Consider everything that has happened to the Clear Lake football team a personal matter for the Lions’ current seniors.
They heard the whispers when they were freshman that Clear Lake was going to be taking a step back. Last year especially stung when the Lions, who were playoff regulars for years, missed out.
It’s those feelings they’ll be taking with them into tonight’s Class 2A, District 2 matchup at Crestwood with a lot on the line. A win locks up a spot in the playoff. A win and a loss by New Hampton, and the Lions are district champions.
“This means a lot to us,” Clear Lake senior Dalton Grell said. “We kind of felt like we have a burden on us, we have a chip on our shoulder, and our run, I feel like, starts now. For sure this week we have a really big opponent coming up, and next week, too, is the same challenge and we’re just taking it one step at a time.”
All roads have led here for the Lions.
After finishing 1-1 in non-district action, the fifth-ranked (2A) Lions have cruised through district play with a 5-0 record. The final two teams on the schedule, Crestwood and New Hampton, are the only ones who have a chance to spoil Clear Lake’s postseason party.
“We’re not approaching it any differently,” DeVries said of tonight’s game. “We want to win every game we compete in so that’s the approach we’ve taken. This week we realize the challenge is going to be greater, but the kids are up for it.”
Crestwood comes into tonight’s game with a team which has proven its ability to push teams around so far with its physicality. The statistics don’t leap off the page, but the Cadets (4-3, 4-1) haven’t needed them to.
Chris Guest is the Cadets’ leading rusher at 524 and six touchdowns through seven games. Quarterback Jon Henry has shown the ability to throw the ball when called upon as he stands at 710 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions.
The Cadets are similar to last year’s team which beat the Lions 27-6, a loss Clear Lake has not forgotten.
“This week is bringing the shoulders and really playing with aggression because that’s what it’s going to take,” Grell said. “They’re a smash-mouth football team. That’s what they did to us last year. They beat us down and so we’re not going let that happen.”
A win and the Lions are back to where they want to be, and where this big senior class has worked tirelessly to get them back to. Nobody on the Clear Lake football team wants it more than that group.
“A lot of people really never gave our grade a shot, especially after when we were freshmen and when that senior class graduated,” Grell said. “Everyone was like ‘Well, Clear Lake football is done.’ We didn’t let that happen and I expect us to keep going forward like we have been.”