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No guts, no glory

Amboy's Liam Ohlendorf (26) right, runs with the ball while Erie-Prophetstown's Kenneth Cole (52) left, and Kyle Coleman (55) center, try to tackle Ohlendorf.
Amboy's Liam Ohlendorf (26) right, runs with the ball while Erie-Prophetstown's Kenneth Cole (52) left, and Kyle Coleman (55) center, try to tackle Ohlendorf.

AMBOY – The Clippers and their faithful shouldn’t be startled if they experienced abdominal distention after Friday’s loss to Erie-Prophetstown.

Where is he going with this, you ask? Well, the gut was a very sensitive subject during the Three Rivers North throwdown at The Harbor.

Twice, Amboy endured two bona fide kicks to the gut, coughing the ball up in the red zone, both times with the game scoreless.

The latter fumble was intended for Jason Bontz’s gut, but the word on the sideline was that it never found its way there, an ill communication sending the pigskin into the Panthers’ clutches.

Ten plays and 95 yards later, the Panthers scored with 23 seconds left in the half. That’s enough to make a 15- to 18-year-old feel downright sick heading back to the locker room.

I can only assume that, once there, the Clippers got a genuine gut check from coach Gary “Tank” Jones.

If you simply look at the play-by-play, it looks like Amboy responed on E-P’s first drive of the second half.

But oftentimes, fumble recoveries are the guttiest plays in a game. And somehow, despite six red jerseys (online guru Angel Sierra’s video confirmed this) being within lunging distance of the football Ethan Howard put on the lawn, Nick Williams outgutted the Clippers for the ball.

I was already scribbling first-and-10 Amboy in my notebook when I heard stomach-wrenching moans from the Clippers’ coaching staff.

The Panthers still had to punt, but not recovering the ball cost Amboy 31 yards of field position. And then the Clipper fans got after their coaching staff’s guts when they punted on fourth-and-1 from their own 39.

It was the right call. But I understand the restlessness, considering the context to that point.

But on the next drive, the chiding got nasty, Jones opting to punt on fourth-and-5 at the E-P 31 midway through the third. I err on the conservative side in my humble opinions, but only netting 11 yards of field position on the touchback had me sympathizing with the cries that came down from the stands.

Ultimately, nothing hurts one’s guts like missed opportunities. That girl you didn’t ask out. That job you didn’t go after. That extra value meal you didn’t super size, leaving your tummy rumbling minutes afterward. Whatever your walk of life, you’ve felt it.

I left The Harbor feeling hungry. It was a good game. It could’ve been a classic.

The grand poobah of missed chances came toward the end of the first half, when a grounder of a long snap scooted past Williams as he waited to punt it away.

Granted, the kid’s a helluva athlete. But him managing to retreat 10 yards, scoop up the ball, sprint 10 yards to his right and get off a low-trajectory kick that cruised 30 yards, then bounced 20 more? That just can’t happen. You’ve gotta smell blood in the water the moment that ball skips along the wet grass.

The big context? This one stings in Amboy’s gut because, despite the lopsided score, it was an incredibly winnable game, not to mention one it needed badly. The defensive tackles were making life miserable for Williams early on. Two drives found their way into the red zone.

But the finishing touches weren’t there. A compliment from E-P coach Chuck Milem was, though.

“Our kids said that was the most physical game we’ve played all year,” he said.

And his kids drove home fat and happy, knowing they needed such a gut check.

“We can take a lot from that physicality, especially going into Newman next week,” Milem said.

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