MAIZE — Clearwater and Maize South arrived at Friday night’s game with surprising 2-1 records, and with mutual respect.
Clearwater survived an evenly-played game for a 14-13 victory at Maize South. It was a win for the Indians, but the game gave a lasting statement about both teams.
"I'm proud of both of these programs because we've shown everybody we can play," Clearwater junior Jarrod Nickelson said. "They said we were going to go 1-8 and they were going to go 0-9, so I think we're both proving ourselves this year."
Clearwater proved it on the ground. All 41 offensive plays were runs, and the Indians' double-wing offense was effective enough to produce 218 yards.
"That's the most fun thing a lineman can do is to go out there and knock somebody on their butt," Clearwater lineman Trevor Bowman said. "We've been playing smashmouth football and it's been working."
While Austin True and Justin Alexander had to work for a combined 97 yards, Nickelson was the most dangerous threat. He had four runs of 10-or-more yards and finished with 116 yards and both Clearwater touchdowns.
Clearwater added deception to its offense with reverse handoffs from tailback to tailback.
"It's confusing," Nickelson said. "We try to guard it in practice and it's confusing for our defense and we run against it every day."
At times, Maize South didn't have the answer. But after Clearwater took a 14-13 lead at the end of the third quarter, the Mavericks didn't allow a first down in the final quarter.
Most of Maize South's offense came through the air with quarterback Drake Dukes, who finished with 182 passing yards and 256 total. He connected with Wes Phillips for 92 yards, including a 44-yard catch that set up a 4-yard Aaron Wondra touchdown run for the game's first score.
Dukes threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Taner Thurman in the second quarter, but the extra point was blocked for a 13-7 Maize South lead.
"Tough loss," Dukes said. "We foughtæ.æ.æ. but we just couldn't finish."
Dukes guided Maize South down to inside the Clearwater 10-yard-line on its final drive to set up a 25-yard field goal attempt. Ian Blankenship's kick was blocked by Bowman with 17 seconds left.
"There's a lot of plays that make up a game," Maize South coach Brent Pfeifer said. "But it comes down to the end of the game. I think both teams proved they could play with anybody at anytime."
Clearwater improved to 3-1 on the season.
"Tonight we just did enough," Clearwater coach Dirk Ankerholz said. "Just enough."
Clearwater (3-1) 0 7 7 0 — 14
Maize South (2-2) 0 13 0 0 — 13
MS—Wondra 4 run (Blankenship kick)
C—Nickelson 1 run (Reibenspies kick)
MS—Thurman 14 pass from Dukes (Blankenship kick blocked)
C—Nickelson 20 run (Reibenspies kick)
Rushing—Clearwater, Nickelson 18-116, Alexander 10-52, True 6-45, Rinke 2-3, Dunnegan 1-2, Vaughn 1-1, Hoover 3-(-1). Maize South, Dukes 14-74, Scott 12-44, Wondra 9-19, Good 2-5.
Passing—Clearwater, none. Maize South, Dukes 10-18-1-182.
Receiving—Maize South, Phillips 3-92, Wondra 3-62, Thurman 2-18, Rogers 1-7, Nibarger 1-3.