, pushing the No. 1 team in the state since Week 3 to its very limits, I left The Harbor lamenting the fact that I didn’t ask a question I now can’t seem to shake:
Do the Clippers pull for Mercer County now, in order to say they lost to the best 2A team in the state? Or do they act on human instinct, hoping someone ends the dream of the team that ended theirs?
Regardless of their rooting interest lies going forward, I’ll be surprised if the Clippers didn’t lose to the state champ Saturday afternoon.