The Clayton football team was facing two giant obstacles Oct. 22 in its 8-man playoff, Level 1 game.
The number of injuries throughout its team and Gilman, the No. 1 team in state at the 8-man level.
“With all the injuries we had going into the game, we were simply outmatched, on both sides of the ball,” said Clayton coach Jordan LaBlanc.
Gilman remained undefeated, winning 53-15.
“They are the No. 1 ranked team in the state for a reason, though,” LaBlanc continued. “Coach Rosemeyer does a really nice job of getting his players ready to go over there. They don’t have many weak spots, in any facets of the game.”
Gilman quarterback Julian Krizan attempted only eight passes. Six were completed for 209 yards and three touchdowns. The yardage was split fairly evenly between Bryson Keepers, who had 116 and Branden Ustianowski, who posted 93.
The Pirates were also very successful on the ground, finishing with 324 yards rushing and four touchdowns. Krizan left his mark there as well, finishing with 118 yards and two touchdowns. Grady Kroeplin added 69 yards and two touchdowns.
“We did a nice job of taking away their inside trap plays, which is one of their staples,” LaBlanc said. “They attacked us on the perimeter and through the air after that. We misplayed a few footballs in the air, and missed on a few open field tackles, which led to touchdowns.”
Clayton (5-4 overall) was without quarterback Colton Zacharias, among others.
“I thought Tannar Lewis did a nice job for us at the quarterback position,” LaBlanc said. “He really only had four days last week to prepare for Friday night, and he stepped in and really helped us out. Their middle linebacker (Krizan) was the 8-man defensive player of the year last year as a junior, and they blitzed him much of the night. Tannar stood right in there and delivered a few passes while getting hit. It was impressive to see out of a sophomore with little preparation time.”
Lewis finished 6-for-11 for 120 yards and an interception. Avery Starzecki was the leading rusher with 59 yards and a touchdown. Josh Young threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Landon King in the first half.
The touchdown pass came on a 4th and 12 on Clayton’s third drive of the night.
“Against teams like Gilman, you occasionally need to dig deep into the bag of tricks to be successful,” LaBlanc said.
LaBlanc is optimistic about Clayton football going forward despite losing nine seniors to graduation.
“We had many underclassmen get valuable playing time this year, including Friday night. I hope these young guys get a taste of success and want to build off that.
“We will need to invest some time in strength and conditioning in the offseason, but the future does look pretty solid as of now for us. Our junior varsity didn’t lose a game this year, and our junior high only lost one game by two points.”