Golden’s 5 TD’s lead to domination of No. 1 Wyoming

Fliers shock Cowboys 35-14 to play in first state title game since 1995

PHOTO BY STEVE WILLIAMS Clyde’s Gunner Golden fights for extra yards against three Wyoming defenders in the Division IV state semifiinal at Marysville Saturday.

MARYSVILLE — Not even a grab of the face mask was going to stop Gunner Golden.

Not much of anything was going to stand in the way of Golden on Saturday.

Playing in by far the biggest game of his career, Golden came through in the biggest way possible with five rushing touchdowns as Clyde dominated No. 1 Cincinnati Wyoming, 35-14 in a Division IV state semifinal at Marysville High School.

“It is an awesome feeling,” Golden said. “It all starts with my offensive line, of course. They help me and without them, there is no way I would have five touchdowns. They did amazing.”

With the win, the Fliers improved to 10-4 and will face No. 4 Newark Licking Valley (14-0) Saturday at 3 p.m. at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton for the state championship.

“I was fortunate to play in a state championship when I was in school,” Clyde coach Ryan Carter said. “I told the kids before the game that I would not trade any of them for anybody. We have good kids and we have kids that fight hard.”

The 35 points were nearly twice as much as the most points the defending champion Cowboys (13-1) had allowed in a game this season. Wyoming had six shutouts entering the game and surrendered just 30 total points over the first nine games of the season.

“The biggest concern was their defense was giving up six points a game — 5.9 points per game,” Carter said. “We were able to run the ball and score and put up 35 points tonight. That is huge for us.”

The loss snaps Wyoming’s 28-game winning streak. The Cowboys entered the game 41-1 since the beginning of the 2017 season.

“That is a great team,” said Carter of Wyoming. “Their program has a great history and they have a ton of wins in their history, but our kids did not look at it that way, to be honest. Our kids looked at it like it was another week. We had an opportunity to go play a football game against a good football team.”

Golden finished with 27 carries for 143 yards and the five scores. None of Golden’s 27 rushes went for a loss.

“I think we played our hearts out,” Golden said. “That is what coach Carter told us in the locker room before the game — to play your hardest, worry about yourself, everybody do their job, and we will give ourselves a chance to win at the end. That is what we did and we got a team win.”

Clyde clung to a 21-14 lead when it took over with 3:31 left in the third quarter. A defensive holding call and 16-yard pass from Ryan Lozier to Carson Rieman got the Fliers two first downs. Nick Webb added a seven-yard run for a fresh set of downs as the third quarter ended.

The Cowboys stiffened a little bit as Clyde entered the red zone, and the Fliers faced 4th-and-1 at the Wyoming 14. But, who else was there to the rescue except Golden? He rumbled four yards for the first down at the 10.

A chop block pushed Clyde back to the 24-yard line, but after an incomplete pass, Webb scampered 19 yards. Golden then followed that with a 5-yard score — his fourth of the game for a 28-14 lead with 8:43 left. The 6:48 drive was 14 plays and gave the Fliers a bit of breathing room.

“We came out and played inspired football on both sides of the ball,” Carter said. “To hold that team to 14 points and limit their offensive looks, I think is a tribute to our offense for hanging onto the ball and a huge tribute to our defense.”

The Clyde defense was just as good on this night. Knowing it was the biggest defensive series thus far this season, the Fliers forced a big three-and-out, harassing University of Cincinnati commit Evan Prater as they had done all night.

The ground game of the Fliers went back to work using the thunderous power of Golden with the lightning quickness of Webb to keep Wyoming off-balance. Webb picked up a first down before Golden had two first downs including a 17-yard run. Two plays later, Golden reached the end zone from 10 yards out to push Clyde ahead 35-14.

“You have to give a ton of credit to our offensive line — Hank Webb, Ben Seavers, Jace Pennycuff, Frank Fultz and Trent Cook,” Carter said. “You can give a lot of that credit to Gunner, Nick, and Ryan, but when you talk about guys getting it done up front, those guys are blocking it up front.”

The Fliers’ defense came through once again to emphatically slam the door on Prater and the Cowboys. The stingy defense forced a turnover on downs as Prater was 2 of 7 passing for negative-four yards in the fourth quarter.

“The key was containing Prater as much as possible,” Clyde senior Jack Morrison said. “He is an outstanding guy and he is one of Cincinnati’s highest recruits. We knew what we were going up against.”

Clyde could not have drawn up a better start than it got in the first quarter. The offense was clicking from the opening kickoff as Lozier hit Webb for 10 yards and a first down. Webb followed that with a 16-yard run and Lozier completed an 11-yard pass to Rieman for a first down. Two plays later, Golden scored on an 8-yard run and Victor Guzman-Moreno added his first of five extra points.

The Cowboys picked up a first down, but Morrison tackled running back Beau Thomas for a three-yard loss to put Wyoming behind the chains. The Cowboys eventually settled for a punt, but the punter’s knee touched on a low snap, downing the ball at the Wyoming 34 for a loss.

Clyde took advantage, going those 34 yards in seven plays — all runs — with Golden capping the drive from a yard out. Suddenly, the Fliers led, 14-0 with 2:24 left in the first quarter.

“We did not have a lot of answers for slowing down their offense,” Wyoming coach Aaron Hancock said. “They kept the ball away from our offense. They are a good football team and we knew that coming in. We did not take them lightly.”

Wyoming put together a nice drive as the second quarter began. A short run by Prater gave the Cowboys a first down at the Clyde 16, but a short loss on a run was followed by Frank Fultz sacking Prater. Two incomplete passes ended the drive.

“You had to keep playing with Prater,” Carter said. “He is a great thrower and a great runner. We just wanted to limit his running looks. We wanted to try to make him throw it as much as we possibly could because we thought he was a great runner.”

The Fliers took over and picked up a first down, but punted the ball away. Prater finally got some offense going with a 12-yard pass and a 14-yard pass before exploding for a 34-yard touchdown in which he seemingly broke a tackle from every Clyde defender. Wyoming was within 14-7 with 5:04 left until halftime.

With adjustments made, the Fliers played even stronger defense in the second half. Sophomore Walker Britt sacked Prater on the first play of the second half. Prater hit Sam Taylor for 25 yards on third-and-13, but the Fliers settled back in. Facing fourth-and-3 at the Clyde 35, Prater was chased out of bounds for a sack by Dillon Overmyer to get Clyde the ball.

The Fliers marched down the field with Golden and Webb with little resistance. In the end, Golden’s one-yard run made it 21-7 with 5:11 left in the third quarter.

“With Gunner and Nick, I thought we had them off-balance all night,” Carter said. “We were doing stuff on both sides of the ball. We were able to hit Carson enough throwing-wise to keep them off balance.”

Wyoming countered quickly to keep within striking range. A face mask penalty by Clyde helped the Cowboys along and a 34-yard run by Brennan Pagan on a jet sweep drew Wyoming within 21-14.

“To play for a state championship is something special, obviously,” Carter said. “With this group and how hard they have worked and the adversity we have fought through since all the way back at the end of school last year and into summer — I could not be more proud of a group.”

After entering the game with over 9,600 yards and 145 touchdowns of career offense, Prater completed just 8 of 17 passes for 83 yards, while running 17 times for 63 yards.

“We were not intimidated by (Prater),” Webb said. “We came out and knew what we had to do. We knew we did not have to do anything spectacular. We had to play at a level where no matter what the outcome was, we were OK with it.”

The Fliers went three-and-out just once, typically gashing the Wyoming offense for yards at a time. That led to a heavy advantage in time of possession — 30:06 for Clyde to 17:54 for Wyoming — which in turn kept Prater off the field and never in a rhythm.

“That was huge,” Carter said. “The way we were able to chunk and continually get first downs and keep the ball out of Prater’s hands was huge. We talked about that going in — we thought it would be a huge advantage tonight if we could keep our offense on the field.”

Webb finished with 14 carries for 119 yards — a great change of pace from Golden, a bruiser who can run over defenders with the best of them.

“We almost did not make it here,” said Webb of needing a Week 10 win over Bellevue to have a shot at qualifying for the playoffs. “We almost did not make it in the postseason to have a chance. We could have been sitting at home watching everyone play. There is no better feeling than this.”

Now, the Fliers will play for a state title for the first time since 1995 when Clyde won the Division III state championship game over Chagrin Falls Kenston.

“The greatest thing about this group is they are not satisfied,” Carter said. “We have another week to play.”