Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
TIFFIN – When members of the Clear Creek Amana football team saw their 2018 schedule, one game immediately stood out because they knew it would be a chance to earn neighborhood bragging rights.
And that statement was made on Friday in impressive fashion as the Class 3A ninth-ranked Clippers pounded Liberty High 37-7 in the opening night of district play.
It was the first game in what has the potential to be a spirited rivalry between two schools with districts that border each other.
“We circled this game right when we saw it,” said Clear Creek quarterback Andrew Rohret said. “We wanted to show that we’re the better team and we came out there and did that.”
Rohret helped lead the way by throwing two touchdown passes and rushing for 107 yards and another score.
The Clippers were leading 3-0 thanks to a 32-yard field goal by Mitch Evans when Rohret connected with 6-foot-6 Nolan Schwarting on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 10 minutes, 16 seconds left in the first quarter.
Liberty then answered with a touchdown on the final play of the first half. It came on a fake field-goal attempt by Ryan Nugent, who instead rolled to his right and completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Brian Lively, who was blanketed by two defenders.
Nugent converted the point-after kick, making the score 9-7 at halftime.
Clear Creek then seized the momentum by scoring four consecutive touchdowns in the second half, including three in the third quarter.
Liberty was held to just 29 rushing yards in the second half after gaining 101 yards on the ground in the first half.
The Lightning drove from their own 7-yard line to the Clipper 35 on their second offensive possession of the game. However, the drive ended when fullback Jack Ankenbauer was stopped short of a first down.
“In the first half, they were gashing us a little bit,” said Clear Creek coach Gabe Bakker. “We had a plan in place, but we hadn’t a played a team in a regular-season game that ran this type of offense.
“We made some adjustments at halftime and the kids really bought in. And I really just think their emotions changed with it and their intensity did and they did a great job.”
The Clippers improved to 5-0 on the season, while Liberty fell to 2-3 in its first season of competing at the varsity level.
“It feels good, man,” Rohret said. “We’re rolling right now and we’re taking momentum into each game.
“We’re playing with a ton of confidence right now. Being 5-0 and knowing that we can hang with any team, it feels good and it gives us a ton of confidence.”
Clear Creek is known mostly as a running team, but Rohret and his offensive cohorts showed that they can been effective through the air, too.
Rohret completed his second touchdown pass of the game to sophomore tight end T.J. Bollers with 7:15 left in the third quarter. The 6-foot-4, 228-pound Bollers caught a short pass in the flat and then bulled his way into the end zone from 13 yards out.
Evans made the point-after kick to give Clear Creek a 16-7 lead and momentum that it would never relinquish.
“People consider us a running team, so they like to stack the box on us,” said Rohret, who completed 8-of-12 passes for 76 yards. “So we just open up and actually can throw the ball a few times in a game.”
Bakker said it’s important that his team’s passing offense continues to evolve because there will almost certainly be a time this season when the ground game sputters, especially with opposing defenses loading the box.
“We need to be able to throw the football in games,” Bakker said. “We’ve been able to rush the football pretty dang well, but there is going to be a time and place where we have to count on throwing it and we have to be able to do it.”
Liberty struggled on the ground in the second half as the Clippers turned up the heat on defense. The Lightning also had virtually no passing game as quarterback Drake Woody completed just 1-of-7 passes for 32 yards.
“We just had to rally to the football,” Bakker said. “That’s just kind of been our mantra all year defensively, just rally to the football and wrap up and we were able to do that.”
Rohret scored the game’s final touchdown on a 33-yard run with 11:13 left in the fourth quarter. He took the snap and raced around left end before sprinting untouched down the sideline.
Several Liberty defenders appeared to have an angle on Rohret, but it didn’t matter. He also benefitted from a nice block by receiver Sam Stevens and then used his speed to do the rest.
“He means so much to us, most importantly, just the mentality he brings,” Bakker said of Rohret. “He’s a linebacker playing quarterback. I’ve said that many times. He’s going to get the tough yards. He’s going to run the ball. And he can makes some throws, too.”
Bollers made an impact on both offense and defense. In addition to catching two passes for 31 yards, he also was a force as a blocker and on the defensive line.
“Props to our offensive line for being able to come out there and go as hard as they go every single snap and just getting their job done,” Bollers said. “Passing wise, I feel like we can grow a little bit more with our blocks and pass sets and stuff like that.”
Sophomore Alex Figueroa complemented Rohret on the ground by rushing for 87 yards and scoring two touchdowns on runs of 4 and 1 yard in the third quarter.
Junior Kaleb Williams led Liberty with 79 rushing yards, but was held to just six yards in the second half on four carries.
Bakker likes how his team is coming together and playing with a purpose.
“These guys here, it’s a team and that’s the biggest thing that everybody has bought in,” Bakker said. “The coaches have bought in and the kids are playing for each other. And when you start doing that some good things happen.”
Bakker also thinks that Friday’s game was the start of a special rivalry between two schools with players that know each other well.
“I think it’s a built-in rivalry,” Bakker said. “The crowd was awesome, a beautiful night. It was just a fun football game for us.”
First-downs 10 21
Rushes-yards 42-136 47-200
Passing yards 53 76
Penalties-yards 3-20 6-40
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-0
Punts 3-32.3 2-24
CCA – Mitch Evans 32 FG
CCA – Nolan Schwarting 20 pass from Andrew Rohret (kick failed)
ICL – Brian Lively 21 pass from Ryan Nugent (Nugent kick)
CCA – T.J. Bollers 13 pass from Rohret (Evans kick)
CCA – Alex Figueroa 4 run (Evan kick)
CCA – Figueroa 1 run (Evans kick)
CCA – Rohret 33 run (Evans kick)
RUSHING – ICL: Kaleb Williams 18-79, Jack Ankenbauer 10-34, Harold Warr 8-6, Max tofolla 1-6, Alex Santos 1-6, Drake Woody 4-5. CCA: Andrew Rohret 18-107, Alex Figueroa 21-87, Harrison Cory 4-10, Jacob Curtin 1-1, Sam Stevens 3-minus-5, Nick Gerard 1-0.
Passing – ICL: Drake Woody 1-7-32, Ryan Nuget 1-1-21. CCA: Andrew Rohret 8-12-76, Ryan Navara 0-1-0.
RECEIVING – ICL: Ben Houselog 1-32, Brian Lively 1-21. CCA: Sam Stevens 3-25, Nolan Schwarting 2-33, T. J Bollers 2-31, Alex Figueroa 1-11.