CLEAR LAKE — There’s been a lot that’s gone into Clear Lake’s success this football season.
The Lions have gotten good leadership from their seniors, talent is oozing out all over the roster and they’ve worked as a team throughout the entire process. It’s also been Clear Lake’s up-and-comers in the sophomore class who have played large roles.
Sixth-ranked (2A) Clear Lake has six sophomores who see action every Friday night, and each one has had a hand in the Lions’ 5-1 start.
“It’s everything we could ask for,” Clear Lake sophomore Nick Danielson said. “Every week we come here, we prep for the team one week at a time, and we’ve got to give credit to our coaches, really. They prep us really well and we have good teammates who put us in the spots that we are.”
On offense, Danielson has been a key cog in the Lions’ passing game to help fellow sophomore Jaylen DeVries grow at the quarterback position. The tandem has hooked up 16 times for 265 yards and one touchdown. Danielson also has 109 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
Up front, it’s been the work of sophomores Ryan Thomas and Cameron Langerman that has helped the Lions gel as an offensive line.
And on defense, Danielson and classmate Jack Barragy have held their own in the secondary, Austin Larson is part of the Lions’ stout defensive line, and Kody Kearns has mixed in in the secondary as well.
“It’s been awesome really, but it all starts in the summer,” Thomas said of the experience. “We all put in the work at LPT (Clear Lake's stength and conditioning program) and we’ve been working hard for awhile now; it all started back in seventh grade.”
Part of this group has benefited from being tossed into the fire late last season with the Lions struggling with injuries.
Both Thomas and Danielson, who played at the end of last year, said the experience has made them that much better this year.
“We can all see the talent that they show, but what I like most is just the maturity of that group,” Clear Lake coach Jared DeVries said. “The willingness to become strong leaders as young athletes, the commitment to our off-season program, the commitment to the team … that’s probably more impressive than the actual talent.”
As each week goes on, the Lions get closer and closer to getting back to the playoffs. This week, Clear Lake welcomes Clarion-Goldfield-Dows/CAL to Lions Field as the Lions aim for a 5-0 district record.
Even facing a winless team, DeVries knows the Lions can’t let up on what they’ve built so far this season.
“It’s been a lot of fun … probably the most fun I’ve had playing sports so far, and we’ve all grown a lot,” Thomas said.
And with two-plus years left to leave a sizable mark, this class has its goals set sky high for the future. Not before this year is done, though.
“Hopefully it’s down to the dome every year,” Danielson said. “That’s what we expect and that’s what our expectations are every fall so that’s where we want to be.”