STUART — West Central Valley came out on the first night of its new football stadium and played smashmouth football, running the ball right at Clarke.
And it proved effective, as the Wildcats picked up a 46-7 win over the Indians, avenging last year’s 33-26 defeat in Osceola.
“They just started running,” Clarke head coach Michael Kline said. “It was just power football and they were tougher than we were tonight. They washed our strong side down and just ran the ball straight up at us. We missed some tackles we should have made and the biggest thing was our defensive linemen just got pushed around.”
The Wildcats rushed for 287 yards as a team, but featured great balance in the rushing attack.
Six different Wildcat players carried the ball in the game, with four of those players accumulating more than 50 yards.
Senior Rob Irlmeier led the attack with 84 yards on eight carries. Junior Brian Keller added 71 yards on five carries. Cody Logsdon rushed for 64 yards on five attempts with one touchdown. Junior Alex Coover added 54 yards on three carries. Chandler Wagner picked up 20 yards and one touchdown on two carries.
Junior quarterback Bryce Kearns was effective through the air, as well. Kearns finished 4-of-8 passing for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
He connected with Keller for a 67-yard touchdown and also hit Clayton Scott for a 12-yard score.
Scott did damage on the defensive side of the ball, as well, returning an interception 59 yards for a score. The Wildcats also got a 48-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by freshman Sheldon Brittain on an onside kick attempt late in the game.
“I think playing a game like that only makes you better,” Kline said. “Watching film when you win games is fun, but you don’t always learn what you need to learn. But playing good competition, which I think West Central Valley is improved a whole lot from last year so I think they’ll have a fine season, but playing good teams exposes your weaknesses and you just have to get better at those.”
For Kline, two of the biggest weaknesses he feels his team needs to improve upon are blocking and tackling.
“The word I said was undisciplined,” he said. “It was the same as last week. We were undisciplined last week, and we were undisciplined this week. Not as many false starts tonight, still a few. A lot of missed blocking assignments or we were there, just didn’t complete the blocking assignment. At the end of the day, it comes down to blocking and tackling and we didn’t do that very well. But, it’s a long season so we’ll keep working. Our goals are still ahead of us, so we’ll keep working.”
For the Indians, Dalton Sweeney finished 5-of-13 passing for 44 yards and added 22 rushing yards on 15 attempts, scoring Clarke’s lone touchdown with 1:22 left in the game.
“Dalton Sweeney as our quarterback made good decisions,” Kline said. “We didn’t really give him a whole lot of time blocking, but he ran the ball hard and scored our only touchdown. He played a lot of defense.”
Junior Morales led the Clarke rushing attack with 84 yards on 10 carries. Dustan Van Loon added 48 yards on 11 carries, while Jake Leeps picked up 20 yards on four rushing attempts.
Kadn McNichols caught one pass for 15 yards, while Van Loon picked up 13 yards on one catch.
Another bright spot for the Indians was sophomore Gunner Sergeant-Elben in the return game.
Sergeant-Elben returned a kickoff for a touchdown early in the game, but the play was called back because of a penalty.
Then, with 1:15 left in the game, Sergeant-Elben took another kick 71 yards before being dragged down from behind at the 7-yard line.
“Gunner Sergeant-Elben ran one kickoff back for a touchdown, got called back and then he almost ran another one back,” Kline said. “He ended up running it back to the 7-yard line, so we like seeing that. Those are good kickoff returns.”
The Indians forced three turnovers in the game, recovering three fumbles. Josh Carroll, Jarrod Coe and Damon Helgevold each recovered one fumble.
Gordon Witt led the Indian defense with six tackles. Leeps and Sergeant-Elben each recorded one solo sack.
Clarke returns to action Friday at home against Saydel. The Indians defeated Saydel 14-6 last year.
Saydel lost a 63-47 barnburner on Friday to Colfax-Mingo.
Junior Clayton Sommers finished 11-of-18 passing for 211 yards and also picked up 127 yards rushing on 17 carries. He scored four total touchdowns.
Saydel rushed for 290 yards as a team in the loss.
“They played their first game at home tonight,” Kline said on Friday. “So we’ll see what we’ve got and come out and give it the old college try.”