Clarion University Football: Ground Game Dominates But Golden Eagles Fall to West Liberty, 21-14
CLARION, Pa. – Playing under the lights in front of an impassioned home crowd, the Clarion football team cut their halftime deficit in half but were unable to finish off the comeback in falling 21-14 to West Liberty at Memorial Stadium.
Photo by Kirkland Photography.
The Golden Eagles showcased a potent rushing offense against the Hilltoppers, totaling 199 rushing yards on 42 attempts for a 4.4 yards per carry average. Most of that damage was done by returning all-conference running back Khalil Owens, who went off for 120 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns.
His first score of the game responded to the opening touchdown for the Hilltoppers, who took a 7-0 lead with 6:34 left in the first quarter. Owens and Corahn Alleyne chipped away at the West Liberty defense on the ground, and Clarion was added by a deep completion from Will Alexander to Nathan Roby that ended up on the WLU nine-yard line. The Hilltoppers were called for a roughing the passer penalty after the completion, putting Clarion inside the five with four cracks at the end zone. Owens needed only two, busting through the left side of the line for the score.
The difference in the game came in the second quarter, with the Hilltoppers scoring two touchdowns in the frame to pull ahead 21-7. The first came on a long pass from Jamie Diven to Rashawn Harvey, after the former was flushed from the pocket on a ferocious pass rush. With the play broken down, Diven hucked it deep to Harvey, who pulled it in at the goal line and fell over the plane for the score. The other score came with less than a minute left in the half, when Shon Stephens picked off Alexander on the left sideline and returned it 20 yards for the score.
Clarion also benefitted from a handful of turnovers in the game. They picked off Diven and Rudy Garcia once each, with Connor Lyczek and Legend Davis each hauling in errant passes. Shane Kemper and Jeremy Ford each recovered fumbles on defense, as well.
The only other Golden Eagle touchdown of the game did not come off a turnover, but rather tenacious defense from the Golden Eagles. Clarion forced a three-and-out deep in West Liberty territory, with Ty Corbin returning the ball to the Hilltoppers’ 41-yard line to start the drive. Clarion methodically rushed the ball down the field, with Owens punching it in from one yard out to make it 21-14.
Lyczek halted the Hilltoppers’ last drive of the third quarter with a pick, leading to the Golden Eagles driving deep into West Liberty territory. Clarion converted a 4th-and-3 from the Hilltopper nine-yard line to keep the drive alive, but Zach Benedek was picked in the end zone to quash the threat. The Golden Eagles got back into Hilltopper territory on their final drive of the game, but Benedek’s pass intended for Corahn Alleyne sailed high to end the game.
Alleyne had a strong debut in a Golden Eagle uniform, finishing with 36 receiving yards and 33 rushing yards on the night. Clarion finished with three sacks on the night, including tallies from Daryl Davis, Jake Tarburton and Drew Blon. The defense held West Liberty to just 120 rushing yards on 40 carries, a 3.0 yards per attempt average, and kept the Hilltoppers under 300 total yards of offense.
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