LORAIN — After leading 16-8 with 4:16 to go in the second quarter, the Highland Scots went to the locker room down 22-16 and failed to mount a comeback in the first round of the OHSAA playoffs, falling on the road to the Clearview Clippers, 30-16.
“There’s lots of turning points in that game — some for us and a lot against us,” Highland coach Chad Carpenter said. “It was a game of momentum, I think. It just didn’t seem like we were able to get into a routine on offense.”
The Scots had a turning point from the opening kick. Brock Veley took the return deep into Clipper territory and set up Highland at the 18. On the fourth play, Tate Tobin toted the rock 3 yards for a score and he converted the 2-point conversion to put the Scots up 8-0 with less than a minute and a half off the clock.
Clearview looked to have a quick response. On the sixth play of their first drive, Fabion Kirkwood carried for a 26-yard score, but it was called back for a holding penalty. The penalty took points away and then Reese Weissenfluh took the ball away, hauling in an interception in the endzone.
Highland’s next drive stalled and the Clippers marched down the field, taking 16 plays to go 59 yards, scoring on a 1-yard run from David Renftle and a successful conversion tied the game at 8-8 with 8:46 to go in the half.
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On their next possession, the Clippers were pinned deep in their own territory and forced to punt. Pressure up the middle on the punt forced a whiffed kick and Chase Carpenter recovered the ball on the 3. On the next play, Tobin scored on a run and he ran for the conversion, giving Highland the 16-8 lead with 4:16 to go in the second.
“They were very beneficial. That was momentum in our favor,” Carpenter said of the two solid special teams plays in the first half. “We were able to take advantage of that. Again, it was just a rollercoaster. The whole game was a rollercoaster.”
Clearview quickly erased the eight-point deficit. A Scot corner fell in the muck and Chase Christensen linked up with Dustyn Smith for a 58-yard score. On the kickoff after the touchdown, the ball was aimed to roll out of bounds, but got stuck in the mud and Clearview recovered. Eight plays later, Renftle scored from 4 yards out. A converted two-pointer put the Clippers ahead 22-16, a lead they took into intermission.
“I told our guys after the game, one of the things I said was, ‘They made the plays when they needed to and we just didn’t,’” Carpenter said. “That’s just the way it sometimes goes. That dictated the momentum of the game. Hats off to them, they did a really good job.”
Clearview added to their lead on the first drive of the second half. Christensen and Smith combined for another score, this one for 38 yards, putting the Clippers ahead 30-16 with 9:43 to go. Highland rebounded with a solid drive, but the scoring chance was thwarted by an interception in the end zone by Jordan Reed.
Highland had two more drives in the game, but both ended in a turnover on downs, ending the game at 30-16.
“It’s very disappointing right now, but it’s hard to take away from anything our kids did all year,” Carpenter said. “I’m really proud of them. They battled hard. Unfortunately, we just came up short tonight. We just need to keep our heads up and these sad memories will turn into hopefully joyful memories in their lives.”
Brody Matthews was the top rusher for the Scots with 97 yards on 17 carries. Jack Weaver had 26 yards on four totes. Veley and Tobin combined for 41 yards on seven carries apiece. Quarterback Ian Arnold was 6-of-20 for 76 yards. Isaiah Stoneburner notched four catches. Two of his four hauls he tossed back to Veley, who notched 44 receiving yards on the day, while Stoneburner had 22 yards receiving.
Drew Engle led the Clippers with 62 yards on 22 carries. Renftle had 48 yards on 10 carries, along with his two touchdowns. Christensen recorded 182 yards on 7-of-13 passing. Smith had three catches for 124 yards, while Renftle had 17 yards on two receptions. Jordan Reed had one catch for 21 yards.
Clearview advanced in the playoffs to take on Clear Fork Saturday in Wooster. Highland dropped to 9-2 on the year. The Scots had 15 seniors on the roster who were integral parts of back-to-back trips to the postseason.
“I’m going to really miss these guys. They’re a special group,” Carpenter said. “We’ve followed this group all the way through Colt League. … We’ve got a lot of great kids still in the program that work hard as well, so now it’s those kids’ turn to get in there and compete. But yeah, I’m going to miss that group.”