December 20, 2014

Elyria
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High school football 2011: Running game young Clippers’ biggest asset

SHEFFIELD TWP. — With a challenging non-conference schedule and just seven starters returning from a team that finished 7-3, Clearview came into the preseason knowing it would be tested early and often this season.

Toss in a freshman quarterback and that test could seem like Mission Impossible.

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Think again.

With senior running back Matt Jordan and junior Chad Anderson returning to the backfield, the Clippers look to have one of the Patriot Athletic Conference’s top rushing attacks.

And, according to Jordan, freshman Roger Engle is ready to take over the reins at quarterback.

“Roger is a really smart quarterback,” Jordan said. “He learned all the plays quickly and he’s proven in practice that he can control the huddle and lead the team.”

Clippers coach Mike Collier agrees Engle has the attributes needed to be successful in his freshman year.

“Roger stepped in when we needed a quarterback,” Collier said. “He’s a hard worker in the weight room. He’s a tough kid but he’s also very coachable.”

Having a backfield of Jordan, who led the Clippers with 889 yards rushing last year, and Anderson, who was third with 249, should take some of the pressure off Engle.

“We have a talented group of running backs,” said Collier, who is in his sixth season leading the Clippers.

“We expect to be able to run the ball. I’m not expecting Roger to have to go out and throw 40 times a game, but he’s done a great job of commanding the offense and I’m confident that he will make the throws when we need him to.”

The Clippers will be a young team with many players getting their first taste of varsity action. But Collier believes team speed and natural athleticism will make up for youthful inexperience.

Clearview opens the season with road games against an Elyria Catholic team that advanced to the second round of the Division IV playoffs and Vermilion before coming home to face an old foe, Amherst, for the first time in more than two decades.

Back in the days of the old Lakeland Conference, Amherst and Clearview met annually and battled for the Golden Helmet. After two decades of seeming never-ending conference changes around the county, the Clippers looked to their old rivals as a team that could provide a stern early test.

“The coaching staff wanted to challenge the kids with tough opponents early in the year,” Collier said. “That way we’re prepared for anything we’ll see in conference play.”

Jordan said the Amherst game is one that stands on the schedule.

“We’re all looking forward to bringing back the rivalry,” Jordan said. “Everyone on the team and in the school is talking about the Amherst game. It’s important to bring back that tradition so that the players coming up through the program will also be a part of it.”

Jordan and Anderson, as well as senior linebacker Josh Molina, will be keys to the Clippers’ 3-5-3 defense.

Anderson had 40 tackles at linebacker, while Molina and Jordan, who plays safety, had 35 apiece. Molina and Anderson were also the team leaders in sacks with five each.

“Overall we’re pretty young on the defensive side of the ball,” Collier said. “But this is a defense that has the talent to keep us in every game.”

Senior Nick Osborn will be the key to an inexperienced offensive line that will need to jell early to open holes for the running game and give Engle time to find his receivers.

“We had to replace a lot of guys up front going into this season,” Collier said. “But I’ve seen a lot of progress recently in practice. They’re improving on a daily basis.”

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Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.