TRURO — A 13-point swing midway through the second quarter gave Interstate 35 a little bit of a cushion to work with, as the Roadrunners went on to defeat Clarke 48-21 for their first win of the season here Friday.
It marked the first career win for first-year Interstate 35 coach Steve Kaster.
“It feels great,” he said. “The kids have worked extremely hard all year long, the coaching staff has worked extremely hard all year long and we finally made things click tonight, so it feels great.”
One of the biggest plays of the game happened in the second quarter, with the Roadrunners leading Clarke 14-7.
The Roadrunners had just taken over possession of the ball on a Jaylan White interception of Clarke quarterback Rich Wilkins.
On the very next play, Interstate 35 quarterback Briar Vogel threw for White, but was picked off by Dalton Sweeney deep in Clarke territory.
Sweeney cut to the sideline and returned the ball all the way to the Interstate 35 20-yard line, where he was finally brought down.
The ball popped loose at the end of the play, with Interstate 35 hopping on the ball. Clarke coaches immediately argued that Sweeney was down before the ball came loose.
After the officials met, the call on the field stood, and it was Interstate 35’s ball.
Ten plays later, Alex Middleton ran a sweep around the left side for a 6-yard touchdown on fourth down. After the 2-point conversion failed, the score was 20-7.
“We had some really, really bad luck in the first half there,” Clarke head coach Michael Kline said. “I think if we had the ball bounce our way, the whistle get blown a little bit later, a call go a different way, I think we were right in the game. There was a nice 13-point swing there, that if it goes our way, it’s tied at half.”
After Clarke had seemingly snatched momentum away from the Roadrunners, Kaster said the momentum swing back to Interstate 35 was key.
“We knew they were going to be capable of scoring points and that it was important for us to score every time we had the opportunity, and we did not do that because we turned the ball over ourselves,” Kaster said. “As we progressed in the game, it was important for us to clean up those mistakes, but yes, the swing in momentum was very, very important for us.”
Interstate 35 ran the ball for 506 yards in the win, led by 296 yards and four touchdowns by Middleton and 166 yards and two touchdowns by Vogel.
“Our ground game has been our bread and butter all year long,” Kaster said. “Briar Vogel has done a great job managing the offense and we got the majority of our yards on the ground all year long. The offense was fun tonight. The kids enjoyed it.”
Clarke had a balanced rushing attack going for 231 rushing yards, led by Junior Morales with 64 yards and Brandyne Olin with 62 yards. Sweeney added 54 yards.
Morales also scored on a 52-yard swing pass for a touchdown as time expired in the first half, taking the ball in the left flat and cutting back across to the right side of the field.
“Our guys played very hard,” Kline said. “We’ve had a lot of bangs and bruises the past couple of weeks. We literally suited only 19 guys for the varsity game tonight, so down in number but certainly not down in heart.”
White returned an interception for a touchdown for the Roadrunners.
In total, there were 14 turnovers in the game.
“I think offensively, we moved the ball well, we just were not disciplined enough,” Kline said. “That’s kind of been the theme for the whole season. We had a couple of games in there where we didn’t turn it over as much, but tonight, I couldn’t even count the number of turnovers we had.”
Both coaches said they were sad to see their seniors go at the conclusion of the game.
“I’m excited for all the young guys we’ve got. I’m disappointed for all the seniors we’re losing,” Kline said. “Every year, that’s the one hard thing about high school football coach — it’s not like the pros where you’ve got everyone coming back. You’ve got a whole new group next year.”
“This senior class, I talked them after we were done and I just told them, as a first year head coach, I could not have asked for a better group of seniors,” Kaster said. “They have been my driving force and I think we have been their driving force. I told them I was proud of them and I will be for a long, long time. That is a great group of kids.”
Clarke finished its season with a record of 1-9 and 0-6 in Class 2A District 6. Interstate 35 finished 1-8 and 1-5.