FRANKLIN GROVE – The first three Amboy-LaMoille drives saw three big plays.
After that, the Raiders defense started getting stops, and AFC had a chance to make a stop, but the Clippers dialed up two more big plays to put the game away and beat AFC 34-16 to close out the season.
“If you’ve got a kid like Marcus Winn out there, it’s hard not to be successful,” Clippers quarterback Preston Henkel said. “He’s one-on-one with a cornerback, and then everything just kind of worked out well for us.”
Up 21-16 with 3:28 left in the game, Amboy was looking at a third-and-5 at its own 43. Henkel found Winn for a 57-yard touchdown.
“They didn’t have a safety over the top, so I figured the slant was going to be wide open,” Henkel said. “I hit him in stride, and once he gets the ball in his hands, he makes a lot of plays. After that, he was off to the races.”
AFC answered with a long kick return to set itself up at the Clippers’ 16, but Zach Wicaryus intercepted a pass on the first play of the drive and went 84 yards the other way for the game’s final touchdown.
“I was reading the quarterback and I saw the back come out, so I had to come pick him up,” Wicaryus said. “I saw him scramble, so I stepped up and jumped in front of the ball.”
Big plays had been the order of the game earlier for the Clippers. Amboy’s first three drives saw the Clippers run five offensive plays and hold the ball for 1 minute, 47 seconds, but still put 21 points on the board.
Henkel got the scoring started for Amboy with a 57-yard run.
After the Clippers stopped AFC on downs, Henkel threw a bubble screen to Winn which became a 75-yard touchdown to put the Clippers in front 14-8.
“We got one-on-one coverage there a couple of times,” Amboy coach Gary Jones said. “We threw some spot passes out to him to get the ball in his hands and let him go to work. He’s got great speed, got great moves, just get him the ball and let him get yards.”
AFC scored to retake the lead on an 18-yard pass from Ethan Drew to Sam Lauer, but Austin Norman made it three touchdowns in as many drives for the Clippers on the next play, going 58 yards for a score.
AFC (0-9, 0-6 NUIC South) had its own big plays, most of them on special teams. Cameron Thomas fielded the opening kickoff at his own 10 and wove his way through Amboy’s kick coverage team for 46 yards to set the Raiders up at the Clippers’ 44. AFC scored five plays later on a 31-yard run by Peyton Lanning.
A long kick return set up AFC’s second score of the game as well, as Lanning took the ball at his own 10 and got it to the Clippers’ 33 to open another five-play scoring drive.
“We know with Peyton back there, he’s arguably the most dangerous kid in the conference,” AFC coach Brad Winterland said. “We know if people are going to kick deep to him, we’ve got a chance to get a big one.”
After Winn’s second receiving touchdown of the night made it 28-16 Amboy late in the fourth, it was a 64-yard kick return by Lanning that got AFC to the Amboy 16 on the ensuing kick.
“We’ve just got good blocking up front,” Lanning said. “Our returners are really good at finding the holes.”
But AFC had plenty of chances in Amboy territory and failed to convert. Just before the half, a Raiders drive got to the Amboy 9, but Amboy was able to stop a hook-and-lateral on fourth-and-13 for the turnover on downs.
The Raiders’ first drive of the second half also got into the red zone. In 13 plays, AFC moved the ball from its own 20 to the Amboy 18, but Henkel stepped in front of a pass on fourth down.
AFC made four red zone trips in the game, coming away with one touchdown while also adding one turnover on downs and a pair of interceptions.
“The second half they went to that 4-4,” Winterland said. “We practiced against it all week, we practice against every look we’ve got, the odd front, the 4-3, the 4-4. We were slow getting to the linebackers, and that was a big part.”
AFC had several lengthy drives built around runs up the middle by fullback Dylan Moore. He carried the ball 25 times in the game for 91 yards.
Amboy (2-7, 2-4 NUIC South) got 144 rushing yards on 16 carries from Norman. After the three quick-strike drives early in the game, Amboy was able to burn a bit more clock on later drives, including a seven-play drive to end the first half.
“They were just pounding it up the middle,” Lanning said. “Our defensive line couldn’t really clog the holes and stop it as well as we thought they could.”
Henkel completed 5 of 9 passes for 165 yards, 149 of that to Winn.
Drew was 9-for-14 passing for 123 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw an interception, and Lanning threw a pair of interceptions on trick plays. In addition to Wicaryus returning one for a score, Henkel and Luke Moore also picked off passes.
“We got some pressure on the quarterback for a change,” Jones said. “Earlier in the game we didn’t, and they were hitting that slot back over the middle. As far as the pressure goes, I think that helped us out and made him throw off the back foot.”
The victory gives Amboy a two-game winning streak to close the season following the Clippers’ 25-8 win over Milledgeville Week 8. Those are also the final two wins for Jones, who is retiring.
“He’s a legend in all of our eyes,” Henkel said. “He’s been here before some of our dads were even born. It feels good to send him off with two wins, especially his last win at home [Week 8] and his last win as a coach. I hope it means a lot to him, but it means a lot to us too.”
Amboy-LaMoille 34, AFC 16
Star of the game: Marcus Winn, Amboy-LaMoille, 5 catches, 149 yards, 2 TDs
Quote: “We just tried to keep our players’ heads up and we just kicked it into another gear and stopped them.” Amboy-LaMoille DB Zach Wicaryus