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Prairie seeks to continue intensity

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ROOM TO RUN: Clinton Prairie's Jacob Fullerton runs the sideline on a big play that was called back during Prairie's 47-13 win at Clinton Central on Friday night.
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BIG-GAME KADE: Clinton Prairie quarterback Kade Osborn, trying to break away from Clinton Central's Riston Quick, had a big night against the Bulldogs on Friday with 154 yards rushing and 220 passing with three rushing TDs and three passing.
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LOOKING FOR SPACE: Clinton Central's Anthony Ransford had another big game on Friday against Clinton Prairie, with 164 rushing yards and two touchdowns. However, most came on three big runs with the Gophers keeping him in check otherwise.
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BREAKING FREE: Clinton Prairie's Blake Richardson broke this tackle on his way to a 20-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter of the Gophers' 47-13 win at Clinton Central on Friday.

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

Clinton Prairie head football coach Raymond Jones preached to his team about the importance of maintaining focus and intensity after running over an injury riddled Clinton Central team on Friday for a 47-13 victory.

“To me, honestly, this week was more about us as a program and how do we respond to what happened at Attica,” he said of following up an opening 59-12 win at Park Tudor with a 50-14 loss to a state-ranked Attica squad before the county rivalry game. “Central is a great team and I know they have some injuries and it’s a shame and stinks for them and their kids, but it’s a big win for us to execute the way that we want to.”

Jones felt his defense bought into the message during the week.

“We challenged them to step up and be physical and I think they did a great job with that,” he said. “From where we were last week and our mindset to change that to playing the way we want to play Prairie football was what we stressed all week and they did a great job of it.”

On offense, the Gophers moved up and down the field, scoring on 7 of their 8 possessions. Several players contributed statistically, but none stood out quite like quarterback Kade Osborn who completed 16-21 passes (and all 12 in the first half) for 220 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 154 yards and three more TDs.

“We worked really hard this week with him on making the right reads on our plays and having confidence,” Jones said. “He had that tonight and our receivers helped him out by making great catches and getting yards after the catch.

“(However), our game plan isn’t centered around one person,” he added. “It’s the whole team and having people make plays. They did a great job of that when their number was called.”

Jacob Baker ran for 85 yards (346 for the season) on 17 carries, with Jacob Fullerton adding 57 on five including a touchdown.

Coltyn Vandegriff led the Gophers in receiving with 98 yards on eight catches with a TD, adding 5 of 6 extra-point kicks. Fullerton had 65 yards on five receptions, with Kaleb Peters hauling in two for 37 yards with a touchdown and Blake Richardson one for 20 yards and a score.

Friday’s game started promising for Clinton Central as Anthony Ransford broke off a 48-yard touchdown run on the game’s fifth play from scrimmage and JT Holton added the extra point for a 7-0 Central lead less than 3 minutes into the game.

As quarterback, Holton scrambled for a 6 yard gain on the drive. It would be his only significant offensive stat as he went down on Prairie’s first drive, adding to Central’s mounting injury list. He attempted to run on the sideline before his leg collapsed on him, and he returned to the sideline after halftime in street clothes with his right knee wrapped.

Central head coach Justin Gardiner didn’t use the injuries as an excuse with key defensive linemen Kolt Keller and Scott Harness already sidelined.

“They just whipped our tail it was pretty simple,” he said. “We didn’t execute and they were more physical than we were.”

The Bulldogs had several fumbles early in plays with a few lost to the Gophers, but Gardiner didn’t believe quarterback exchanges were involved with it.

“It wasn’t the exchanges,” he said. “We had to put a kid in there at full speed when he hadn’t been getting a lot of reps because he has to play other positions. It took a little bit to get going. Owen (Smith) did a good job given the circumstances.

“You’ve got two different types of quarterbacks that do different things well and you build one way (during the week) and then early in the game he goes down and you have to adjust on the fly and we didn’t adjust as quickly as I would have liked.”

The loss of Holton not only affected the Central offense, but also took away a valuable defender.

“(Holton)’s shown to be a big surprise on defense,” Gardiner said. “He’s got a knack for playing safety and against a team that throws the ball pretty well you lose one of your better DBs.”

But overall, the Central coach simply praised his Prairie counterpart.

“Coach Jones does a great job,” he said. “They are leaps and bounds better than last year and they are going to continue to get better.”

After Central jumped ahead, Prairie immediately answered with Osborn scoring his first touchdown on a 16-yard run with 6:29 left in the first quarter on a draw that the Bulldogs struggled to contain all night to end a nine-play drive. The Gophers went for two after a Central penalty but were stopped at the goal line.

Smith started out his first drive as the Bulldogs’ quarterback strong with a 15-yard run off a fake handoff. On 4th and 4 from the Prairie 26, he lofted a perfect pass to the right side of the end zone that Caleb Heide couldn’t hold onto giving the ball back to the Gophers.

Osborn then capped a 12-play drive with a 17-yard TD pass to Peters on a slant early in the second quarter with Coltyn Vandegriff adding the extra point for a 13-7 Prairie lead. After an interference call allowed Central to advance to Prairie’s 34, the Gophers recovered a fumble on the next play to take over once again. Five plays later Osborn hooked up with Richardson for a 20-yard TD pass with 7:29 left in the half with Vandegriff’s kick making it 20-7.

After gaining three first downs, the Bulldogs fumbled on a handoff and the Gophers took advantage once again with 3:35 to play in the half. Again, they converted going 68 yards in seven plays, with Osborn punching it in from the 1 on a sneak with 25 seconds left in the half. Vandegriff missed the kick after a penalty making it 26-7 going into halftime.

Prairie began to drive once again to start the second half before Osborn made one of his few mistakes in the game, with Central’s Heide intercepting a pass and returning it 15 yards to the Central 29. Anthony Ransford was stopped on 4th and 2, however, to return the ball to the Gophers in short order.

Eight plays later Fullerton punched it in from 2 yards out for a 33-7 Gopher lead with 3:30 left in the third after the Vandegriff kick. A play earlier Fullerton leaped over two Central defenders to wrestle away a 23-yard completion from Osborn.

A Prairie interception (Gopher stats credited it to Drew Blacker with the Times to Fullerton) with 40 seconds left in the quarter gave Prairie the ball at its own 25, with Osborn finishing a 75-yard, eight-play drive with a 14-yard touchdown run on a sweep to the left to increase the Gopher lead to 40-7 with 9:44 to play.

Ransford scored on a 62-yard run for Central to make it 40-13 on the Bulldogs’ next possession, with the running back stopped short on a two-point conversion. Central then recovered an onside kick, but Prairie’s Blacker picked off a Smith throw seven plays later to end the Bulldog run. Ransford had another long 34-yard run called back on a holding penalty before the interception.

With 4:08 to play, Osborn capped the night’s scoring with a 10-yard TD pass to Vandegriff (who also made the PAT) for the final 47-13 score.

Blacker unofficially led Prairie with eight tackles (five solo) adding a fumble recovery and two interceptions, while Baker had seven tackles (two solo) and 1 ½ sacks.

For Central, Ransford continued to pile up the rushing yards with 164 (most coming on three long ones) on 15 carries with two touchdowns. Ross Cripe had 37 on six carries, with Smith getting 26 on four. Smith was 4-10 for 44 yards with two interceptions passing. Heide led the Bulldogs with three receptions for 29 yards.

Prairie improved to 2-1 (1-0 Hoosier Heartland Conference) with the win, while Central fell to 1-2 (0-2).