Clippers close season on a high note

Columbiana’s Steven Anderson scores the team’s first touchdown against East Palestine on Friday night. (Photo by Wayne Maris)

COLUMBIANA — Bob Spaite and his Columbiana Clippers pulled out some new wrinkles in his offense Friday as they pulled away from the East Palestine Bulldogs 33-14 on a mud-soaked field at Firestone Park.

The victory clinches a share of the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference championship for the Clippers with Southern Local and United.

“We stubbed our toe last week, and I told you that we will find out what kind of character we have. Well, I think you saw that tonight,” Spaite said. “Just a tremendous effort by these seniors.”

“Words can’t describe how this feels right now,” Senior lineman Erik Hopfenziz said with tears in his eyes. “This is so unreal to be here. To start the year 0-3 and come into the league and win five straight games, and then losing to Southern. Then come back and winning your rival game and part of the EOAC title.”

Right from the start of the game, the Clippers used a new offensive formation with halfback Chase Franken and quarterback Jakob Cross switching positions. Franken went under center and handed the ball off to Cross trying to power run the ball right up the middle. But once the Bulldogs adjusted to that, the Clippers utilized their 6-foot, 230 pounds back Steven Anderson to blast up the middle of the Dog defense.

“My line opened up big holes so it is easy to run. I could have run for 200 yards with the holes my line was making. It was unbelievable,” Anderson said.

Anderson finished with 83 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Cross had another 99 yards and a score.

That combination led the Clippers on an impressive 80-yard, 10 play drive with Anderson barreling into the end zone with 6:16 remaining in the first quarter. That score knotted the game at 7-7.

The Bulldogs countered with an outstanding performance by the Dog senior running back Dominic Posey as he raced through the middle of the Clippers defense on their first possession to score on a 51-yard run. He followed that up with an even more spectacular 83-yard jaunt with 4:24 remaining in the second quarter, giving the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead.

Despite the nasty weather conditions and a muddy field, Clippers quarterback Jakob Cross connected on two key passes of 23 yards to Xathon Cross, and 15 yards to Hunter Zentner to put the Clippers deep in Bulldog territory with less than a minute before halftime. From there Anderson plowed into the end zone from 2 yards out to make it a 14-14 contest at intermission.

The Clippers continued to lean on their power running game while taking advantage of two very costly Bulldog turnovers. The first occurred at the Clippers 18-yard line when it appeared the Dogs were going to break the tie again. The second happened at the Dogs own 20 when the snap never got back to quarterback Parker Sherry in the shotgun.

“We had troubles with our snaps, turnovers that are not typical of us,” Bulldogs coach Tony Foster explained the team’s plight on the night. “The ball was slick and it starts rolling around. It didn’t work in our favor tonight.”

The Clippers took advantage of the miscue by scoring on a 6-yard run by Franken with just 26 seconds remaining in the third quarter. That gave the Clippers a 21-14 lead.

The Clippers then dominated the fourth stanza as Jakob Cross scored from 5 yards out with 5:37 remaining to make it 27-14. Franken added a late touchdown with 1:10 left on a 17-yard run around left end to make it the final 33-14 score.

“The career I’ve had, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else,” Hopfenziz said. “And the way Coach Spaite has role modeled not only me but the team to be better young men and maturing. That makes everything in my career. It’s not all about football.”.

The win closes out the season for the Clippers with a 6-4 overall record, 6-1 in the league. The Bulldogs end the year with a 5-5 mark, 5-2 in conference play.

“Our lack of consistency,” Foster admitted to the struggles the Bulldogs had this year. “We had some ups and downs and we lacked some consistency. Week to week it showed.”

“Having two guys in the same class that have their skill set is very special,” Foster expressed his admiration to Sherry and Posey. “The amount of records they have as far as total yardage is pretty cool and they couldn’t have done it without each other. So yeah, they are very special.”

Game notes

• The Bulldogs and Clippers rivalry dates back to 1916 with the Bulldogs holding a 42-40-2 advantage in the series. However, the Clippers have dominated the series in the past 20 years with a record of 15-5.

• The Bulldogs captured the first EOAC regular season title last year with a 31-22 win over the Clippers.

• The Clippers had all 1- senior players take part in the coin flip before the game, including their Japanese foreign exchange student Drew Takamora.

• Columbiana took a special donation during the game for the Frazier family from East Palestine who lost their home in a fire this week. Mike Frazier is a senior receiver/defensive back for the Bulldogs.

EAST PALESTINE: 7-7-0-0–14

COLUMBIANA: 7-7-7-12–33

SCORING

EP–Dominic Posey 51 run (Josh Welsh kick)

C–Steven Anderson 8 run (Colin Schick kick)

EP – Posey 83 run (Welsh kick)

C–Anderson 2 run (Schick kick)

C–Chase Franken 6 run (Schick kick)

C–Jakob Cross 5 run (kick blocked)

C– Franken 17 run (kick failed)

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EP C

First downs 5 19

Total Yards 284 414

Rushes-yards 35-259 52-297

Passing 25 117

Comp-Att-Int 3-10-0 7-10-0

Punts 3-42.33 3-34

Fumbles-Lost 4-3 1-1

Penalties-Yards 5-45 7-60

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INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

RUSHING–East Palestine, Dominic Posey 9-139, Parker Sherry 23-120; Columbiana, Jakob Cross 18-99, Steven Anderson 17-83, Joe Bable 11-63, Chase Franken 10-52.

PASSING–East Palestine, Parker Sherry 3-10-25-0-0; Columbiana, Jakob Cross 7-10-117-0-0.

RECEIVING–East Palestine, Colton Cook 2-23, Dominic Posey 1-2; Columbiana, Xathon Cross 3-55, Hunter Zentner 2-32, Jaden Graham 1-25, Chase Franken 1-5.

FUMBLE RECOVERIES–East Palestine, Cameron Wischerman; Columbiana, Erik Hopfenziz, Thurston Burt, Jack Carney.

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