Clinton head coach John Applebee had just finished addressing his team following the Governors’ 30-6 loss to Midwood when he was forced to state the obvious.
“Without a doubt, they are the best team we’ve faced this season,” Applebee said. “We came out and fought, that’s for sure. But we didn’t play up to our standards in the first half, and Midwood just fought throughout the game.”
The difference was the substantial size difference enjoyed by Midwood, particularly along the defensive line where the Hornets’ Xiah Owens and Jack Luo helped stymie Clinton’s offense throughout the game.
“They had had good size,” Applebee said. “Midwood definitely beat us on the line. We just ran into a really good team. I told my team that that team is built to win a championship. They just took out Curtis (two weeks ago) which is the two-time defending champion.”
If the Governors didn’t believe Applebee before the game, they certainly did during the contest. Especially senior quarterback Jailen Nias, who was hounded continually by the Midwood defense throughout the game.
“They were reading a lot of our plays, so I told the coaches maybe we need to switch it up a little,” said Nias, who was held to 20 yards rushing on 10 carries. “We tried to get a better game plan, but we still didn’t get on track the way we wanted to. But I’m still proud of my team for not giving up.”
Midwood jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead in its first possession,capped by an eight-yard touchdown run by Tyler Bartholomew. The Hornets extended their lead their next possession when Tyrese Weeks galloped 51 yards to bring it to 14. Midwood added one final score just before the half when quarterback Michael Bernard tossed a 35-yard pass to David Stephens, commanding a 22-0 lead heading into the locker room.
Any chance of a second-half comeback by the Governors was squashed almost immediately when the Hornets got a second touchdown run from Bartholomew to open the third quarter, giving Midwood an insurmountable 30-0 lead.
But credit the Governors for not mailing it in. In fact, the defense locked Midwood down in the second half after yielding that opening score. A credit, Applebee said, to his team’s willingness to keep fighting to the final horn.
“We’re not quitting,” he said. “I’ll promise you that.”
Clinton did eventually manage to get on the board in the waning moments of the game when Jahwaun Peters scooped up a Midwood fumble and raced 35 yards for a touchdown.
“Coach always says never give up no matter what the score is in the game,” Peters said. “You’ve got to keep fighting. So on that play I saw the ball on the floor and I picked it up and kept running. I know that no matter what the score is, I have to keep on fighting for my brothers. And I’m always going to do that.”
Nias liked his teammates never-say-die attitude in the game.
“I was happy to see Jahwaun get a touchdown,” Nias said. “I didn’t want us to get shut out. It was good for us. At least we got some points on the board. It gives us something to build on.”
What the Governors will be looking to build toward is a victory in their next game against archrival Kennedy.
“As soon as that clock hit zero on this game, I started thinking about Kennedy,” Peters said. “This game was a tough loss, but now it’s forgotten. Kennedy is a big game. When we played them last year, we lost by two, so it makes it an even bigger game.
“It’s our crosstown rival so we need to do what we have to do to get that win.”
Kennedys visit will mark the fifth straight home game for Clinton, and it’s a game the Governors view as a possible season-changer.
“If we can start with a win over Kennedy, that could get us going and get us back in the playoff” picture, Nias said. “We have the heart and mentality to do it. It would turn our whole season around. A win would make us all feel better and get us on a roll.”
And, as Peters pointed out, there is more than half a season still to play to turn things around.
“A lot of teams made it to the playoffs last year with a 5-4 or 4-5 record, so we definitely still have that chance,” Peters said. “We have a lot of talent and we have a lot of right-minded guys. It’s just that we have to put it all together and play a whole, complete game of football.”