March 29, 2023

Season to remember

Clarke football reminisces on first winning season in 31 years

OSCEOLA – The 2021 season for Class 2A high school football in the state of Iowa concluded at the UNI-Dome on Friday, Nov. 19 when Southeast Valley defeated West Lyon 30-13.

For the Clarke Indians, their season finished in a first round 40-0 defeat handed out by Williamsburg.

The winning season is Clarke’s first since 1990 when the Indians fell 23-0 to the Clarinda Cardinals in the playoffs.

Clarke’s first playoff appearance in school history was in 1987 when the Indians fell 17-14 in overtime to Harlan.

Clarke head coach Sean Quinlan might be the fourth head coach in as many years in Osceola, but he has brought a mentality that has transcended both the Clarke football program and the community as a whole.

“My vision statement that we put together was to build a winning football program,” Quinlan said. “But more importantly, shape and develop young men of character and integrity that the community, the school and parents can be proud of.”

The biggest thing for Coach Q, as he’s known to his players, is establishing trust and relationships.

“We got the job in April, so we drove down four, maybe five days a week and we’re in the weight room,” Quinlan said. “We’d sit down and there’s a packet for each kid. We called it Warrior Roots, it was basically a profile: your name, place of birth, parents names, siblings and then you go down and to some questions. What’s the number one moment in your life so far? If you could meet somebody and have lunch with them, dead or alive, who would it be and why?”

The 15 seniors on the 2021 Clarke roster are Osten Blevins, Jayden Giza, Kamis Bulis, Dale Showers, Ryan Phillips, Ely Crawford, Michael Galvez, Colby Feehan, Kevin Kelso, Jairus Davis, Tyler Binning, Jonah Ruiy, Elijah Keller, Josue Torres and Spruceton Buddenhagen.

Coach Quinlan established a “senior counsel” with the aforementioned 15 players.

“We would have breakfast at the Family Table, once a month on Fridays at 7 a.m.,” Quinlan said. “Just seniors, coach Gilson and I.”

Another thing that Quinlan started at Clarke, was a teacher of the week selected by the players.

“We did teacher of the week and that was a big deal,” Quinlan said. “I was trying to bring the faculty into this. Teachers would come to the team dinner and we would honor them with a book, a nice certificate and they got to lead the team on the field and their name was announced as teacher of the week.”

By doing things like this, Clarke football has established a rapport with faculty and staff within the district.

“Believing in themselves and each other is a powerful ingredient to building a team that can compete each Friday Night,” Director of Activities at Clarke Community Schools Randy Bolton said. “I’m proud of the steps the program took this season. The senior group helped establish a good foundation this year. With our returning varsity players mixed in with some promising JV players, we have the opportunity to keep raising the bar.”

Clarke opened their season with a 43-6 win against Saydel.

In 2020, Clarke was beaten twice by Saydel, a 42-14 loss during the Eagles homecoming game and a 14-13 first round playoff loss.

“The kids did a great job of executing,” assistant coach Kirby Gilson said. “That was huge to play that game first, somebody they played the year before, that not only gave them [the players] credibility but it gave us credibility as well.”

Quinlan calls the season opener an anchor game.

“To say that was an anchor game, absolutely,” Quinlan said. “All they knew was Saydel was coming back, same quarterback from Ankeny and they’re better. We knew this was an important game. It really started with the first drive, we lost the toss as we always do, into the wind and we took the ball right down the field and they punched it in and the kids were like holy cow.”

The next two games were both on the road against Colfax-Mingo then against Perry.

The Indians beat the Tigerhawks 35-19 and the Bluejays 54-0.

“Your character is really revealed when you go through adversity, how well do we respond in those moments,” Quinlan said regarding the early challenge that Colfax-Mingo provided.

Clarke fell 40-7 to Clarinda at home and the following week beat the Shenandoah Mustangs 34-7 for homecoming.

Looming next on Clarke’s schedule was a road game at Des Moines Christian. The Lions beat Clarke 63-30 in 2018 and 56-0 in 2019.

“This year was a different story,” Quinlan said. “We beat them by 13, [37-24], and had the ball on the Lion 1 and we took a knee. The Saydel game and Des Moines Christian game were monumental in our season to remember.”

The Indians travelled to Red Oak the following week and narrowly fell 15-7.

No. 5 Greene County came to Osceola for senior night, and for most of the first quarter, Clarke provided the Rams with a challenge.

“We came out in the first quarter and shut them down,” Quinlan said. “They turned it over twice. So now we kick a field goal and they’re down for the first time all year. We just had to play a game where we didn’t make mistakes.”

Players on the team, such as senior lineman Jairus Davis and Cole White both will treasure the memories from the 2021 season for a lifetime.

“It’s been an awesome ride,” Davis said of making the playoffs. “It’s something I’ve looked forward to ever since being in Pee Wee. How the whole town came together, they gave us a ride out of town and it was like a parade for us. We did something everybody can be proud of.”

Cole White, a sophomore defensive end and tight end, will treasure the memories of scoring a touchdown and allowing the senior class to have the spotlight.

“Against Perry I scored a touchdown which was my only touchdown of the season on two receptions for the year,” White said. “That’s alright because I wanted the seniors to have their moments. I figured I’d have my moments the next two years.”

The mantra throughout the 2021 Clarke season was “We will, we can and we must.”

“We had a picture for the seniors that said ‘we will, we can, we did’,” Quinlan said. “So they did their thing, their whole job was to start a whole new tradition and they did what we asked them to do.”