With snow flurries in the air and a fierce wind making the night bitingly cold for the fans in the stands, the No. 2 Clear Lake Lions walloped the Forest City Indians, 35-0, on Friday night.
The Lions are known for their offensive might, but for the past few weeks, the defense has been the star of the show.
Clear Lake held the Indians to just 52 offensive yards, with the Indians running the ball 31 times for -6 yards, completing five passes for 58 yards.
The Lions also sacked Forest City quarterback Riley Helgeson six times, as Clear Lake posted its third straight shutout.
“Our defense continues to show up and give our offense the ball in great field position,” head coach Jared DeVries said. “We’ve just got to clean up things on offense. This was tough conditions tonight, but the kids played hard.”
While most of the attention went to the dominant defensive effort, the Lions offense did manage to put together several impressive drives.
On the opening drive, the Lions went 85 yards for score, with Jaden O’Brien-Green running the ball into the end-zone from the six yard line. O'Brien-Green finished the game with 24 rushes for 98 yards.
After holding the Indians to a three-and-out, the Lions went up 14-0, as senior Mitchell Raber caught a 17-yard touchdown pass.
Later in the game, senior Kody Kearns caught a 56-yard touchdown catch, and sophomore Jagger Schmitt scored on a four-yard run.
Quarterback Jaylen DeVries was 7-of-18 passing, with 127 yards, and was sacked three times.
At one point late in the game, DeVries was slow to get up after a particularly hard hit. While he took his time getting to his feet, DeVries was okay after the game.
“It feels fine,” he said. “I took a hard hit and landed pretty hard on my chest, but I was fine.”
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As one of the top-ranked teams in their class, the Lions appear able to counteract any weaknesses that arise.
When the passing game falters, the running backs step up. When both fail, DeVries takes the ball himself, as he did on an 18-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of Friday's game.
And on night when the offense wasn't its usual self, the defense stepped up and get it done.
"It takes all of us to win," Jaylen said. "Tonight wasn't a very good night offensively, ... but it's hard not to win when the defense posts a shutout for the third straight game."
At this point in the season, the Lions are the team to beat in North Iowa. At No. 2 in the 2A ranking, entering the final two games of the regular season, they look poised for a deep postseason run.
After being left out of the postseason last year despite a 7-2 record, the Lions are ready to prove they belong among Iowa's best.
"We still have unfinished business," Jaylen DeVries said. "Our goal is to win the state championship. We've played good for seven weeks, but we have to take it one game at a time. We need to win every week."
For the coach, the 2018 snub is most definitely a motivator this season. But as he has said all season long, his Lions are not looking to the future.
"It's about unfinished business," coach DeVries said, echoing his quarterback's words. "But we don't look at the postseason. That's not what we're about. We're focusing on the play at hand. We want to be in the present, and to be in that play.
"That stuff is still so down the road, we can't see that."
The Lions will play again next Friday, at New Hampton.