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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Clovers bring renewed goals in preparation for Attica

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cloverdale rusher Andrew Howard powers his way through a Greencastle defender during their Week 7 contest. [Order this photo]
CLOVERDALE -- When the Clovers completed an 0-9 regular season, it seemed extremely unlikely, if not impossible, that they would be in position to make a sectional final.

They scored only 41 point combined during the regular season; gained under 500 yards on offense in nine games.

But the team also lost 17 starters to season- or career-ending injuries, while playing a challenging conference schedule.

Cloverdale head coach John Butler said going through the injuries helped prepare his team to win in the playoffs.

"They had to learn on the fly, and they had to learn on the fly against a competition level that is, frankly, much higher than the class of football that we play in," Butler said Wednesday. "I believe, right now, with the kids that we have, we are a good 1A football team, and the regular season doesn't depict that."

The Clovers played just like that last week, winning their opening-round sectional game against Riverton Parke 44-22 in a contest that could have been even more lopsided.

The Panthers returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and scored again on a 98-yard fumble return.

Despite the errors, the Clovers scored more points, and gained more yards, in one game than they had in the other nine combined.

They'll have a much tougher time overcoming mistakes this week against Attica. To get a win, they'll have to play nearly perfect.

"It's just got to carry over from last week," Butler said. "The kids are fired up. They're playing their best football, mentally and physically right now, which is all you can ask for."

It's hard to measure one week of success against nine weeks of failures, but when Cloverdale entered the postseason, they became a brand new team.

"I really think this is the first time in my career where we, as a football team, my staff and my kids, have literally moved on from the first nine weeks of the season," Butler said. "Week 10 was the best week that we had and we're building on top of that. It's really that situation that most coaches hope for."

Attica (7-3) will present an entirely different challenge than Riverton Parke. The Panthers finished the year 0-10, including a 66-0 season-opening loss to Attica.

"(Attica is) a very good 1A football team. But they're not Greencastle. They're not Monrovia," Butler said. "Watching Attica on film, and they're well-coached and have a lot of athletic kids, that's a very good football team for 1A. They're just good. But we can compete against them."

The Cloverdale defense, under the direction of coordinator David Petty, is gearing up to stop the Red Ramblers double-wing running game, a formation they are in 76 percent of the game.

"We've adjusted defensively to take their run away," Butler said. "If we can take 75 percent of their offense away, if they can beat us throwing the ball, then they're better than we are. That's how we look at it."

Attica plays the same defensive scheme, a 4-4 front, as Riverton Parke. The Red Ramblers are more talented, but Cloverdale will attack it the same way.

"We've had very minimal offensive changes, it's just getting better at what we do," Butler said. You want to find that balance of doing something new, but not too crazy that your kids can't comprehend, can't execute.

"We've got a few things that they're not going to see on film."

Cloverdale running backs Andrew Howard and Taylor Mescall will split the load on the ground, lining up behind senior quarterback Justin Wilson.

The Clovers looked lost at times during the year, on both sides of the ball, but things began to change on the field and in the locker room after the Greencastle game in week 6.

Despite the 48-0 loss, Butler saw signs of growth; hopes for the season and the postseason.

"Looking at our personnel (before the season), our goal at the time was to win sectional," Butler said. "After injuries, (I thought) winning a sectional might be unattainable.

"But, from week to week, especially that Greencastle game, when the scoreboard said that we got hammered, and we did, pointwise -- they're bigger, stronger, faster than we are -- but, we had success against a very good 3A football program.

"We were inconsistent, but there were those moments that we had offensive production and had some defensive plays. From that moment, it started to change a little bit."

Despite the injuries and the winless regular season, the preseason goal of winning the section remains.

"Once we won week 10 the way we did, the goal pretty much felt the same to me," Butler said. "And I've echoed it to the kids and to the staff. 'It hasn't changed. You're in a position where, if you win this week, if we can beat Attica, you're going to play a sectional championship right here on your field.'

"And that's the goal. Play for a title. Play for a trophy. The goal is still there.

"We're keeping our eyes on that sectional 38 prize, and the kids feel like they can do it."

Cloverdale will host Attica Friday at 7 p.m.