AMBOY – The first step for slowing down a Newman Comets offense is to plug up the middle. The Amboy Clippers did that successfully Friday night at The Harbor.
But that was just Step 1. It was Step 2 that really hurt the Clippers in their season finale.
Newman’s outside running game picked up where its inside attack was stopped, as the Comets broke off four touchdown runs of at least 25 yards – and a fifth was called back for clipping – in a 48-7 win over the rival Clippers.
“We owe everything we get to the line and the downfield blockers,” senior Jake Snow said. “We started out kind of iffy running inside, but we picked it up after that first penalty [on Amboy for pass interference on third down] and took advantage of our opportunities.”
They were many, as Newman (8-1, 6-0 Three Rivers North) finished off all but one of its seven drives with a touchdown, and added Nolan McGinn’s 55-yard pick-six in the third quarter.
Snow was the main beneficiary, easily passing the 1,000-yard mark. He needed 46 yards to reach the milestone; he finished with 133 on 10 rushes, with TD runs of 28, 37 and 40 yards.
“We love watching Jake run, even in practice,” Newman coach Mike Papoccia said. “He’s got such unbelievably quick feet; he’ll stutter his feet right in your face, and never lose a step.”
“I thought we did a nice job up the middle, but the outside pitch was killing us,” Amboy coach Gary “Tank” Jones said. “We could’ve had eight guys out there and still not stopped it. It’s hard to get a clean shot on any of their backs, and they do such a great job of breaking tackles and bouncing off contact.”
Brady Rude (9 rushes, 55 yards), Dillan Heffelfinger (10-18) and J.P. Neisewander (3-27) also ran for scores for the Comets, and McGinn (6-15), Mike Ely (3-24) and Mac Olson (2-20) ran the total number of Newman backs with at least 15 yards to seven.
“We all try so hard to break tackles and run hard when we get through the holes,” Snow said, “because we feel like if the line is doing their jobs to spring us free, we need to do our part when we get in the open field.”
Newman turned a short field into touchdowns on its first two series. The Comets went 40 yards in 10 plays for a 7-0 lead. After Amboy’s second short punt, Newman covered 32 yards in three plays, capped by Snow’s first long TD sprint.
The Clippers (2-7, 12-4) answered in the form of Damon Quest. The senior returned the ensuing kickoff 58 yards to the Comet 17-yard line, then caught a 19-yard TD pass from quarterback Canaan Ross on a fade route on fourth down to pull Amboy within 14-7.
Quest had two catches for 25 yards and returned five kickoffs for a total of 120 yards. Classmate Jason Bontz also had a solid game, running 17 times for 56 yards but losing a third-quarter fumble at the goal line. Bontz finished the season 24 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark.
“Jason ran hard for us, and Damon did some nice things catching the ball and returning kicks,” Jones said. “It was nice to see them do some good things in their final game.”
After Amboy’s TD pass, it was all Newman. The Comets answered with an eight-play, 66-yard scoring drive, which also included Rude’s 45-yard sprint into the end zone nullified by Newman’s lone penalty of the night.
The defense then forced a Clipper punt, and Snow scored from 40 yards out on the second play of the next possession. McGinn’s interception return came three plays later, then the Comets opened the second half with an eight-play, 61-yard drive, capped by Rude’s 25-yard TD run during which he bowled over a pair of Clipper defenders.
Amboy bracketed a Newman fumble with two of its own, and Neisewander went in from 5 yards to cap the scoring and kick-start the continuous clock over the final 6:38.
“We teach our guys to run to daylight, and then square up and lean forward,” Papoccia said. “Amboy deserves credit for taking a lot of our inside stuff away, but I’m proud of how the kids adjusted on the fly and made the most of what they gave us.”
Newman 48, Amboy 7
Star of the game: Jake Snow, Newman, 10 rushes, 133 yards, 3 TDs
Key performers: Brady Rude, Newman, 9 rushes, 55 yards, TD; Dillan Heffelfinger & J.P. Neisewander, Newman, TD runs; Jason Bontz, Amboy, 17 rushes, 56 yards; Damon Quest, Amboy, 120 kickoff return yards, 19-yard TD catch
Up next: IHSA playoffs, Newman vs. TBD