Spartans can't get offense in gear
ST. JOSEPH — On a night where inductees into the first St. Joseph-Ogden Hall of Fame showed up, along with Illinois men’s basketball commit Michael Finke — job-shadowing a local television station — the Spartans’ offense failed to show up.
In nearly every facet. Passing, running and blocking never seemed in sync for the Spartans. Clifton Central took advantage of a stout defense and a superb third quarter and cruised to a 27-0 win.
“We got beat totally up front both ways,” SJ-O coach Dick Duval said. “Defensively, I thought we played pretty well, except we just got tired on a few plays. It’s kind of hard to do anything when you get beat up front. I’ve been doing this for way too many years to not know that.”
The Sangamon Valley Conference belonged to SJ-O last year. Clifton Central, which finished second to the Spartans last year in league play and is ranked fourth in Class 2A, made a strong statement the SVC title might rest north of Interstate 74 this year.
“This is big for us,” Clifton Central coach Brian Spooner said. “We know how hard it is to win down here.”
A strong statement is what Clifton Central made against the Spartans in the second half. SJ-O only trailed 7-0 at halftime before the Comets scored two touchdowns on their first five plays of the third quarter to seize control and lead 20-0 with 8 minutes, 56 seconds remaining in the quarter.
“We’ve got to figure out what we’re going to be (and) what we’re going to do,” Duval said. “Offensively, we were three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out. We never got anything established.”
Austin Hedrick rushed for 115 yards on 30 carries, but that was about the only bright spot for the Spartans on offense. Duval played Dalton Walsh and Eli Oltean at quarterback, with both struggling against an opportunistic Clifton Central defense. Oltean started and completed 4 of 11 passes for 20 yards, while Walsh was 2 of 10 for 28 yards and three interceptions.
Jake Stewart had an interception for SJ-O late in the first half, Chase Gadau recovered a fumble for the Spartans in the fourth quarter and Nolan Woller made two tackles for loss. But three touchdown passes by Clifton Central quarterback J.R. Caspary (7 of 19, 141 yards) made the SJ-O secondary look vulnerable.
The Comets have done this to the Spartans before. Clifton Central shut out SJ-O 21-0 in Week 4 during the 2011 season. That defeat dropped the Spartans to 2-2, but SJ-O went on to host a first-round playoff game. The same scenario isn’t out of the question this season, either, but Duval knows vast improvement needs to take place.
“We’ve got to have some kids look in the mirror for a while,” Duval said. “We think people are going to bend over just because we’re St. Joseph-Ogden. That doesn’t happen anymore.”
TEAM CONF. OVERALL
Paxton-Buckley-Loda 2 0 4 0
Clifton Central 1 0 4 0
St. Thomas More 1 1 3 1
Momence 1 1 2 2
St. Joseph-Ogden 1 1 2 2
Iroquois West 0 1 1 3
Watseka 0 2 0 4
NEXT FRIDAY’S GAMES
St. Thomas More at Clifton Central
St. Joseph-Ogden at Iroquois West
Watseka at Momence
PBL at GCMS