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Way Too Early Preview: Clarke football

Clarke (left) toes the line on defense against Martensdale-St. Marys during the 2019-20 season.
Clarke (left) toes the line on defense against Martensdale-St. Marys during the 2019-20 season.

As many football fans and writers love to do, they love to project where teams will be months away from not just opening night, but before the first practice even starts. For 2020, the Sentinel Tribune will dig into and dissect each football schedule for area teams going into 2020 The first in the “Too Early Season Outlook” series is the Clarke Indians, who finished 3-6 in 2019.

This season the Indians will enter 2020 Class 2A Dist. 8 and will be without recently departed head coach Duane Matthess, who led for the Nodaway Valley head coaching gig. At the time of writing this, the head coaching job is still open.

Here is my look into the 2020 Clarke football season, way too early.

Aug. 28 – vs. Clarinda (5-4 in 2018)

Clarke opens next season with a home game, something that I feel instantly puts them at an advantage in this match up. Clarke enters this game with a brand-new head coach and system, which could give the Indians a lot of confidence in what they’re trying to create for the season. A new-look, fresh-scent, feeling good Indians squad entering a new season can make me feel like the Indians have an edge on opening night solely because they’ll be at home.

Facing Clarinda, a team that opened the season on a roll, could bring a challenge to the Indians. The Cards outscored opponents 117-33 across a four-game winning streak before dropping three straight to Panorama, ACGC and Mount Ayr.

In the three-game skid, they scored 13 points, and were all but out of a potential playoff berth. The Cards saved face with a 47-6 win over win-less West Central Valley, but closed out the season with a thundering loss to state-ranked Van Meter 49-7 to close the season.

To make matters worse for Clarinda, they’re now without their leading rusher in a run first offense with Connor Brown (648 yards, five scores) and leading tackler Dagen Price (45 stops) to pair with a list of other important senior players. Clarinda may be fine when it comes to bringing in replacements, but how soon they can find someone to produce the same numbers is still up for debate.

Sept. 4 – at I-35 (5-4)

It was a tough year for I-35 without Mason Cassady, a 1,000 yard rusher in 2018 who became a walk on at Iowa State University. Despite a season-opening win over eventual playoff-bound Central Decatur, the Roadrunners did not a rusher close to Cassady in terms of offensive power.

Instead, I-35 made two – Jack Smith (576 yards, 8 touchdowns) and Mason’s brother Logan Cassady (546 yards, 8 touchdowns).

The combination also had change of pace to help when needed from quarterback Joey Bregar, who sneakily passed for 895 yards on 58 completions and rushed for 374 yards. When Bregar wasn’t on offense, he was stopping it, leading the team in tackles by a considerable margin with 92.5 stops, eight of which came for a loss.

But here’s the problem. Bregar and Smith have graduated, leaving the team to eight soon-to-be seniors and a rising star in Cassady. If he progresses and gets stronger into his junior campaign, he could be a problem against Clarke, especially against a team that struggled at times to hold back the run.

This is definitely an intriguing match up that could get ugly if Clarke has no answers. They’ll need to get on the Roadrunners early and not let up until the clock reads 0:00 to feel good about it, I think.

Sept. 11 – vs. Red Oak (0-9)

There is by no means “definite locks” when it comes to predicting ballgames, but I just can’t bring myself to say anything bad about Clarke’s pairing in this game. Red Oak struggled mightily last season, going 0-9 after posting a 5-4 record in ‘18 – their winningest season and only season over. 500 in the Quikstats era.

In last year’s game, Red Oak hung around in a 34-27 win for the Indians. Junior Chris Carson was magnificent, rushing for a school record-setting 326 yards on 36 carries. It’s no question the team was a little upset in allowing 27 points to a team that scored a combined 15 for the rest of the season, which is something I believe both sides are not going to forget Sept. 11 in Osceola.

But, in the end, I feel good about Clarke’s ability to run wild again. Carson’s season came to a close short last year with an injury, so I have a feeling he’ll have the game circled on his calendar as a way to make a statement to district opponents.

Sept. 18 – at Perry (0-9)

Another team that struggled mightily last season, Clarke has back-to-back opportunities to score big and find a groove. Perry closed out the season with three straight shutout losses and lose an astounding 15 players due to graduation.

If the juniors return as seniors, there will be seven of them who probably will have short memory when it comes to the year prior.

Again, much like Red Oak, it’s hard to call a match up a “lock,” but it’s hard to imagine Clarke not doing whatever they can this week and the week prior against two potentially vulnerable opponents.

Sept. 25 – at Albia (1-8)

A third straight game where Clarke could roll through with a win? Things are looking up for the Indians it seems. Or is it?

Albia’s 1-8 season a year prior saw them win against Central Lee, a 49-18 showing in what was a then-battle of winless teams. Central Lee eventually won two games, but Albia was not as lucky and lost three straight to close out the season.

Blake Chance returns for Albia after passing for 2,371 yards (fourth in Class 2A) with 25 passing scores (fifth in Class 2A). Pair him up with Blake Stewart, the third leading receiver in the class (1,055 yards) and you’ve got quite the tandem.

The Indians were not the best when it came to limiting the pass attack (two quarterbacks passed for 300 or more yards), but did pull down seven balls for interceptions. Tanner Fry pulled down two interceptions last season and is one of two returners who had an INT (Osten Blevins is the other with one). Fry and Blevins are both 5-07 as of last season, and with a 6-04 210-pound Stewart running a streak route, history usually falls into the hands of the receiver with that match up. It’ll be boom or bust for Albia.

Oct. 2 – vs. Chariton (5-4)

Chariton was a year removed from 8-2 last year, and fell off for a 5-4 record against a few solid opponents. One of the opponents Chariton faced last year was Clarke, rolling over the Indians 49-6 on senior night to close out the season. Going into 2020, Chariton loses 19 seniors, which could spell good things for Clarke to avenge their loss last year.

Thousand year rusher Dylan Cain will graduate in the spring, and with him goes 1,200-yard passer Graden Arnold. Two dynamic offensive stars leaving the program always puts a hit in a program, especially when the next-leading rusher had 53 carries to Cain’s 181 and the next-best passer had one attempt – which belonged to Cain.

On defense, removing all the seniors gives you a leading tackler by the name of Jayden Allen Winston, a soon-to-be sophomore who had 17 stops (three for a loss) and one sack. Removing nine of the top tacklers, who combine for 336 stops and 13 sacks, will no doubt make Chariton dip in defensive production unless it unearths a hidden gem from in training camp.

Clarke could have their work cut out for them despite Chariton being down a lot of good players from ‘19-20,

Oct. 9 – at Saydel (0-9)

Saydel has won one game over its last two seasons, and last season’s 39-0 rout by Clarke shows the Indians have what it takes to not only beat them, but shut them out too.

Brian Avalos, who’s due to graduate this spring, rushed for over 200 yards in the win. Carson was the complement to him, tallying 119 yards. He also had a fumble recovery.

Without Avalos, the Indians have their leading rusher in Carson, who has shown he can share the workload and be equally as effective as rushers who get more touches. If running the ball on Saydel is the secret, Clarke is going to do just fine.

Clarke’s defense held Albia to eight rushing yards. That’s right – eight. Two quarterbacks combined for 19 yards. Leading passer and rusher for the season Garrett Shin will have graduated next match up, and leading tackler Shaylon Brady will be a junior. They’re another year older, but are going in without the man who ran the offense last season. We’ll see how different they’ll be.

Oct. 16 – at Centerville (5-4)

Centerville thumped Clarke last season in a 43-13 rout, but without McCain Oden (rushed for 117 yards and four scores against Clarke)and complementary back Quinton Koestner the Big Reds will need to find a running back in training camp to be successful.

With Koestner also being the primary quarterback, the option-style offense looks like it’ll be a factor again in the Big Reds’ offense. Sawyer Wardlow was limited on the stat sheet, but he was a sophomore in ‘19-20 and will be older, bigger and wiser for his junior season. Kade Mosely, who had 42 yards rushing and 34 yards receiving, could be the next up when it comes to the do-it-all type behind the line of scrimmage.

On defense, Broedy Kroeger returns and will direct the defense after posting the second-highest number of tackles. Defense will be interesting to see without the leading tackler from a year prior, but there’s experience coming back that will be better and stronger.

Clarke will need to be clicking on all cylinders on offense and will need to get ahead and stay ahead if possible, which they could struggle to do. Containing Centerville could be an entirely different story.

Oct. 23 – vs. PCM (8-3)

Talk about saving the hardest for last. PCM, Monroe is easily at the top of the list when it comes to strongest opponents for Clarke in the 2020 season. PCM rolled through the 2019 season before running into eventual state champion OABCIG. The scary thing for PCM? They may be even better next season.

Aiden Anderson (team leading 1,098 yards rushing with 9 touchdowns) and Sage Burns (779 yards rushing with team leading 17 touchdowns and 619 yards passing) are both coming back. Cogs in the offense are joined by Colby Tool (team-high 73 tackles, nine for a loss) on defense. They’ll also have Greyson Strum, who was a Class 2A first team all-state pick as a lineman. In short, they’re in really good shape.

Clarke needs to be on their game entering this one. Anderson rushed for 135 yards last year, including a 63-yard score. Burns also had a night, going for 123 yards with two scores, including a 65-yard TD.

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