By Scott Watson
It was a night for a shootout as the No. 3 Clear Lake Lions (12-0) avenged last year’s playoff elimination at the hands of the Grinnell Tigers (8-4) 48-33. The win sends Clear Lake to the UNI-Dome for the state semifinal game against the No. 1-rated Sioux City Heelan (12-0) team.
“I am very proud of what this team has accomplished,” said Head Coach Fred Wieck. “They have a one in four chance of the ultimate prize.”
Both offenses tallied more yards than a track team. With relative ease, the Lions ran for 514 yards, while the Tigers went to the air for 323 yards passing. But when it came down to the wire, it was the Lion defense that made the difference by making huge fourth-down stands and forcing Tiger turnovers.
Grinnell was the first to break the seal as they charged down Lions field and scored on a 30-yard rushing drive with a point after touchdown kick.
Not willing to prove lack-luster, the Lion offense responded with a long drive and rushing touchdown of their own on a Carter Hand plunge and PAT kick, 7-7.
The Tigers were advancing down the field once again, when a forced fumble recovered by the Lions stopped the Grinnell momentum and put the ball back into Lion hands.
Clear Lake capitalized on the forced opportunity as Brock Adams found the end zone on an eight-yard run accompanied by a PAT kick to end the first quarter, 14-7.
Grinnell’s offense was not to be outdone, as they marched the length of the field for another touchdown. The PAT kick to tie the game missed, keeping the Lions in the driver’s seat, 14-13.
The slight margin wouldn’t last long, as the play following kickoff was a trap that went for 80 yards and a Clear Lake TD by Chandler Diercks. The PAT kick failed, 20-13.
The next drive was a familiar set of circumstances. The Tigers were inside Clear Lake territory and knocking on the door, when a fumble recovered by the Lions stopped the Grinnell offense yet again.
The ever-pumping legs of the Lion offense produced another touchdown off that Tiger error. The PAT kick was good for one, 27-13.
Within 40 seconds of receiving the kickoff, Grinnell flew down the field to put up another six. The PAT attempt failed, bringing the half-time score to 27-19.
The second half found a consistent Lion offense matched by a bend-but-don’t-break defense. On more than one occasion, the Tiger pass machine came to a grinding halt on fourth downs by a Clear Lake defense determined to maintain control of the game.
Clear Lake outscored Grinnell 21-14 in the second half, winning the game 48-33.
The Lions had 549 total yards of offense. On 62 carries, the Lions picked up 514 yards on the ground. Clear Lake had one pass completion on two attempts for 45 yards. The Tigers had 467 total yards, with 144 coming on 26 rushing attempts and 323 passing yards. Grinnell’s standout quarterback, Eli Dunne, threw 28 passes and connected on 21 for 323 yards.
Leading the Lion offense was Diercks with 183 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. Pete Swenson followed close behind with 165 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. Adams contributed 78 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns and Hand had 53 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns.
Adams attempted two passes, completing one for 45 yards to Hand.
The Tigers had two turnovers via fumbles and the Lions had one turnover on an interception.
Clear Lake plays the semi-final game against Sioux City Heelan at 5:36 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14 in the UNI-Dome.
“The senior leadership has been awesome and the infusion of young guys has been well received this year,” said Wieck. “The assistant coaches have also been at their best. I have said it many times before, we have the best assistant coaches in the state. Hopefully the CLHS family can enjoy this with all Clear Lake and North Iowa.”