By Tony Maluso
Clyde's Ryan Carter is a busy man. As head football coach, Carter has been getting his Fliers ready for tonight's Division III regional semifinal. Every day after the final whistle is blown and practice closes up, Carter doesn't head home, but rather into the gym. He also serves as boys basketball coach and has been running their practices as well.
It's a busy schedule, but one Carter doesn't mind keeping for a few more weeks as Clyde's playoff run continues.
But to last another week, the Fliers have to overcome the only team to put a blemish on their schedule. Clyde squares off with Sandusky Perkins tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Bellevue.
The two teams met Week 6 in Clyde. The Fliers held a slim lead at halftime, only to see the Pirates power past them in the second half for a 34-14 win.
"They're a very good football team," Carter said of his Sandusky Bay Conference rival. "They won our league, are 11-0. They had player of year in our conference and present a lot of problems for people. We played with them for a half, then they imposed there will on us in the second half. In order for us to be more competitive, we'll have to shore up some things up front.
"One of the big things was, we turned the ball over too much. When you play close games against good teams, you can't turn it over and commit penalties. We have to cut a few of those things out."
Perkins coach Jason Zeigler isn't taking anything for granted already with a win in hand over Clyde.
"I think last game, I don't think the final score really showed how the game went," he said. "It was a close game, we were down at halftime. Second half, a couple things went our way and we started rolling a little bit. They're fast; they're physical. It was a heck of a fight, heck of a battle. And I'm expecting the same (tonight)."
Despite being on the wrong end of the scoreboard the last time around, Carter says don't expect his team to change too much from what it's done all season.
"I don't think we have any new tricks or wrinkles," he said. "We have some things we've done differently since that game, but at this point of the season, you have to do what you do, and do it better than they can defend it."
Zeigler is taking the same approach with his team. Of course, coming in with an 11-0 record, there's not reason to change much.
"The great thing about Perkins is that the way we do things, our philosophy is never going change," he said. "Were going to put our kids in positions to play fast, play physical. Defensively, they're going to come with blunt force. Fly to the ball and make plays. Offensively, we want to come off the ball hard and try to control the line of scrimmage. Our kids have bought into it."
For Clyde to reverse its fortune against Perkins, its No. 1 task is to slow down SBC player of the year Dale Irby. In the regular season, Irby amassed 1,188 yards rushing on just 91 carries - a 13.1 average - while scoring 15 touchdowns. Half of his 14 receptions were for touchdowns with another 300 yards racked up.
"He plays running back, wide receiver, quarterback at times in wildcat formation. He has several interceptions defensively. He kind of did everything against us the first time," Carter said of Irby. "He had big runs, big catches, had a couple interceptions defensively. He returns kicks, returns punts. You have to keep track of him or he'll make a big play on you."
For Clyde, quarterback Tim Hoppe is the focal point of the Flier offense. But Zeiger says there's more than just him to stop.
"It's not just one guy. They got a lot of real good football players," he said. "It starts with the quarterback. Offensively (Hoppe) is tough. He can throw, he can run and he's got a lot of weapons surrounding him. There's three or four receivers that can run fast and do a lot of damage. Their running back is strong. Their offensive line can come off the ball and they can be nasty."
His first year running the football program has been one of growth according Carter. Now, he hopes that his team has grown enough to avenge its only loss of the year, and claim a spot in the regional finals.
"Offensively, I think we've continued to grow as the season's went on," he said. "We've been taking what teams give us. If teams load up the box, Tim Hoppe has had a very good year. If teams try to take him away, we run it with a multitude of running backs. I think we've grown as a compete program. Hopefully, we've grown enough to learn from our mistakes."