SHEFFIELD TWP. — They say defense wins championships.
Well, whoever “they” are, Clearview fans will be hoping they know what they’re talking about since Clippers coach Mike Collier says defense is looking like his team’s strength.
“Right now we’re further ahead on defense,” he said. “We have tough, athletic kids on the defensive side of the ball. When you watch us, you’ll see an aggressive defense that will make things happen.”
The Clippers are a young team this season, returning only five starters on each side of the ball from a team that finished second in the Patriot Athletic Conference Stripes Division with a 7-4 record and advanced to the playoffs for the 15th time in school history.
A list of the expected leaders on the Clearview defense would be incomplete without the names of linebacker Thomas Smith and defensive lineman Billy Doughty. Smith had 75 tackles, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble last season, while Doughty led the team with 5.5 sacks to go along with 48 tackles and two fumble recoveries.
“As soon as last season ended I wanted to get back in that weight room and get bigger and better for this year,” Doughty said. “We’re coming together as a team and working as a unit. That work all begins in the weight room before you ever get on the practice field. “
Although many Clearview athletes play more than one sport, Collier said he had a core group of around 20 players that spent most of the offseason in the weight room.
On offense the Clippers are fortunate to have a starting quarterback in junior Roger Engle who enters the year with two seasons of varsity experience under his belt. Last season, Engle completed 60 percent of his throws, including 15 for touchdowns.
The task of replacing Chad Anderson, who led the Clippers with 1,544 yard rushing and 16 touchdowns, will fall to Tyler Stevenson and Emaje Payton.
“A player like Chad is not easy to replace,” Collier said. “But we have two kids who are both powerful runners. They’re strong players who also both have great bursts of speed.”
The place a lack of depth could hurt the Clippers is on the offensive line, where three of five starters will be new when Clearview opens the season Aug. 30 at Vermilion. Doughty, a two-way starter, is one of the carryovers on the offensive front.
“We need to find some more people who can play the offensive line,” Doughty said. “We are kinda short there right now. It’s going to be a challenge going into the season but we think we’ll be able to overcome it. I know the skill position players are where they need to be getting ready for the season. Every team needs a good line though and we’re ready to accept the challenge of setting the tone for the offense.”
Depth is almost always a concern with a Division IV program and it’s no different at Clearview, where the majority of starters will be two-way players. The Clippers were also at a disadvantage this summer with only seven two-a-day practices as opposed to as many as 15 in previous seasons because the district adopted a new calendar with classes starting a day ago.
Collier believes Clearview’s non-league schedule, which includes home games against Division II teams Amherst and Cleveland John Marshall will have the Clippers prepared for the seven-game grind of the PAC.
“We want to be battle-tested by the time we get into conference play,” he said. “Our schedule is tough and it doesn’t leave a lot of room for error, but it gets us ready for the tough games in our league and for the playoffs if we’re able to make it that far.”
Even with all the changes, Doughty is confident his senior season will be a good one.
“I think it’s going to be a great year,” he said. “We’re ready to have a successful season. There will be some challenges but we’re a family and family always comes together.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONFERENCE: Patriot Athletic Conference, Stripes Division
2012 RECORD: 7-4, 5-2
COACH: Mike Collier, 7th year (42-20)
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 18
RETURNING STARTERS: 10
FAST FACT: In Collier’s six seasons, the Clippers have not had a losing record in league play. The last time Clearview had a losing league record was 2005, the inaugural season of the Patriot Athletic Conference.
Aug. 30 at Vermilion
Sept. 6 John Marshall
Sept. 13 Amherst
Sept. 20 at Keystone*
Sept. 27 Black River*
Oct. 4 at Brooklyn*
Oct. 11 at Fairview*
Oct. 18 Oberlin*
Oct. 25 Lutheran West*
Nov. 1 at Columbia*
All games at 7 p.m.
* Patriot Athletic Conference game