Clarion gridders top Shippensburg

CLARION - Behind the strength of a potent running attack and an opportunistic defense, the Clarion football team opened its 2019 season with a 48-28 victory over Shippensburg at Seth Grove Stadium on Saturday (Sept. 7).

The Golden Eagles (1-0) opened the season with a victory for the first time since 2016 and defeated the Red Raiders for the first time since 2000, snapping a 12-game losing streak against the latter in the process.

The Golden Eagles pounded the Red Raiders with the run, posting 341 net rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns three by running back Mylique McGriff while averaging 7.1 yards per attempt. Clarion possessed the ball for nearly 10 more minutes than the Red Raiders and held their opponents to just a 3-of-10 mark on third down. Defensively, Clarion forced two turnovers and converted them into points, including a pick-six interception by Trent Rogers and a forced fumble by Vaughn Wallace.

McGriff had one of his best days in the Blue & Gold, carrying 27 times for 179 yards and a career-high three rushing touchdowns. He ripped off another of his patented long runs, this time making a 56-yard gallop and following it with a 29-yard scoring run to put the game out of reach for Shippensburg. Redshirt freshman Ross Greece added his first career rushing score, a one-yard blast on the goal line to give the Golden Eagles their first lead of the game.

Quinlin Lambert tied the game-high with nine total tackles and recovered a fumble from Shippensburg's Brycen Mussina. Rogers had six stops and an interception, picking off Mussina and taking it to the house for a touchdown that stretched Clarion's lead to 34-0 at the halftime break.

The Golden Eagles' first drive of the game was perhaps their best, as they methodically moved 90 yards down the field in 10 plays to take the lead. Quarterback Jeff Clemens took off for a 48-yard scamper on the first play of the drive to move into Shippensburg territory, and then connected with Terrell Ford on a 15-yard pass to reach the three-yard line. Greece took it from there, taking a pair of handoffs from the fullback spot and driving into the end zone for his first career score. The Red Raiders' ensuing drive ended four plays later as Lambert scooped up a fumble by Mussina, and Clarion wasted no time in making the most of the chance. The Golden Eagles quickly moved to scoring position and McGriff punched it in for his first score of the day to make it a 13-0 advantage.

The rout began to take shape with the first Clarion drive of the second quarter, as Clemens moved the Golden Eagles 80 yards down the field for their second touchdown. Buoyed by a 32-yard run from the quarterback himself, the drive terminated when McGriff scored from six yards out to make it a three-score game. Clemens later found Kahliq Muhammad for the latter's first touchdown in the Blue & Gold the drive coming off the heels of a strip sack by Wallace that was recovered by Anthony Gallegos and Rogers scored on a pick-six with 19 seconds remaining in the half to build a 34-0 lead at the break.

Shippensburg found life in the second half, scoring 14 points in both the third and fourth quarters, but Clarion added a pair of insurance touchdowns to secure the win. Dana Jackson, Jr. capped a nine-play, 81-yard drive with a 32-yard score from quarterback Michael Proios, and McGriff ripped off a big run in the fourth quarter to set the final deficit at 48-28.