It was a somber end to the season Friday night in Osceola for Clarke football.
A season marred with injuries to key players after coming out of the gate poised for plus-.500 season turned worse over the last four weeks, losing four straight district games to close out the season.
But yet, with its back against the wall and down 49-0 to Chariton Friday night, the Indians put it all together on its last play of the game. A drive to to send out the boys in maroon and white with a touchdown.
Driving up the field with under 30 seconds left in the game and a continuous running clock in affect, the Indians handed the ball off to sure-handed Brian Avalos. Avalos did what he did best, he looked for a hole, and took off.
Avalos scampered across the goal line for the 13-yard score as time expired. Due to no time on the clock, the Indians were unable to kick the point after to mark the final score at 49-6 in favor of Chariton.
After the game the there wasn’t a dry eye on the field as each senior player, and cheerleader, walked the 100-yard field arm in arm for the final time in uniform.
The senior group were heavy parts of both sides of the ball for Clarke.
“I said early on in the season at a pep rally when I introduced our seniors that the season hinges upon them,” said Clarke head coach Duane Matthess. “They’re going to lead us where we need to go. It’s been a while since our program has won back-to-back seasons with three wins.”
Jackson Hoag, Tyler Bray, Wyatt Johnson, Sam Cooley, Carlos Yanez, Fani Fry, Briar Broers, Harley Leeps, Brian Avalos, Braedon Feehan and Alejandro Davis are the seniors who will be moving on after this season due to graduation.
Matthess also made note of it being a while since the program has achieved seasons of back-to-back three win seasons, a small step in the right direction for a program which was struggling before.
With an improving team and a leadership group departing, Matthess hopes the ever changing locker room will adapt and have leaders step up.
“I hope it doesn’t stay the same. I always want to stride and continue to get better,” said Matthess. “If it’s staying the same then we’re not doing what we need to do as coaches. I hope they pick up where our seniors have left off and want to make it better. ... We are always talking about leaving the jersey in a better place than when you picked it up, so I hope it continues to get better.”
With Clarke out of the playoff hunt, the Indians took on a Chariton team which as also out of the playoff hunt looking to end the season on a win.
It was evident Chariton’s defense had the upper hand early, stalling Clarke’s drive to force it to turn the ball over on downs. The Chargers capitalized, striking first on a Payton Lavender 23-yard pitch and catch from Graden Arnold before the end of the first.
With it 7-0 through a quarter of play, Clarke was within striking distance to even the score, needing one play to be the difference maker. The one play never came as Chariton’s early strike at 14:02 in the second put the Chargers in control at 14-0.
Chariton scored three more times to go ahead 35-0 before halftime, scoring with under a minute remaining in the first half.
The Chargers struck again in the third quarter, a Dylan Cain 8-yard score, to make it 42-0 and a Hunter Koehn score in the fourth pushed it to 49-0.
Cain finished with 186 yards on 24 attempts. He had three rushing scores.
With injuries taking its toll on the team, the notorious “wing-back” offense was still in full swing.
“With some injuries and some people banged up, we’ve had to move some players around,” said Matthess. “... We had to mix and move some pieces on the chess board, but nothing changed on our scheme.”
Seven different players registered a rushing attempt. Avalos rushed for the most yardage with 69. Dalton Stubbe was next behind him with 15 yards.
Mason Fry had a team leading five tackles. Fani Fry had two tackles for a loss.
Fani Fry also had a fumble recovery.
With having to move things around and adjust to injuries, Matthess said he got a good look as to what is to come for the Indians next season.
“Spruceton (Buddenhagen), we feel is a dominant player on not just our team, but in the class of 2A,” said Matthess. “There’s a reason he’s being recruited by the Big 10 and Big 12. He’s definitely a centerpiece that we need to build around. Chris Carson, before his injury, was someone we felt was a dynamic athlete for us on the offensive side. We lose one O-lineman, ... but I think a lot of pieces to the puzzle are coming back.”
Buddenhagen totalled 26 1/2 tackles with three for a loss on defense this season. Carson rushed for 643 yards with seven scores before going down with season-ending surgery a few weeks prior.
Carson is expected to be out of Clarke athletics until the spring.
“We battled some injuries, but I think more than anything that shows how important our strength and conditioning is,” said Matthess. “Injury prevention, a big part of that is the strength and conditioning program and hopefully we can continue to get bigger and stronger and faster and hope we can get over this injury bump that we’ve been having.”
Clarke closes the season at 3-6 in Class 2A District 8. The Indians were 1-4 against District opponents.