With his team trailing undefeated Perkins 7-3 at halftime, Clyde senior running back Kade Kramer walked into the locker room with a smile on his face and a message for his teammates: Not yet.
Lurking in the shadow after an 0-3 start, the Fliers aren’t ready to let go of their Sandusky Bay Conference dominance, using an offensive outburst in the second half to knock off previously unbeaten Perkins at Robert Bishop Stadium, 27-13.
“We just went in there at half and had a good smile on our faces,” Kramer said. “Going into it, everyone wrote us off and picked against us, so I just wanted to help my team out.”
Held to 23 yards rushing in the first half, the Fliers broke loose for 220 yards in the second half — turning the halftime deficit into a 24-6 advantage over the final two quarters.
Kramer was held to 21 yards on eight attempts in the first half, but ran for 202 yards and all three Clyde touchdowns in the second half on 23 attempts to finish with 223 yards on 31 attempts.
“At halftime we realized they weren’t as strong as they had been perceived to be, and we realized that,” Kramer said. “In the first half we knew we could do it, but in the second half the coaches said to just shove it down their throats — and that’s what we did.”
Clyde has won five straight games in the SBC — pushing its winning streak in the conference up to 19 in a row — to improve to 5-3 overall and 5-0 in the SBC while Perkins falls to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the SBC.
With the win, Clyde is the only team unbeaten in the SBC with two weeks left.
“When you’re playing for a conference title, those first three games do not mean anything,” Clyde coach Marc Gibson said. “I had to convince our kids that maybe some other things were out of our control at this point, but the conference was still there for the taking. It’s not ours by any means, and we respect everyone we have played and play the next two weeks.”
The game’s biggest turning point came in the final minute of the first half as the Pirates got a 19-yard pass from quarterback Spencer Bryant to tight end Nico Caponi to give the Pirates first-and-goal at the Clyde 1-yard line with under 45 seconds left in the half and the Pirates leading 7-3.
With just one timeout left, Bryant rushed to the line and tried sneaking in from the 1 — but he was stuffed for a loss of a yard — forcing Perkins to use its final timeout with 29 seconds left in the half.
Out of the timeout, Bryant dropped back to pass and tried finding his receiver in the corner of the end zone, but Clyde’s Mac Wilkerson intercepted the ball and returned it 59 yards to the Perkins 41 with 15 seconds left in the half. Clyde did not score on the half’s final two plays, but kept Perkins from going up 14-3 at the break.
“That was big, if we get a score there it changes the complexion of the game,” Perkins coach Gary Quisno said of the interception. “We didn’t make the play and they did, which really changed things.”
From that point, it was all Clyde as the Fliers took possession first in the second half and proceeded to quickly cover 55 yards in just three plays — all carries by Kramer — the last of which was a 44-yard touchdown run in which Kramer weaved through several defenders. Jordon Colson added the first of three extra points to give Clyde the lead for good at 10-7 with 10:48 left in the third quarter.
The Pirates went three-and-out on the following possession, and the Fliers churned out a 11-play, 69-yard scoring drive that took 5:26 off the clock. Kramer capped the drive on a 3-yard run at the 3:04 mark of the quarter that made it a 17-7 advantage.
Kramer carried eight times for 55 yards on the drive as the Fliers ran for 113 yards in the quarter.
“They controlled the line of scrimmage on us and pushed us around on both sides a little bit,” Quisno said of Clyde. “They were a little more physical than we were, and that’s the difference in the game. We didn’t have an answer for them shoving us off the line of scrimmage.
“We tried everything we could, but offensively we had way too many negative plays and couldn’t keep them out of our backfield.”
The Pirates answered one final time to get back into the game, putting together a 12-play, 77-yard scoring drive that was capped on a six-yard touchdown pass from Bryant to Tony Henderly with 10:04 left in the game. The extra point attempt failed, leaving Clyde ahead 17-13.
Clyde answered with a 24-yard field goal from Colson with 4:41 left that gave Clyde a 20-13 lead, and on the ensuing series after three straight incompletions, the Pirates elected to go for it on fourth-and-10 from their own 24-yard line with 4:23 left in the game.
Bryant was sacked for a six-yard loss, and on the very next play after the change of possession Kramer covered 18 yards with 4:04 left to put the game on ice at 27-13.
For Perkins, Bryant finished 15-of-27 passing for 162 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Caponi caught six passes for 95 yards while Henderly caught four for 35 yards. Bryant led the ground game with 75 yards on 14 attempts.
“Kade had a fine game, but it was the offensive line coming through for us,” Gibson said. “We did a few different things offensively, and I don’t know if Perkins was ready for that, but it certainly worked for us tonight.”