LEON — Clarke controlled the ball for nearly the entire third quarter here on Friday, but came away with zero points to show for it and couldn’t cut into a 14-point halftime deficit as Central Decatur picked up a 27-14 win on its homecoming.
Trailing 21-7 at halftime, Clarke came out and ran a 17-play drive, but the drive ended when Central Decatur senior Marcus Foltz sacked quarterback Dalton Sweeney on a fourth-and-16.
The Cardinals took over at the 50-yard line, but fumbled on the first play. Clarke junior Gordon Witt recovered the fumble.
Clarke then put together an eight-play drive, but turned it over on downs at the Central Decatur 32-yard line.
The Cardinals ran a total of three offensive plays in the quarter.
“I think our effort was great tonight,” Clarke head coach Michael Kline said. “Mental mistakes in the first half came back to hurt us in that we just couldn’t climb out of it. We held the ball pretty much the entire second half. Unfortunately, we only got one touchdown out of it. If we were able to punch in one of the early drives in the second half, I think we would have had a ballgame.”
Wyman Reed scored two rushing touchdowns in the first half for Central Decatur, and Noah Bishop caught a touchdown pass from Peyton Pedersen to help the Cardinals build the 21-7 halftime lead.
One of Reed’s touchdowns came after Clarke fumbled the ball at its own 1-yard line.
“We were able to get going with Wyman, with that little read thing we do,” Central Decatur head coach Jon Pedersen said. “Wyman did a really nice job scoring that. As the game went on, we were able to make some adjustments and take advantage of some things we want, but I tell you what, Clarke competed really, really hard. They should be proud of how they played, and I wish them luck the rest of the way.”
Once the fourth quarter started, it didn’t take long for Central Decatur to score.
Daniel Weir ran off the left side for a gain of 11 and then took a dive up the middle down to the 1-yard line. Reed punched it in from there to make the score 27-7 with 11:29 left in the game, all but putting the game out of reach.
“We knew they really wanted to run the ball,” Kline said. “We stopped their dive play, but when they came back with the counter, we had a hard time with the counter action. We stopped their plan one, and their plan two, they ended up scoring quick in the second half there.”
Clarke scored on a 52-yard touchdown run by quarterback Dalton Sweeney, his second of the game, in the final minutes of the game, making the final score 27-14.
“I thought they played hard,” Pedersen said about Clarke. “They competed and they had an opportunity when we jumped up on them pretty hard to go away, and they didn’t do that. So that’s a credit to them and their coaches.”
Dayne Ruth also ran the ball well for the Indians.
“Dayne Ruth, when we got him the football and got him a little bit of a crease, ran the ball very, very hard,” Kline said. “Defensively, Gordon Witt, kind of been sick all week, came out and played his heart out for us, had some hard hits.”
Despite the loss, Kline felt like Friday’s game was the best his team has performed defensively all season.
“I thought we played the best game we have all season defensively all year,” he said. “The one touchdown they scored, we fumbled on our own 1-yard line, so it wasn’t a long touchdown drive by them. Without that one, we made them work for what they got. We just need to get off blocks better and run through tackles instead of arm tackles.”
For Central Decatur, Reed led the way with 109 yards on 16 carries and three touchdowns. Weir carried the ball three times for 84 yards and Peyton Gilbert finished with five carries for 50 yards.
Pedersen finished the game 8-of-11 passing for 91 yards and one touchdown. Defensively, Gilbert led the Cardinals with 15 total tackles.
“I thought we all played well at times,” Pedersen said. “We talk about what the team did and I thought at times we did really well. We’ll see some things on film that we can get better at, and these kids will get better.”
Central Decatur, now 3-1 overall and 0-1 in Class 1A District 7, hosts undefeated and state ranked Van Meter on Friday in a key district matchup.
“It’s a big game for us,” Pedersen said. “We kind of stubbed our toe last week in a game we felt like we did not play well. That puts us behind the 8-ball, and we need to see if we can get that back.”
Clarke, meanwhile, at 1-4 and 0-1 in Class 2A District 6, hosts Davis County (1-3, 1-1) in the Indians’ homecoming game on Friday.
“They’ll spread it out like Central Decatur, but I really do think they want to run the ball,” Kline said. “Hopefully we can put together a W.”