By Brad Morris
AMANDA — It pays to scrimmage quality opposition.
Amanda-Clearcreek coach Steve Daulton left the football field two weeks ago feeling his defense had some issues to work on following a scrimmage against perennial Division VI power West Jefferson.
“Our seniors knew we had some things to work on and that we needed to get better as a unit following that West Jefferson scrimmage,” Daulton said. “The improvement they showed last week in our final scrimmage against Washington Court House and (on Friday) against Jonathan Alder has been something to watch.
“Our guys have really focused in on the details and they’ve played with tremendous effort.”
That attention to detail and effort paid off on Friday, as the Aces opened the season with a 17-7 non-league win over visiting Jonathan Alder.
“It was ultimately fun to watch everything come together. Our coaches came up with a good game plan and our guys really did a nice job of executing it,” Daulton said. “There were some crazy things that happened on the defensive line, where we had to insert some second or third-string guys, but one of our seniors were right there to tell them where they were supposed to be and what we needed from them.
“It wasn’t a pretty offensive game for either team, but we controlled the line of scrimmage, especially on defense and that made the difference.”
Jonathan Alder’s lone score came on a 90-yard kickoff return to open the second half by Cameron Jewell, cutting the Aces’ lead to 10-7.
The Pioneers tried to build off that momentum, driving down to the A-C six-yard line later in the period.
Zach Julian and Robert Rowland instead changed momentum and chased Alder quarterback Taber Headings back to the 20-yard line before Julian sacked him.
Alder eventually attempted a long 44-yard field goal attempt that missed the mark and left the Aces in the lead.
“That was a huge play by Zach, because that could have been a big momentum swing for Alder to potentially tie the game or take the lead,” Daulton said.
The Aces turned to their defense again in the fourth quarter to come up with a decisive turnover.
Headings had the snap on his own 35-yard line go through his hands. He was initially able to recover the loose pigskin, but a group of Aces forced the ball free again, with senior backup nose tackle Darren Byers eventually recovering on the Alder 20.
“You tell a senior backup defensive lineman that you need one play out of him and Darren was the one that eventually came up with that recovery to give us the football in the red zone,” Daulton said. “I felt that summed up the night for our entire team, because we had that next man up mentality with the cramping and everything and our guys came through.”
Two runs by Tayvon Miller set-up a seven-yard touchdown scamper from Hunter Matheny to give the Aces a 17-7 lead with 2:42 remaining.
Amanda-Clearcreek scored its first 10 points in the first half on a 30-yard field goal off the foot of Jonathan Weaver and a 32-yard touchdown pass from Nate Hunter to Brady Sharp.
The game was the first played without COVID-19 attendance limitations since the 2019 season, and the A-C community filled The Pit as it has traditionally done for years. After the game ended, the student section joined the football team on the field for the alma mater.
“I may be biased, but The Pit is a special place to be and the community came together to really support our guys tonight,” Daulton said. “To have our stands full, people on the hills and a nice student section was something that everyone on our team really enjoyed.”
The Aces (1-0) continue non-league play next week at Unioto (0-1), which fell 12-7 to Vinton County last night.
“We’re a senior-driven team and they’ve done a nice job of leading us so far,” Daulton said. “This is a big win over a bigger (Division III school), so they should celebrate this one (on Friday night) and then we’ll get back to work (today) and start preparing for Unioto.”
Jonathan Alder 7
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 F
Jonathan Alder 0 0 7 0 7
Am.-Clearcreek 7 3 0 7 17
AC — Brady Sharp 32 pass from Nate Hunter (Jonathan Weaver kick).
AC — Jonathan Weaver 30 field goal.
JA — Cameron Jewell 90 kickoff return (kick good).
AC — Hunter Matheny 7 run (Jonathan Weaver kick).
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