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Tigers' defense key to win over East Clinton

The Highland County Press - Staff Photo - Create Article
McClain's Drake Stapleton looks to pass in the Tigers' Week 4 win over East Clinton. (HCP Photos/Jim Jones)
Jim Jones, The Highland County Press

The McClain Tigers used a tenacious defense and a lot of rushing by senior Andrew Potts to defeat visiting non-conference opponent East Clinton, 22-6 Friday night in Greenfield.

It was also a big bounce-back win after a disappointing and hard-luck loss at Paint Valley last week when the Tigers lost senior captain and defensive standout Kaden Penwell with an ankle injury. Penwell was still unable to play Friday night, but the Tiger defense really stepped up and surrendered just a single touchdown late in the third quarter. 

“Defensively, I thought we played pretty well except for a few missed tackles, and some of those were in their backfield,” McClain head coach Keith Penwell said. “We bent but didn’t break and only gave up the one big play, but it cost us a touchdown.”

“Owen Sykes, who usually plays defensive end, stepped in at linebacker tonight for K.P. (Kaden Penwell) and made some really big plays for us,” continued Penwell. “He had an interception on a fourth-and-one play, but unfortunately for us he too went down late in the game with an ankle injury.

“I thought our freshman Noah Sponcil came in and made some big plays too. He brings so much excitement and is just a fun kid to be around. Cam Medley also played lights out for us defensively and had a big interception when they were down on our goal line.”

It was a big play night overall for the Tigers with Medley, Sykes and Max Eikenberry having huge interceptions in the game at opportune times.  Medley also recovered a fumble at the goal line in the second period when it looked like the Astros were going to tie the game at that point.

McClain scored the only touchdown of the opening half on a 3-yard run by Potts with just one minute left on the first-quarter clock. The extra-point kick was not converted, and that’s how the half ended with the Tigers holding a slim 6-0 lead.

East Clinton really controlled the clock for most of the second period behind the strong running of senior tailback Glenn Peacock, who rushed for 92 yards in the half. He finished the game with 166 yards on 28 carries, and he scored their only touchdown.

“Their game plan was to keep our offense off the field and control the clock by running the football, and they did a pretty good job of that, especially in the second quarter,” said Penwell.

The McClain offense seemed to come out in the third period with a little more fire and wasted little time scoring their second touchdown, another 1-yard run by Potts. After a successful two-point pass and catch conversion by Stapleton to Sykes, it was 14-0 Tigers.

But the Astros answered moments later when Peacock broke loose for an electrifying 48-yard touchdown run, cutting the McClain lead to 14-6 after the 2-point attempt failed.

On the ensuing kickoff, Sykes had a return to give the Tigers great field position on the East Clinton 48-yard line. McClain scored their third and final touchdown of the game six plays later when senior quarterback Drake Stapleton made a great fake handoff to Potts and ran 10 yards around the left end untouched.

Another 2-point conversion was successful when Stapleton pitched out to Potts, who ran it in to the end zone, and it was suddenly a 22-6 lead for the Tigers, which is how the game would end.

The McClain defense had two more big defensive stops down the stretch to preserve the win.

“We challenged our kids at halftime, and I thought our offensive line came out in the third quarter and did a much better job,” Penwell said. “Andrew (Potts) was able to get loose a little bit, but those were still some tough yards.

“I thought Drake (Stapleton) had some really nice fakes and made some big plays for us offensively, especially the one for a touchdown when they were focused in on Andrew.

“We did some good things tonight but definitely need to watch film and fix some things, but overall, I thought we did a much better job in the second half,” Penwell continued. “We have a really good staff that coaches well, and I’m proud of them, too.”

McClain (3-1) travels to Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy next Friday.

Individual stats for McClain: Andrew Potts 29 carries, 186 yards, 2 TDs; Drake Stapleton 10 rushes, 30 yards, 1 TD, 4-of-11 passing, 59 yards.

The Tigers had 282 total yards, with 223 coming on the ground.

Leading tacklers: Owen Sykes 7, Cade Sponcil 6, Andrew Roeder 5, Jayden Allison 5.

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