Maumee’s Defense Shines In 21-0 Win At Napoleon

Maumee senior linebacker Devon Cleghorn jolts the ball loose from Napoleon freshman back Jarrett Gerdeman during a September 22 NLL contest. Cleghorn also rushed for 119 yards in an eventual 21-0 win over the Wildcats. MIRROR PHOTO BY JOE NEGRICH

Maumee’s defense held the Wildcats to just 64 rushing yards and 49 passing yards, intercepted a pair of passes and recovered a fumble during a 21-0 shutout at Napoleon on September 22. “We knew that our defense was going to be the strong point of our team, with eight guys coming back,” said Maumee football coach Marc Gibson. “We have a very stout defensive line that’s very difficult to block and very hard to run against. We have a couple of active inside linebackers and two safeties that are three- and four-year starters back there.” Junior cornerback Matt Butler recorded the first Panthers interception about 4:50 into the contest, setting up a 10-yard touchdown run by senior back Caleb Brown and an extra point from junior kicker Kyle Robinson. Along with five penalties, key defensive plays by Maumee’s Brown, senior linebacker Mason Haas, classmates and linemen Mike Haney and Brandon Phillips and junior lineman Izaiah Robinson and Wildcats senior lineman Levi Chupa, classmate and linebacker Emilo Gonzalez (sack) and sophomore Andrew Warncke led to five punts and a turnover on downs through the remainder of the opening half. Defense continued to dominate the night through the first four possessions of the third quarter, as the Panthers’ Brown, senior linebackers Robert Caesar and Ryan Haas and Napoleon’s Chupa, senior lineman Trent Geahlen (sack) and junior cornerback Telly Blair led their respective teams in forcing three more punts. The Wildcats faked their second punt with about 4:20 left in the stanza, but the long pass was broken up when Maumee’s Cleghorn separated the ball from the Napoleon receiver with a spine-rattling hit. “We were pleased with what Devon Cleghorn did on offense, defense and special teams,” Gibson said. Cleghorn’s punishing blow gave the Panthers the ball on the Wildcats’ 37-yard line. Two plays later, Caesar broke free after a double handoff and rumbled 33 yards for Maumee’s second touchdown. “Robert and Mason Haas have been playing defense for us the last couple of years, but both of them are seeing time on the offense this year, and both of them are contributing,” Gibson said. “At 7-0, you’re getting very tight and anxious knowing that Napoleon is only a play away from tying this thing up, so Robert’s touchdown was really big. It wasn’t just a 30-plus-yard run, but he showed speed to get to the edge and score.” Robinson’s point-after pushed the score to 14-0 with 1:16 remaining in the third. The Panthers’ Cleghorn (forced fumble) and Napoleon senior linebacker Dylan Unverferth and sophomore lineman Trevor Smith next helped to force two more punts to start the fourth. The latter was downed on the Wildcats’ 11 with 6:31 still showing on the clock. Just two plays later, Brown intercepted a Napoleon pass and returned it 20 yards for Maumee’s final touchdown. “Caleb is among a class of very intelligent senior football players, but they all say that Caleb is the smartest,” Gibson said. “He brings that to the field. He is a cerebral player. He figures things out. As the safety, he basically gets us in position. He makes all the coverage calls. There’s times when he’s calling out, ‘watch this’ or ‘watch that’ based on the tendencies that opponents show through his film studies. To have a guy out there like that is like having another coach on the field. Then, he’s got the athletic ability to do something about it.” Robinson’s extra point left the Wildcats with just 5:54 to overcome the Panthers’ 21-point lead. To make matters worse for Napoleon, Maumee’s Brown recovered a fumble at the 3:30 mark, allowing Cleghorn and the Panthers to run the rest of the clock out. Cleghorn finished with 119 rushing yards and continues to lead the Northern Lakes League with 583 yards (6.5 yards per carry) through five games. Brown totaled 73 yards, Caesar added 53 rushing yards and a touchdown and junior Blake Adams averaged 38.2 yards on six punts – four of which forced the Wildcats to start at or inside their own 20-yard line – and sophomore Michael Helminski played well in his first real varsity test as an offensive guard. “Blake is just a big-time weapon for us,” Gibson said. “Michael is one of the only sophomores we really have playing right now, which tells you a little bit about him and how we feel about him and his potential.” Phillips led Maumee’s defense with nine tackles and two hurries, Caesar added seven more stops, Brown (fumble recovery, interception, touchdown) and senior lineman Mike Haney had four tackles each and Robinson finished with four tackles and a forced fumble. The game increased Phillips’ totals to 38 tackles and four hurries on the year, Caesar and Brown (interception, sack) both have 23 tackles and Haney has 24 tackles and a sack. “Brandon is playing at an elevated level because he’s a Division I athlete,” Gibson said. “He committed to West Point and they don’t give those out. You have to earn that and he’s definitely that caliber of an athlete and a competitor.” Senior back Brennan Druhot paced Napoleon by totaling 56 yards. Senior quarterback Grant Strock passed for 49 yards and two interceptions, junior back Chasten Wilde ran for 31 yards and Unverferth rushed for 24. Chupa, Gonzalez, Smith, Unverferth, Warncke and freshman linebacker Jarrett Gerdeman all played well for the Wildcats’ defense, despite dropping to 1-4 (0-2 in NLL play) with the loss. The Panthers improved to 3-2 (1-1) with the win and will next travel to Anthony Wayne (4-1, 2-0) on Friday night. “We’re happy to be where we are at 3-2 at the halfway point of the season,” Gibson said. “We’re just one game behind where we were in total wins last year, so we feel good going into these last five games.” The Generals are coming off a 31-0 victory over Bowling Green (2-3, 0-2). “Obviously this is a big one,” Gibson said. “We’re about to play a big-play offense with a lot of speed. They are capable of big plays from anywhere on the field. I’m also very, very impressed with their defense and how aggressive they are. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but I think our kids are confident that we can give them a very good game.”

Check Also

Regional Final A Walk In The Park For Hot AW Hitters

BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — Last Saturday afternoon in Clyde, the sun came out …