Muscatine coach Jake Mueller said he wanted nothing more than for his 15 seniors to walk off their home field for the last time as winners. However, the Muscatine offense stalled for the second week in a row, and Clinton’s aerial assault was too much for Muscatine in a 27-7 loss on senior night.
"They stuck with it, and it was never easy," Mueller said of his seniors. "The whole ride was never easy. At any point they could have gotten off the bus but they all stayed on."
"I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to coach them and I appreciate them."
However, a solid first half from the Muscatine defense kept the team within striking distance, as it only allowed Clinton to gain 178 yards of total offense. Even so, Clinton took a 14-7 lead into the locker room courtesy of two big plays through the air.Even so, Muscatine had the chance to draw first blood but was stopped on downs inside the Clinton five-yard line.
Clinton's first big play came in the first quarter, as Clinton’s Ty McGruder beat a Muskie defender on a slant route and took a pass from Brennen Lemke 56 yards for the opening score.
The Muskies immediately responded with a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ended with a three-yard touchdown run by Jackson Foulk after the senior caught a 45-yard pass from junior Carson Orr the previous play.
After the teams exchanged stops, Clinton receiver Jaelen Boysen out-jumped the Muscatine secondary and hauled in a 40-yard touchdown pass from Lemke to give the Riverkings a 14-7 lead they would take into halftime.
"We knew their strength was throwing the ball," Mueller said. "We practiced it all week long. We didn't execute at the right times, and they made plays when they needed to. It's disappointing, this is a team I felt like we should have been more competitive with."
But for the second time on Friday night, McGruder swung momentum in favor of Clinton on Muscatine’s home turf with a big play. The senior returned the opening kick of the second half 95 yards for a touchdown to give Clinton a 21-7 lead, and Mueller admitted that his team never truly recovered from that play.
The Muskies needed a response from their offense, but they only managed 15 yards on 10 plays in the third quarter. Muscatine running back Timothy Nimely had another productive night, as the freshman rushed for 70 yards on 16 carries, but he only managed two yards on six carries in the second half.
Junior quarterback Carson Orr threw for 241 yards and two interceptions, while senior Gavyn Ashley had eight receptions for 140 yards.
"We struggled up front and we struggled moving the ball in the air as well," Mueller said. "We didn't execute in any phase on offense. That was disappointing."
The Muskies didn’t commit as many errors as last week, but there were a few very costly mistakes late in the game. They were called for roughing the punter late in the third quarter, and the Riverkings took advantage as Lemke tossed his third touchdown with 11:03 remaining to give them a 27-7 lead.
Muscatine showed some life on their next drive, as Orr hit Foulk for a 31-yard touchdown on a screen pass, but it was called back because of an illegal receiver penalty on the Muskies. Orr threw an interception on the very next play with just under eight minutes remaining, and the small chance that Muscatine had at a senior night comeback vanished.
"It's very disappointing that we didn't end things the right way," Mueller said. "There's no question it was a frustrating season. But I feel like our kids had good character."
Clin – Ty McGruder 56 pass from Brennen Lemke (Lemke kick), 2:24
Mus – Jackson Foulk 3 run (Kobe Vasquez kick), 11:27
Clin – Jaelen Boysen 40 pass from Lemke (Lemke kick), 8:12
Clin – McGruder 95 kick return (Lemke kick)
Clin – Jordin Parker 39 pass from Lemke (Lemke kick no good), 11:03
Muscatine – Timothy Nimely 16-70, Jackson Foulk 5-21, Gavyn Ashley 2-14, Ethan King 2-0, Carson Orr 4- -13
Clinton – Rawqwon Hardwick 18-65, Brennen Lemke 11-29, Jess Chapman 4-11
Muscating – Orr 15-24-2, 241
Clinton – Lemke 9-15-0, 248
Muscatine – Ashley 8-140, Foulk 1-45, Nimely 1-8, Carter Frazier 1-21, Cooper Zeck 1-8
Clinton – Jordin Parker 4-91, Ty McGruder 1-56, Patrick Mulholland 2-43, Jaelen Boysen 1-40, Hardwick 1-8