ALBIA — A Clarke football team featuring a shuffled lineup because of illness and injury could not stop a balanced Albia team here Sept. 7, losing 54-0.
Clarke drops to 3-1 overall and 0-1 in Class 2A District 6 action.
Dalton Sweeney, who had passed for 457 yards and seven touchdowns in the team’s first three games, found out Friday he had mononucleosis and would not be able to play.
“He thought it was strep throat, and he came in and talked to me that morning,” head coach Michael Kline said. “About 10 minutes before 1 o’clock, a little over six hours before kickoff, I found out he had mono and wasn’t able to play. It was not an ideal situation by any means.”
Enter freshman Rich Wilkins, who had not had any preparation with the offense prior to Friday.
“For him, I thought he did a really nice job, especially in the first quarter,” Kline said. “He handled the pressure and didn’t make any big mistakes early. They just got on a roll in that second quarter and scored 27 points. All the credit to them, though. They played great.”
Clarke trailed 14-0 at the end of the first quarter, despite much of the quarter being played deep in Clarke territory.
Kline also faced the challenge of replacing Sweeney on defense, as well as starting cornerback Drake Wedel, who broke his collarbone in the Saydel game.
“We had to try some different guys in there, tried moving the linebackers around,” Kline said. “None of which we had a lot of success with.”
Albia junior quarterback Brett Leshen took control in the second quarter, tossing three touchdowns.
Leshen finished the game 11-of-13 passing for 224 yards and the three TDs. He also ran the ball four times for 39 yards and one score.
“Our game plan going in, they’re a good running team, our plan was to to make them throw the ball, and we found out they could throw the ball very successfully,” Kline said. “We had a little success stopping the run, but they just threw the ball all over. Their quarterback looked like Joe Montana out there.”
Kline said he felt Drew Wishon played a solid game again at nose guard, getting a strong push up the middle.
Albia led 41-0 at halftime, and tacked on two more scores in the second half with the running clock in effect.
Wilkins finished 4-13 with 9 yards passing. Jacob Jones led the team in rushing with 28 yards on five attempts, while freshman Jeremy Jones collected 21 yards on six carries.
Bair led the team with 10 tackles, while Gordon Witt added eight and Jones and Dylan Diveney each racked up six tackles.
“The biggest thing is, we’ll see what kind of character we have,” Kline said. “Football is a great analogy for life. Sometimes you get kicked in the teeth. I expect us to be a team of character. I expect us to fight together.”
Sweeney’s status for Friday’s home contest with Central Decatur is unknown. The team will move forward preparing with Wilkins as the starting quarterback.
“It will be nice, at least we have a week with Rich Wilkins to go over things and prepare more with him than just to pull him out of history class to go over the offense with him,” Kline said. “He’s a great kid — confident kid. Hopefully he’ll respond well and play a little bit better Friday if we have to go with him.”
Clarke hosts Central Decatur (2-1) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.