With a 0-2 record in games that were competitive but lacked crisp execution, the Clover High School football players hope it’s their turn to experience the thrill of victory.
In the Blue Eagles’ home-opener Friday night, Clover will face Westwood, the newest high school in Richland School District Two.
Sporting a 2-0 record, the Redhawks blasted River Bluff 46-0 in the season-opener and rolled past Richland Northeast 38-6 Aug. 29.
“They are an up-and-coming team in 4A,” Blue Eagles head coach Chad Smith said. “They are extremely large and athletic.”
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The Redhawks’ offensive line averages 6-foot-2 and 290 pounds.
“Westwood is a well-rounded team that operates out of the spread formation,” said Smith.
“Their outside linebackers are 6-foot-1, 253, and 6-foot, 275,” said Smith. “They are big and athletic.”
While the Redhawks were dismantling Richland Northeast, the Blue Eagles were playing an unbeaten Forestview team.
Smith said missed opportunities resulting from costly mistakes enabled the home-standing Jaguars to stretch the lead in a 42-22 win for Forestview.
Forestview running back Mo Neal, who has gained interest from Division I schools, scored five touchdowns and rushed for 162 yards for the Jaguars.
“Our defense actually held him in check for the most part in the first half,” said Smith. “He’s a phenomenal running back.”
Though the Blue Eagles had only six penalties, Smith said, all were deep in Forestview territory, wiping out scoring opportunities.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Smith said. “It’s just a matter of eliminating the mistakes.”
Smith said the defense played well in the first half and the offense cranked it up in the second. “We need to play well on both sides of the ball in both halves to get where we want to be,” he said.
Neal’s two first-half touchdowns were about all the offense the Jaguars could muster in a tight first half.
Cody Payne’s 51-yard touchdown run and a Blue Eagles two-point conversion accounted for Clover’s first-half scoring.
Clover’s two fourth-quarter touchdowns included a three-yard run by R. J. Moore and a two-yard run by quarterback Noah Lindsay.
Clover’s double wing was productive against the Jaguars, churning out 313 yards rushing.
Moore led a balanced rushing attack with 69 yards; Tenchi Her had 66 yards, Payne had 64 and Will Clark had 60 yards.
Clark, the team’s return specialist, is becoming a special team’s nightmare for opponents.
Clark’s 83-yard kickoff return stunned Westside in the season-opener the previous Friday.
He struck again against Foresview, returning a kickoff 70 yards before being brought down just shy of the goal line.
“I think I have the speed to make things happen when I can get into open space,” Clark said. “A lot of it is using my instincts and finding an opening.”
Senior offensive tackle Harrison Gibson, 5-foot-10 and 250 pounds, said the offensive linemen understand their responsibilities in the double wing.
“We know if we can push the defensive front back a couple yards, our offense will make it happen,” he said. “We take pride in making a hole for our running backs and quarterback.”
Clover quarterback Noah Lindsay said he is excited about Friday’s upcoming game.
“We’ll be pumped up and looking for a win,” said Lindsay, a junior. “We’ll work hard at practice this week. I am confident the double wing can get it done.”
Smith said that players“have got to believe they can win.”
“I am impatient,” he said. “I know they will get there, and I know the community is behind us.”
After Friday’s home-opener against Westwood, the Blue Eagles return home Sept. 12 to battle White Knoll.