MONTEZUMA -- There are two ways to respond to an 0-9 regular season. Many teams in the Clover's situation would pack it in, allow the disappointing year to doom them and get down on themselves.
Cloverdale took the opposite route on Friday, working harder, running faster and playing stronger than it has all year.
The result paid off, in the form of a 44-22 sectional victory against Riverton Parke.
Cloverdale (1-9) controlled the game throughout, playing suffocating, swarming defense and bruising, ball-control offense that the Panthers (0-10) had no answer for.
"The 30-defensive front is predicated on dominant nose play and swarming the football," CHS head coach John Butler said, " And we did both. Coupled with our ball control offense, it was just a matter of time until we beat them down."
For the first time all season, Cloverdale was found a game plan and stuck with it.
At various times throughout the season, the Clovers have experimented with a spread passing attack, an option running game, a hurry-up offense and a modified West Coast passing game.
On Friday, the Clovers needed only to hand the ball off to running backs Taylor Mescall (20, 121, TD) and Andrew Howard (25, 188, 2 TD) and let them carry defenders on their backs as they marched down the field.
"This was the gameplan," Butler said. "This was the first week that we didn't have to go to plan B.
"All we ran was ... one personnel group, hammering it down their throat."
A constant rain in the first half led to sloppy play and at times, confusion. Butler responded by simply yelling out the play calls for everyone to hear.
"We tell our kids, especially our linemen all the time, 'Hey, tell them the play. Tell them what we're running. They have to defend it,'" Butler said. "Tonight, they just handled it. I'm proud of them."
Butler was proud of the line, and proud of his running backs.
"They haven't ran like that all year, with that kind of intensity and ferocity and making people take them to the ground," he said. "Watching film tomorrow is going to be a magnificent thing. The reinforcement, so I can say, 'That is how you run the football every single time.'"
Cloverdale dominated even more with its defense than its offense.
"(Defensive coordinator) Coach Petty does a fantastic job of game-planning," Butler said. "That's as fast as we've played on defense all year."
In the first half they held Riverton Parke to only 15 offensive plays. They got positive yardage on only five, totaled negative three yards, and failed to get a first down.
But they scored 14 points.
Riverton Parke receiver Johnny Myers returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, and later added a 98-yard fumble return by Dale Laznik.
With the way the season has gone for the Clovers, the return could have been back-breaking, but they refused to bend.
On its first offensive drive, Cloverdale faced fourth-and-two from its own 32. Mescall ran up the middle for 10 yards.
"When they returned that thing for a touchdown, I was more concerned with our kids' reaction than anything else, because I didn't want them to get into the, 'Here we go again,'" Butler said. "Instead of trying to correct the whatever didn't happen, it was more, 'OK, calm down, let's go out, get the kickoff, get the football, go down and see what happens."
The next play, Wade Warren broke outside for a 58-yard touchdown run. A two-point conversion by Howard gave the Clovers their first lead of the season at 9:29 in the first quarter.
The Panthers lone offensive touchdown was a 20-yard pass from senior quarterback Kalib McBride to Laznik with 9:41 left in the game.
They finished with 16 yards of offense.
Cloverdale didn't have a turnover in the game, but made several untimely penalties that advanced the ball for its opponent.
With the domination the Clovers demonstrated during play, penalties didn't seem to matter.
Cloverdale will face Attica next week in the sectional 138 semifinal.
"They have two very good, very big, very strong running backs. They run the ball between the tackles," Butler said. "It's going to be a matter of doing like we did tonight with No. 81 (Laznik). You shut their key components down offensively and you've got a chance.
"They're a big, strong and experienced football team, Attica is. And if we play like we did tonight, we've got a chance."
For the first time all season, Butler's optimism paid off with a win. The Clovers hope to keep it going next week.
"I think the light bulb has gone on," Butler said. "And week 10, the first week of sectionals, is the perfect time for the light bulb to go on."
At Riverton Parke
Cloverdale 14 8 8 14
Riverton Parke 14 0 0 8
R -- 11:45 85-yard kick return by Laznik (Ackerman kick good) 0-7
C -- 9:29 58-yard run by Warren (two-point try good, Howard) 8-7
C -- 3:15 4-yard run by Mescall (two-point no) 14-7
R -- 1:02 98-yard fumble return by Blacketer (Ackerman good) 14-14
C -- 0:19 11-yard pass from Wilson to Stout (two-point good, Wilson), 22-14
C -- 0:31 33-yard pass from Wilson to Warren (two-point good, Howard), 30-14
R -- 9:41 20-yard pass from McBride to Laznik (two-point good, McBride), 30-22
C -- 5:02 2-yard run by Howard (two-point no good), 36-22
C -- 3:35 8-yard run by Howard (two-point good, Howard), 44-22
Cloverdale -- Howard 25, 188, 2 TD; Mescall 20, 121, 1; Warren 8, 56, TD; Wilson 7, 13; Manion 1, 8; Buskirk 1, 7; Smith 1, 2.
Riverton Parke -- Hutsell 5, 18; Poppell 1, 2; Myers 2, -1; Laznik 2, -3; McBride 8, -30.
C -- Warren 2, 47, 1; Howard 5, 34; Stout 2, 25, 1.
R -- Laznik 4, 25, 1; Myers 2, 3
C -- Wilson 9/15, 106, 2 TD
R -- McBride 6/18, 28, TD