A leg up: Clinton fights through injury to beat Turner
BELOIT--When the season ends, both Clinton and Beloit Turner may look back at Week 6 of the high school football season as a watershed moment.
On Friday night, the Cougars found a way to extend their regular-season winning streak to 14 games despite losing senior starting quarterback Tyler Halsted to injury in the second quarter.
And the host Trojans limited Clinton’s high-octane offense to just seven points in a close battle of state-ranked teams on Homecoming.
A botched snap on an extra point and one sustained Clinton drive in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference as the Cougars, ranked third in the state in Division 5, held off the Trojans, eighth-ranked in Division 4, 7-6 at Turner.
“We just talked about how we can overcome anything,” said Clinton senior Connor Mullooly, who stepped in and ran a wildcat offense in the second half. “No matter what happens, we’re a team, we’re a family. The strength of all of our teammates just picks us up and we get it done.”
Clinton is now 6-0 and alone in first place in the Rock Valley Conference. Turner fell to 5-1 and a tie for second.
“They’ve blown out pretty much every team in our conference,” Turner coach Derek Diehl said. “As long as we keep focused and don’t let this get to us, because I don’t see it as a loss. It’s maybe not a win, but it’s a climb in the right direction.”
With Halsted in his third year at quarterback, the Cougars came in leading the state in rushing, and they totaled 258 rushing yards against Turner.
Halsted broke the scoreless tie with a 16-yard run on third-and-goal late in the first quarter.
In the second, his eighth carry of the night went for eight yards to give him 79 overall, but Halsted was tackled awkwardly and limped off the field with a leg injury.
“We did better than maybe we would have done a couple years ago with it (a critical injury),” Mullooly said. “We knew we had to do something pretty special tonight to get by, and I saw a lot of guys step up in big ways, including some underclassmen.”
Clinton blocked a long field goal before halftime to preserve the 7-0 lead.
After trading early turnovers in the second half, Turner got back within a point when sophomore Kenny Draeving found senior Juan Reyes over the middle for a 34-yard touchdown pass. Reyes caught six passes for 81 of Draeving’s 177 yards through the air.
Reyes, also the team’s kicker, never got a chance to tie the game, however. The PAT snap sailed too high for the holder to handle, leaving the Cougars up 7-6.
“We need to practice, maybe, a little bit more on the what-ifs if it is a high snap,” Diehl said. “But we wanted to play physical football with them, and I think we proved we could do that.
“We just made a few more mistakes than they did, and the better team won tonight.”
Clinton’s sputtering offense found its rhythm for one critical fourth-quarter drive. The Cougars marched from their own 8-yard line to the red zone in 14 plays that chewed up nearly six minutes of clock. The drive ended in a lost fumble, but much damage was done. Senior Zach Krause shouldered much of the load, and he finished with 28 carries for 137 yards.
“They were challenged at halftime with Ty going out. Connor hasn’t really taken a rep there (at quarterback) all year,” Clinton coach Jeff Spiwak said. “You tell the kids they’ve got to bear down and get it done, and they did.
“I give credit to our O-line. With our non-quarterback playing quarterback, our play-calling was extremely limited. But the line made that last drive happen.”
Turner recovered a fumble and used a long fourth-down pass to get to midfield on its last-ditch drive. But Clinton sacked Draeving one last time in the closing seconds to prevail.
The Cougars, who host McFarland next week, enter today hoping X-rays come back negative for Halsted.
“Hopefully it’s just a sprain,” Spiwak said. “Either way, we’ve got to push forward.”
CLINTON 7, TURNER 6
Clinton 7 0 0 0—7
Turner 0 0 6 0—6
Scoring: C—Tyler Halsted 16 run (Chandler Yurs kick). T—Juan Reyes 34 pass from Kenny Draeving (aborted snap on PAT).
Statistics: First downs—Clinton 16, Turner 13. Rushing—Clinton 51-258, Turner 29-57. Passing yards—Clinton 36, Turner 177. Passes—Clinton 3-1-1, Turner 22-14-0. Fumbles—Clinton 3-2, Turner 3-2. Penalties—Clinton 9-75, Turner 8-55.