BELLVILLE — For the undefeated Clear Fork Colts’ defensive unit, keeping a lid on the visiting Bryan Golden Bears (7-4) and one of the region’s most-prolific quarterbacks in Saturday night’s Division IV Regional Quarterfinal football matchup was Job 1. The Colts’ defense came through, holding Bryan passer Nate Miller to under 100 yards through the air and shutting out the Bears in the second half to walk away with a hard-fought, 20-6 victory.
The win ties Clear Fork’s record of 11 wins in a single season, set just one year ago. It also puts them back in the Division IV Regional Semifinal, where they will take on Clearview High School from Lorain, who defeated Highland Saturday evening, 30-16. The game will be played at Wooster High School’s Follis Field this Saturday at 7 p.m.
The only time the Colts’ defense allowed the Bears on the scoreboard was late in the opening quarter, when Miller (19 carries, 12 yards) scampered into the end zone from 5 yards out. In fact, the Colts’ defense put down better numbers than the team’s offense put up. Clear Fork stymied Miller, holding him to 10-for-29 passing for an anemic 70 yards. Miller tossed three interceptions, including two in the second half, when his passing was 2-for-14 for a mere 14 yards.
Clear Fork sophomore defensive back Ashton Lyon grabbed both second-half interceptions, including a crucial one, which he ran in for a touchdown from about the 20-yard line to open up a 14-6 Colts’ lead with 8:36 to go in the game.
That was right after Bryan got the ball back on downs, taking it from a Colts’ offense that drove the ball down to the Bears’ seven-yard line before it just sputtered. When Bryan took over at its own 7, Miller chose to pass on first down, but Lyon picked it off and scored.
“There was a lot going through my mind,” Lyon said. “We had a lot of stops and then we finally came through.”
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Up to that point, the game had been a 7-6 struggle in favor of the Colts, since Clear Fork quarterback Jared Schaefer uncorked a 64-yard touchdown pass to Caden Flynn, giving their team the lead with 7:38 to go in the first half.
That play was the highlight of the game for the Colts’ offense that struggled all evening, and it didn’t seem to matter who was at the helm. Seven penalties for 75 yards negated nearly half of Clear Fork’s 152 yards rushing. Schaefer and Brennan South platooned all evening at quarterback for the Colts, combining for five completions for 100 yards. Several pass plays were called back for penalties and both quarterbacks tossed an interception in the first quarter. One pick was run back to the Colts’ 21 yard line by Bryan defensive end Keegan Brown. That set up his team’s only score. Clear Fork coach Dave Carroll pulled no punches with his team’s offensive performance.
“I’m not taking anything away from (Bryan), but I think we helped them with (our) offense,” said Carroll. “We played terrible, It was unacceptable — the offsides, the holding and getting stopped down inside the 10 — I don’t know how long its been since that happened to us.”
Carroll was as quick to praise the performance of his defense that yielded only 108 total yards in the game.
“We didn’t sub them at all — we didn’t take them out,” Carroll said. “(Clear Fork defensive back) Treyvon (Trammel) and (linebacker) Gabe Blauser rushed from the outside a lot, when they weren’t covering (receivers). Those guys came through.”
Clear Fork 6-foot-2, 265 pound senior defensive lineman Michael Chillemi led the Colts’ defense with nine tackles, constantly flushing Miller out of the pocket and getting to him for a sack. He even came up with what can only be termed as an ‘excuse me’ interception on a ball he tipped into the air in the second quarter. The ball came down into his hands, unexpectedly.
“I was just rushing the quarterback and I stuck my hand up,” Chillemi said. “It hit my hand, I got it and started running.”
The Colts’ defense kept coming up big when it needed to. That included stopping the Bears’ offense, which was driving at the Clear Fork 6-yard line, as time ran out in the first half, helping them to hang on to their one-point lead.
“We just kept coming out there as hard as we could,” Chillemi said. “Our fans helped fire us up and so did our cheering section.”
The Colts, beneficiaries of good field position throughout the second half, finally drove down for a score with under two minutes in the game. Clear Fork sophomore running back Brady Tedrow — a late game substitution for senior starter Trammell — scored a touchdown on 2-yard run to give his team insurance points. Trammell ran the ball 17 times for 79 yards to lead the Colts’ ground attack. Clear Fork finished the evening with 162 yards rushing.
In the end, it was Lyon, who slammed the door on the Bears with the second of his interceptions with a minute and a half to go.
“Lyon had been the whipping boy, a little bit,” Carroll said, “He had some problems, getting beat deep, but how fitting is that for him to come through with two picks? I feel really happy for him.”
Now they are back to where they were last year. They don’t want a repeat of 2017’s season-ending 21-13 loss to Bellevue. The offense will need to play much better against Clearview and rack up fewer penalties.
“Some of our kids were not blocking very well,” Carroll said. “I don’t know. We’ll have to take a look at the film and figure it out.”