There are four games tonight in the TCC as the 2014 league season kicks off.
Clinton is at Whiteford in the marquee matchup of the night. Both teams are state-ranked and undefeated.
Other games include Whitmore Lake vs. Britton-Deerfield; Summerfield vs. Sand Creek and Morenci hooks up with Madison.
Here’s a preview of the Whiteford-Clinton clash:
CLINTON (2-0) at WHITEFORD (2-0)
Why it’s important: The only matchup involving 2-0 teams tonight in the TCC.
The rankings: Both Clinton and Whiteford are ranked heading into the game – the Bobcats as high as No. 4 in one Division 8 ranking while Clinton is as high as No. 4 in Division 6.
Streaking: The streaks are in Clinton’s favor – a 10-0 all-time record against Whiteford and 14 consecutive TCC victories.
Weeks 1 & 2: Both teams had games cut short in Week 2. Clinton didn’t play because Blissfield forfeited. Whiteford played the first half and built a 34-0 lead when the second half was canceled due to the weather.
Players to watch: Clinton’s Matthew Sexton is one of – if not the – fastest players in the TCC. He is a receiver who also took several direct snaps in Week 1 for the Redskins – rushing for 100 yards. Collin Poore is a 1,000-yard rusher. Whiteford sophomore Jesse Kiefer has more than 230 yards rushing and five TDs in the first two Bobcat games. Punishing runner/linebacker Josh Beck, a junior, started his first game in the playoffs in 2012, and will start his 16th straight game tonight.
Position battles: Clinton’s backfield/receivers are loaded – Sexton, Poore, Nathan Poore, Jared Sackett and QB Ryan Karapas. Whiteford’s linebackers are deep and talented, too, starting with Beck, Jake Becki, Cody Kiefer and his brother, Jesse.
Clinton beat Whiteford 26-24 in the fourth game of the 2012 season.
Bobcat fans will remember it well – Whiteford had the ball inside the Redskin five-yard line with time running out in the fourth quarter when a fumble turned the ball over, ending the threat. Clinton won and has barely been challenged in its 12 TCC games since. Last year the Redskins played in the state championship game.
Bobcat coach Jason Mensing said if Whiteford is to give the Redskins a game this time they have to limit the big play and be consistent on both offense and defense.
“Offensively they have big play talent and they score in a hurry in a lot of ways,” Mensing said. “We prevent these it should yield a close game.”
The Bobcat offense has been in high gear already, scoring 74 points in six quarters. Sophomore running back Jesse Kiefer has nearly 250 yards rushing and five touchdowns in his first two games as a starter. His brother, Cody Kiefer, scored twice against Erie Mason and led the Bobcats with 88 yards on the ground.
Bobcat quarterback John Reditt has thrown two TD passes to new receiver, senior Mitchell Iott, so far this season. Reditt threw for 1,000 yards last season.
Clinton put up 41 points on Manchester in its season opener, the first for starting QB Ryan Karapas. The team piled up 350 yards rushing in the win.
Clinton coach Scott McNitt, in his 30th year at the helm of the Redskins, said it’s going to be a battle against the Bobcats.
“Hopefully both teams play well and nobody gets hurt,” McNitt said. “They’re so good, every phase, every possession and playing consistent will be the key to having a chance.”
Both Mensing and McNitt were somewhat disappointed that the two teams couldn’t complete full games in week 2.
“The cancelation at halftime for Whiteford the forfeit for Clinton took away opportunities for the players,” McNitt said. “As coaches, we don’t ever want to short our kids, but mother nature and unforeseen circumstances did just that.”
Mensing said he’s confident Clinton will be well prepared, whether or not it played last week.
“For us, playing a half was critical for us as we are still making many mistakes and playing at game speed certainly is necessary to correct many of them,” he said. “Although I would have liked to play a full game last week, the work we got in was very important.”
The Bobcats are 0-7 against Clinton since the Redskins joined the TCC and 0-10 against Clinton all-time. Losses to the Redskins have included defeats of 66-0 (1977), 33-0 (1978) and 33-8 (2013).