It wasn’t sparkling, but Clyde will take it.
Interceptions, fumbles, dropped passes, and penalties — they were on display Saturday night at Strobel Field, but so was Clyde’s defense, which limited the Panthers to 32 yards in a 28-0 win.
It’s the 18th straight win in the Sandusky Bay Conference for the Fliers (4-3, 4-0), winners of four in-a-row to set up a showdown Friday with unbeaten and state-ranked Perkins at Clyde High School.
Gabe Gilbert and Kade Kramer ran for one touchdown each, and Mac Wilkerson returned a fumble 27 yards for a touchdown.
The game was anything but routine with 10 combined turnovers, sometimes on back-to-back or concurring drives.
Clyde coach Marc Gibson called it a trap game, and said it’s human nature to look at the big matchups on a schedule.
“We came in and had a decent week of practice,” he said, “but maybe not off the field with our focus and mental preparation.
“St. Mary played a wonderful game tonight with what they had to work with. They wanted to win and they played to win.”
While both defenses were flew to the ball and traded plays in an “anything you can do, we can do better” fashion, the Fliers did enough on special teams and offense — something the Panthers (1-6, 0-4 SBC) didn’t.
“The offense and special teams hurt us,” Ziegler said. “We were put in bad spots and we had turnovers at bad times. You’ve got to play all three phases of the game.”
The Panthers intercepted Gilbert, who was 18-of-231 passing for 175 yards and a touchdown, on four occassions.
“The last two weeks, we’ve seen the other team turn the ball over,” SMCC coach Jason Ziegler said. “We swarmed to the ball. The kids are doing the things we’ve been preaching and talking about.”
Garrett Kowalski fell on a loose ball as Kramer tried to field a punt, setting the Panthers up in Clyde territory for the first time all night at the 41.
Two plays later, Kromer fumbled the ball while carrying up the middle and Clyde’s Mac Wilkerson fell on it.
On the Panthers next drive, Kromer dropped back to pass, slipped, and underthrew a pass Wilkerson picked off.
The Fliers cashed in when Gilbert hit Smetzler for 18 yards, then found Kramer in the left flat before Kramer slipped a tackle and squeezed into the end zone for a 21-0 lead.
The Panthers, who ran 44 plays and averaged 0.73 yards per play, had trouble getting their offense going, Ziegler said. “We tried everything. We threw everything out there.”
Another rare play set up the final score, as Kromer fielded a low snap on a punt deep in his territory, but had his knee hit the ground and the play was whistled dead.
Kramer ran it in from 8 yards out with 5:34 left in the game, extending the lead to 28-0.
On Clyde’s opening drive, Gilbert drove the offense to the SMCC 16 on runs of 13 and 15 yards, but threw an interception under pressure to a diving Jacob Green to end the threat.
The Fliers’ second drive saw a similar end as Ethan Sennish intercepted Gilbert’s pass and returned it to the Panther’s 21-yard line.
Kramer’s first carry — with 39 seconds left in the first quarter — gained 30 yards down the right sideline to the SMCC 9. Gilbert went in off right tackle on the next play, but a holding penalty moved the ball back to the 18-yard line.
After changing ends to start the quarter, Colson’s 28-yard field goal missed left.
Kromer gashed Clyde’s defense for a 23-yard gain on the next play, but had the ball knocked loose and the Fliers recovered.
“Our kids are flying around and flying to the ball,” Gibson said. “We had an idea of what they’re going to do because we run (the spread offense).
“Our kids played within the gameplan.”
Four plays and 43 yards later, set up by a 36-yard pass from Gilbert to Mac Wilkerson down the middle of the field, Gilbert went in on a sneak from a yard out.
In the first-half’s recurring theme, the Fliers forced three and out, and on the punt snap the ball trickled backward before Drew Frazier scooped it up and ran it in from 10 yards out for a 14-0 lead.
When the Fliers got the ball back the next drive — forcing their fourth three-and-out of the first half — freshman Brandon Green made the third interception of the first half for the Panthers.
Colson attempted a 46-yard free-kick field goal — rarely seen in football, though SMCC saw it last week in a 35-19 loss to Huron — he missed wide left just before halftime.