JEFFERSON – The Clinton Prairie Gophers exploded for 41 first-half points on their way to a 50-0 win over the Carroll Cougars in Friday night’s Class A Sectional 42 semifinal.
The Gophers’ offense piled up 575 yards while scoring four of their touchdowns on plays of 60 yards or more, while the Clinton Prairie defense held the Cougars to only 162 yards.
“That is the most complete game we played and the best half of football that I may have seen out of a team that I have coached ever,” first-year Clinton Prairie head coach K.C. Woods said. “Guys were doing what we challenged them to do. Chase (Joseph) was taking what they gave him and putting the ball on the money. And Sammy (Schoonveld) just continues to grind again. We are playing a spread offense, and Sammy just reels off 187 yards. That’s a testament to that kid and the offensive line.”
Joseph didn’t have to throw much in the game. When he did, it usually resulted in a huge play. The senior quarterback for the Gophers finished with 338 yards and four touchdowns on 9-of-11 passing (82 percent). He averaged 37.6 yards a completion.
“I thought he was going to have to throw it more than what he did,” Woods said. “I didn’t know that he was going to be so on his game as far as his patience. Some of our touchdowns came on plays that take a little bit of time to develop. The pump fakes he threw and just being really patient in the pocket trusting his guys – it was just a phenomenal job by him.
“The throw that sticks out to me is one where he had to roll to his left on a third-and-long and found Drew Scott in the middle in a tight window throwing back against his body,” Woods continued. “I would probably call this his finest performance as far as seeing the field, throwing the ball into great spaces and being patient in the pocket.”
As Woods had predicted, the Cougars kept extra defenders near the line of scrimmage to slow Schoonveld.
The Clinton Prairie quarterback and his receiving corps made them pay for it.
When Joseph put the ball on the hands of his receivers, they rewarded his accuracy with long runs after the catch. His primary target on Friday night was senior receiver Trevor Reece, who showed tremendous speed and agility in turning six receptions into 249 yards and three touchdowns.
“He had a great game,” Joseph said of his speedy receiver. “He caught everything I threw to him. He juked people and ran his heart out. He just had a great game for us.”
Scott had his 29-yard first-down reception, Cayde Selke hauled in a 17-yard pass, and senior Bailey Jenkins made a spinning, leaping catch in the middle of the field and turned it into a 43-yard touchdown.
“If they want to put that many guys in the box, we are going to get the ball to our guys in space,” Woods said. “We told Chase to get it to our guys and let them do what they do. Trevor Reece broke some tackles and made guys miss. Bailey Jenkins focused on a football down the seam, which is harder to catch than it looks when it’s coming right over the top on you instead of outside. The receivers did what they are asked to do in a spread offense – get the ball in space, take off with it and make a guy miss.”
As the game wore on, things opened up for Schoonveld, who finished with 187 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
“We had over 500 total yards and 50 points,” Woods said. “This is exactly what you want when you run a spread offense. Chase had over 300 yards, and Sam ran for over 180. That is what you envision.”
Such gaudy numbers would have never been put up without a dominant performance by the offensive line.
“They are doing tremendous this year,” Joseph said. “We have not had a sack this year, which is amazing. I rarely get touched. They are doing a wonderful job.”
The Clinton Prairie defense was equally impressive. The Gophers set the tone during the opening possession of the game and contained the Cougars the entire game.
On the first play from scrimmage, Carroll sophomore quarterback Trey Filbrun threw to a receiver near the Cougars’ sideline who dropped the ball when he was hammered by Gophers defensive back Grant Ream. The Cougars lost seven yards after recovering their own fumble on second down, and junior linebacker Braxton Barnett sacked Filbrun for a 12-yard loss on third down to force an opening-drive three-and-out.
The Gophers overcame a pair of false start penalties on their first drive of the game to grab the early lead when Joseph faked the handoff to Schoonveld and ran 15 yards down the Gophers’ sideline for a touchdown.
After the Prairie defense forced another three-and-out, Joseph found Reece on third-and-two for a 70-yard touchdown to put the Gophers ahead 13-0 with two minutes and 32 seconds left in the opening quarter.
When the Cougars began to move the chains on their third possession, Drew Scott deflated the Cougars momentum with an interception at the Gophers’ 11-yard line. Two plays later, Joseph found Reece on a short pass that the senior receiver turned into an electric, 92-yard touchdown. Schoonveld found Barnett in the middle of the end zone with a jump pass to convert a 2-point attempt, and the Gophers led 21-0 at the end of the second quarter.
On the second play of the second quarter, Scott came up with his second interception of the night.
“What a game Drew Scott had,” Woods said. “It was an unbelievable job by him. They did a great job tonight and locked guys down.”
Carroll finished with just 11 passing yards.
Scott’s second interception was again converted into points quickly, as the Joseph threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jenkins one minute later.
With just under six minutes remaining in the second quarter, Reece took another one-yard pass from Joseph and evaded half of the Cougars defense again as he rambled all over the field on his way to a 75-yard touchdown.
Schoonveld found the end zone with 3:21 left in the first half on a 22-yard run, and the Gophers led 41-0 at the break.
It didn’t take long for Clinton Prairie to score points in the second half.
On the first play of the third quarter, Schoonveld turned the corner and ran 65 yards down the Cougars sideline for a touchdown.
The final points of the game came with 6:11 remaining in the fourth quarter, when Collin Stroup kicked a 19-yard field goal to make it 50-0.
“(The Cougars) have a terrific offense, and Ovalle’s one of the best athletes you will see in Class A football, and our defense earned its first shutout,” Woods said. “We didn’t give them anything through the air. We challenged our guys to have a better game defending the pass. Braxton Barnett chased (Ovalle) around everywhere. It was his responsibility, and he was chasing him all over the place. It was a great job by him, the defensive line and Zane Cook.
“We just play with a lot of speed on defense,” he added. “Jake Simon running that nose spot for us, was able to own a couple gaps, which allowed us to use our speed to run to the edge and use that to our advantage as opposed to letting them get downhill on us.”
Many junior varsity players took the field for the Gophers in the final minutes, and freshman Caiden Marsh came up with a sack to help the second-stringers preserve the shutout.
With the win, the Gophers (8-3) advance to Friday’s championship game versus the 11-0, Class A No. 1 Lafayette Central Catholic Knights. The Knights beat Attica, 70-7, in their sectional semifinal game.
“(Before the game) I told my guys ‘Let’s just go into this playoff and earn a shot to play No. 1,’” Woods said. “At the end of the day, what a terrific honor that is to play against not one of the best teams in Class A football but one of the best teams in the state of Indiana, period. Let’s go take the field with those guys. It’s high school athletes against high school athletes. We can make some things happen, play with some pride, have a great time, and our guys earned that shot to play in a championship against a phenomenal football team.”