Thanks to a defense that forced three turnovers and a solid ground game by sophomore Tyler Hardesty, the Cambridge High Bobcats kept their playoff hopes alive by posting an impressive 26-0 win over Claymont at McFarland Stadium on Friday night.
Contributor Heath Dawson has more.
CAMBRIDGE – Thanks to a defense that forced three turnovers and a solid ground game by sophomore Tyler Hardesty, the Cambridge High Bobcats kept their playoff hopes alive by posting an impressive 26-0 win over Claymont at McFarland Stadium on Friday night.
The Bobcats, who improved to 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the East Central Ohio League, limited Claymont (5-4, 4-2 ECOL) to just one first down and 24 yards of total offense (negative one yard rushing) in the first 24 minutes of action.
Cambridge head coach Rick Goodrich said his defense turned in an outstanding effort.
“We talked all week long that the team that played the most physical football tonight was going to win,” Goody noted. “I feel that we played physical on both sides of the football. We played well defensively last week at New Philadelphia and it carried over to tonight’s game. We were concerned about Claymont because they play smash-mouth on offense, but our kids rose to the occasion.”
After forcing Claymont to its second consecutive three-and-out, the ’Cats took over at the Mustang 45. Hardesty ripped off a 25-yard run on first down, moving Cambridge to the 30. Three plays later, senior quarterback Vince Daugherty hooked up with Zach Freeman for a 13-yard gain, moving the chains to the 15.
Moments later, a block in the back penalty against Cambridge moved it back to the 26. However, a six-yard run by senior fullback Kirk Wetherell, a 13-yard reception by Nate McVicker from Daugherty and a six-yard run by Hardesty on consecutive plays resulted in a first down at the one. Two plays later, Hardesty plowed into the end zone for a one-yard score. Junior Nick Liptak added the point-after to give the Bobcats a 7-0 cushion with 1:35 left in the first.
Cambridge again forced Claymont to punt on the first play of the second quarter Senior Paul Rose gave the Bobcats great field position with a 30-yard punt return that moved the hosts to the 26. Three plays later, Liptak booted a school record 46-yard field goal to give the ’Cats a 10-0 lead. The kick broke Virgil Kosokar’s 1941 record, which was a 45-yard boot in a 3-0 win over Coshocton at Pine Field.
The teams then traded punts on their next two series of downs. After Cambridge forced the Mustangs to punt for the fourth time in the first half, it took over at the Claymont 43. The Bobcats moved the ball down to the 11, but three incomplete passes forced the hosts to try for a 27-yard field goal, which Liptak obliged, giving the hosts a 13-0 advantage with just 0:10.3 reading on the first half clock.
Goody said Liptak’s two field goals and extra point in the first half helped give his team some extra confidence heading into the lockers.
“Nick just keeps getting better and better every week,” Goodrich pointed out. “He is really becoming a weapon for us. Those kicks gave us a lift tonight. It’s nice to have him on our side.”
The outcome was basically cemented on the first play of the second half as Claymont fumbled the kickoff, which was recovered by Rose at the 28. Facing a fourth-and-11 from the 32, Daugherty found Freeman for a 12-yard gainer that moved the sticks to the 17.
Hardesty then ripped off an 11-yard jaunt to give the ’Cats a first down at the Claymont six. Following a two-yard gain, Hardesty found paydirt from four yards out, capping off a seven-play, 28-yard drive. The Bobcats missed their first PAT of the year, but still had a 19-0 cushion with 8:48 left in the third frame.
Following a kick that went out of bounds, the Mustangs took over at the 35. On first down, Robert Western was hurried and Lance Morrison stepped in front of a pass and returned it four yards to the 32. The drive ended up stalling after Claymont stuffed a run on fourth-and-goal from the one.
However, the Bobcats’ defense forced another turnover as Zach Garbrandt was hammered on the one, which jarred the ball loose and McVicker pounced on the ball. On the next play, Wetherell bull dozed into the end zone. Liptak added the extra point, giving the Bobcats a 26-0 lead with 1:06 left in the third quarter.
Claymont put together a nice drive at the end of the third quarter that carried over to the fourth stanza. A 35-yard run by Jared Kendziorski on first down was followed by a five-yard pickup to end the third. The Mustangs eventually moved the ball to the 22, but Rose came up with another big play as he stepped in front of a Western pass that was intended for Josh Brindley in the end zone.
Goodrich said the fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half really helped seal the deal.
“The kickoff recovery in the third quarter was big,” Goodrich related. “That set the tone for the entire second half. We ended up controlling the ball a majority of the third quarter, which didn’t allow them to get back into the game.
“Rose came up with a few big plays for us. We were pretty aggressive on defense and Coach Johnson had a pretty good game plan. We did have them reeling on offense,” Goody added.
Hardesty led the Bobcats with 130 yards and two touchdowns and 34 carries. Wetherell added 18 yards and a score on six attempts. Daugherty finished 6-of-11 for 69 yards.
Claymont was paced by Kendziorski’s 74 yards on 23 carries. Brindley had the lone Mustang reception – a 25-yard grab.
With the win, Cambridge is still holding out hope that they will sneak into the Division III, Region 11 playoffs.
“This helps us out in terms of the playoffs, but we can only control how we prepare for Meadowbrook,” Goodrich stated. “We’re pleased that we still have the possibility of playing in Week 11. We knew that we couldn’t lean on a New Philadelphia win. We had to go out and build on this with a win this week. The win over Philly was meaningful because we won tonight. I’m proud that the players came out and built off of last week.”