By Brent Maycock – KSHSAA Covered
CLYDE – Axtell coach Eric Detweiler wasn’t having it.
When asked if his team is the best eight-player team in the state following an impressive 58-12 dismantling of Twin Valley League rival and unbeaten Clifton-Clyde on the road, Detweiler quickly deflected such talk.
“Oh man,” he chuckled. “I’m not going to answer that one. That’s setting me up. No, I’m not going to say that.”
He didn’t have to. His Eagles made enough of a statement with their performance on Friday night.
Scoring on all but two of its 10 possessions and rolling up 444 yards of total offense against a Clifton-Clyde team that entered the game having allowed less than 100 yards of total offense in its first two games, Axtell – the No. 1 team in KSHSAA Covered’s Eight-Player Division II rankings – simply overwhelmed their Eagle counterparts. Engaged in a tight 20-12 game early in the second quarter, Axtell (3-0) finished the game on a 38-0 run, completely dominating the second half.
“They are the total package,” Clifton-Clyde coach Russ Steinbrock said.
Which makes going against the Axtell offense somewhat of a pick-your-poison scenario. Clifton-Clyde focused heavily on slowing down Axtell quarterback Isaac Detweiler’s ability to run and in large part was successful in that endeavor. Coming in averaging 116 yards per game on the ground with 5 rushing touchdowns, Detweiler was held to just 42 yards on the ground Friday and didn’t find the end zone.
It mattered little.
Axtell’s weapons are numerous and the Eagles simply exploited them instead. Detweiler threw for 240 yards and 4 touchdowns, his first two scoring connections going to tight end Grady Buessing (9 and 19 yards) on Axtell’s first two possessions of the game for a quick 14-0 lead.
From there, it pretty much became the Brandon Schmelzle show, especially in the second half. The talented sophomore had 15 touches in the game and a third of them went for touchdowns.
After getting a 26-yard touchdown run to cap the first quarter, Schmelzle took over the second half. He had touchdown runs of 38 and 28 yards to open the third quarter and then caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Detweiler late in the period.
Schmelzle capped the night with a 39-yard touchdown scamper that ended the game one play into the fourth quarter.
“Defensively, I feel we’ve got a pretty good group, but we could not slow them down,” Steinbrock said. “That’s a pretty good ball team. Detweiler is a guy we talked about a lot this week and he threw the ball phenomenally though he didn’t really hurt us in the running game that much. But I guess he didn’t have to when they were throwing it all over the field and Schmelzle was running wild.”
Schmelzle finished with 147 yards and 4 TDs rushing on just eight carries and caught seven passes for 126 yards and a touchdown.
Axtell’s defense was equally impressive. Clifton-Clyde entered the game averaging 49 points and 222 yards per game, but was held to just 174 total yards. The Eagles showed life early, getting a scrambling 16-yard touchdown run from Trent Long in which he covered both sides of the field and roughly 50 total yards and also a 13-yard touchdown pass from Long to Drayden Bell that cut Axtell’s lead to 20-12 early in the second quarter.
But Clifton-Clyde fizzled in the second half and Axtell rolled. Owen Strathman mixed in a safety to go with Schmelzle’s offensive scoring barrage.
“They’ve got a lot of athleticism and the first half the quarterback scramble was killing us,” Eric Detweiler said. “We made some adjustments at halftime to slow them down and did a good job of that in the second half.”
The meeting was the first between the TVL rivals since 2013 – Detweiler’s first year as head coach. In the time since, both programs have been extremely successful and last year Axtell won its first state championship since 1993.
Friday’s renewal of the rivalry was highly anticipated on both sides.
“When we got the schedule last fall it was one we were looking forward to,” Detweiler said. “I know Russ does a fantastic job over there and I was really looking forward to matching up and see how we could do against those guys.”
He could hardly be disappointed with the answer his team provided. And though he wouldn’t comment about where his team stands in relation to other eight-player powers in the state, he did offer a comparison to last year’s state championship team.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t think we’re quite as good yet. That’s a loaded question. Tonight we played better than we practiced last week. Our athleticism is great and our kids make plays and that makes me look better as a coach.”
While the loss stung for Clifton-Clyde (2-1), Steinbrock said there was plenty his team could take from the game.
“I’ll put it on the guys and we’re going to find out how do we respond to something like this,” he said. “I told the guys coming in that this would probably be the biggest game as far as competition on our schedule.
“It reminds me of 2008 when we did make it to state. That year we got 45ed by Hanover and then we turned around and made a state run. That group back then responded well and took their lessons from that lost. I hope we can do the same this year.”
AXTELL 58, CLIFTON-CLYDE 12
Axtell (3-0) … 20 … 8 … 24 … 6 … — … 58
Clifton-Clyde (2-1) … 6 … 6 … 0 … 0 … — … 12
Axtell – Grady Buessing 9-yard pass from Isaac Detweiler (Brandon Schmelzle pass from Detweiler)
Axtell – Buessing 19-yard pass from Detweiler (pass failed)
Clifton-Clyde – Trent Long 16-yard run (run failed)
Axtell – Schmelzle 26-yard run (pass failed)
Clifton-Clyde – Drayden Reed 14-yard pass from Long (pass failed)
Axtell – Eli Broxterman 1-yard pass from Detweiler (Broxterman pass from Detweiler)
Axtell – Schmelzle 38-yard run (Evan Buessing pass from Detweiler)
Axtell – Schmelzle 28-yard run (pass failed)
Axtell – Schmelzle 45-yard pass from Detweiler (Schmelzle run)
Axtell – Owen Strathman sack safety
Axtell – Schmelzle 39-yard run