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Clear Fork Plays Aggressive Buckeye Valley

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Steven Bechtel

Clear Fork is at home for a pair of Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference games this week as they host Buckeye Valley on Thursday and River Valley on Saturday night.

The Colts (2-1,1-0) beat North Union (62-59) in their first ever game in the league last Friday. They had a double digit lead entering the fourth quarter and almost let it get away. Coach Steven Bechtel says they have talked about that. “We talked about it (Wednesday) with a couple of players because that was a concern for them. Getting off to a better start in the fourth quarter when we have a lead. Who knows what will happen (Thursday) night. Hopefully, we can learn from that and fight through that adversity. Fortunately, on Friday we were able to prevail and come out on top,” said Bechtel.

They have quite a few kids back that have varsity experience, but they are still young kids in some cases. Bechtel says leadership is going to be important this week and this year. “We have Brady Tedrow, he is a freshman, and he is logging a lot of minutes. Brennan South, I know he logged a lot of minutes last year, but still just a sophomore, and he puts in a lot of time out there are well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “The juniors and seniors have to really step up and be the leaders on the squad. I think everybody is doing a pretty good job of just playing their role and doing it as well as possible every night.”

Buckeye Valley (1-3,1-0) beat River Valley (66-62) in an “MOAC” game last Friday. They followed that with a loss to Highland (68-63) on Saturday night in a non-league game.

Bechtel says the Barons are going to be aggressive on defense. “Traditionally they are a really, really solid basketball team. Traditionally they press a lot, but they are not as deep as they have been. They still get after it really hard in the half court, so we are going to have to be really strong with the basketball and make really good decisions and make our cuts really sharp, so we are able to move the basketball like we want to,” he said.

So far, the Colts have handled the ball very well this year. Bechtel says that is going to have to continue. “I think so far we have done a pretty good job of handling the ball. The guys have done a good job of moving the ball around and finding the open guy and that is going to be a huge key to our success throughout the entire year, so we just have to continue to do that,” he said.

River Valley (0-2,0-1) comes to the Clear Fork Valley on Saturday. Bechtel says the Vikings approach is going to similar to Buckeye Valley. “They are going to come out and they are going to play aggressive as well. They are going to be a solid basketball team, we played them last year. They have a few guys back. They are going to play hard. The “MOAC” most of the teams are fairly similar that way where they are going to be strong defensively and really look to push the basketball as well,” said Bechtel.

Published 12/14/17

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Clear Fork Opens “MOAC”

This is the first year for Clear Fork and the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference. They won the conference title in football and they tip off the basketball conference schedule on Friday night at North Union.

The Colts (1-1) opened with old rival Lexington and Northwestern, who was in a division three regional final last year, last weekend. They lost to Lexington (73-63) on Friday and beat Northwestern (68-64) on Saturday.

Coach Steven Bechtel saw some good things both nights, but certainly his team was better against Northwestern. “With Lexington on Friday night we knew that was going to be a great atmosphere starting off with them. They are really, really solid at every position. I thought we went over there and got ourselves in position to win, but Lex just made a few more plays down the stretch,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Saturday night we had a really tough hard fought game over at Northwestern. Another solid basketball team with solid guard play and we got some stops down the stretch that we didn’t get Friday night. Hopefully, that is a step in the right direction. We hit some free throws late and were able to come away with a win.”

Free throws are a lost art in some places, like the NBA for example, but not at Clear Fork. Bechtel says they are going to have to continue to shoot them well. “On the year we are 36-39 from the line (92 percent). That is obviously a high percentage and we need to continue to do that, especially when it is to put a game away or just to win basketball games. Everybody talks about free throws being a key and that is something we are doing right now,” he said.

Among the things the Colts have to do better is rebound and defend the other guys, according to Bechtel. “Just more consistency in a lot of different areas, especially boxing out because we are not exactly a huge team. I think we are taking care of the ball fairly well right now. So, box outs and just our positioning off the ball and trying to get up in those passing lanes a little bit earlier than we have. I know that is going to come with the more practice we get and obviously the games,” he said.

North Union (1-1) spilt there first two as well. They beat Ben Logan (58-42) and lost to Triad (57-50) last weekend. Bechtel says the Wildcats are a team built around their guards. “They have solid guard play. I believe they have a coach’s kid that is one their guards. Obviously, when it is a coach’s kid he is going to be a protectionist. He is going to play at a high level. He is a sophomore. Our point guard is a sophomore as well. And they have some size. With their length they run a lot of zone, so we are going to have to come out and execute well, move the basketball, and continue to share it too,” said Bechtel.

The Colts have shown the ability to make three pointers and by a number of guys, but Bechtel says they need to find other ways to score than making jump shots from the perimeter. “We have shot a lot of three already, we just don’t want to fall in love with it. If it is one of those nights when some of those guys are not hitting we have to make sure we find out who is hitting from the outside. We don’t want to fall in love with the arch, we have to run some of our sets as well as move the basketball and try and get some easier shots,” he said.

Published 12/07/17

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Big Second Half Leads Lexington Past Clear Fork

Lexington outscored Clear Fork (26-8) in the second half and they beat the Lady Colts (48-28) in a non-conference girls’ basketball game on Tuesday night at Les Hauenstein Gym.

Leading (22-20) at the half Lady Lex (2-0) limited Clear Fork to just one field goal in the critical third quarter. They went to a zone defense and co-coach Connie Doutt says they were a little more aggressive too. “I think this environment was part of it. I think the student section got into their heads and maybe were a little timid, but I thought in the second half they relaxed a little bit and got used to it. I think we were able to get up and put a little more pressure on them,” she said.

Clear Fork shot just 21% form the field on the night and just 5% in the second half. Coach Chuck Schmitt says they did not run their offense the way they can. “We didn’t execute our offense and get shots. If you don’t have good shots you are not going to score. We have to get better at that. Their defense was good, they are quick,” he said.

Abigail Adams scored five her team high 14 points for Lexington during a 30 second stretch late in the third quarter to give Lady Lex a (34-22) advantage with 1:38 to play in the quarter. Clear Fork (2-1) could get no closer than 10 the rest of the way.

Lexington seemed to score repeatedly off the Clear Fork press, but Doutt believes 20 turnovers are too much and “that is something we are going to have to work on and become better at handling the ball as they season goes on,” she told Swankonsports.com after the game.

Macy Wade led Clear Fork with 11, nobody else had more than five.

The Lady Colts made three, three pointers, all in the first half and had trouble get the ball into the post much at all. “They were in a zone and we have to get better at that. That is on me because we haven’t practiced a lot against zones. We have to get better at recognizing that a little better,” said Schmitt.

Published 12/06/17

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Clear Fork Moves to 2-0

Regan Marshall scored seven over her team high 12 points in the pivotal second quarter and Clear Fork went on to blast Mapleton (56-23) in a non-conference girls’ basketball game on Thursday night at Les Hauenstein Gym.

The Lady Colts (2-0) led (8-5) after the first quarter, but they outscored Mapleton (11-2) over the first half of the second quarter, taking a (19-7) lead with 3:58 left until halftime on a field goal and free throw by Macy Wade. They then put the game away by gaining a (7-1) advantage over the final 1:41 of the half, Wade scoring five more points.

After going just (1-22) last season, coach Chuck Schmitt had a smile on his face after the game. “We are excited about it. I don’t think Clear Fork has been 2-0 for a while, so we are excited, the girls have worked hard for it, a lot of investment,” he said.

Clear Fork beat Highland (61-34) on Tuesday night.

Mapleton had more turnovers than they did points on Thursday and Schmitt was happy with how they executed their press. “We have been working on that, full court, baseline to baseline, man to man, putting pressure on the ball, pressure on the other girls. There were a few slipups (Thursday) night, but we will take it,” said Schmitt.

Clear Fork scored repeatedly inside the lane, whether on the break or in the half court and built a (52-17) lead with 5:23 to play on Whitney Snavely’s basket and coasted home. “We are trying to get the ball inside. The post girls are getting better with each week. We have come a long way from last year, so we are looking for that balance both with our post people and our perimeter guards,” said Schmitt.

Wade finished the night with nine points, Erika Robinson added eight, Alli Studenmund had seven and Tabi Hamilton and Snavely each chipped in with six. Schmitt likes that balance. “What did we have? Six, eight, 12, six, nine and seven. We can do some shooting when we are on,” he said.

Yet, there are some things that can be improved as well, Schmitt points out free throw shooting and three point accuracy as two of them. “Well, look at this we are 12-22 from the foul line, that can’t happen,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “19 field goals, that’s nice. We missed a lot of threes. We made six in the last game, only two (Thursday) night. If we can keep a team in the 20’s we are playing good defense.”

Clear Fork hosts Lexington in a non-conference game on Tuesday night. They play their first ever Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference game at River Valley on December 9.

Published 12/01/17

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Clear Fork With Tough Opening Weekend

Clear Fork has the makings of a very good basketball team this year and they are going to find out quickly on the opening weekend how good they are and where they need to get better.

They play at Lexington on Friday night and at West Salem Northwestern on Saturday night, both are solid programs.

Coach Steven Bechtel says they are going to have to play as hard as they can because that is what it is going to take. “Obviously we are not going to be where we really want to be come January and no team really is, but we are slowly coming along. Friday night we are going to be as ready as we are going to be on that night,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We just talked to the kids about that (Wednesday) about coming out and playing with a high effort because they are going to make early season mistakes and we just have to make sure that we play as solidly and take care of the basketball on offense as we can on Friday night.”

This will be one of the more experienced teams the Colts have fielded in recent years and that is a real positive considering the shorter preseason they have had due to the football playoffs. Bechtel says they haven’t had to teach as much. “We noticed that in practice once the football kids started showing up, some of them just hit the ground running. They just picked up where they left off last year and a lot of the things we are doing are the same. There are a few different wrinkles that we are doing. However, having that experience really helps out with this short preseason,” he said.

Lexington is not unfamiliar to the Colts having played them twice a year until this season. Bechtel says the Minutemen are going to be a tough assignment, like always. “It is going to be a huge challenge. Obviously, they have Cade Stover and they have a lot of guys from that junior class as well as a couple of seniors that round out their lineup. It is going to be a huge challenge for us. Our guys are preparing and we are going to put a game plan together and we will have to go out and execute it really well,” he said.

Northwestern advanced to the division three regional final last season and Bechtel says they are loaded again this year. “It is definitely not an easy weekend. Northwestern traditionally always has a great basketball team over there. Coach Alberts does a phenomenal job. Parker Smith back and he is going to be their number one guy now at the guard position and they have some young guys that they are going to plug in as well. It is going to be a huge weekend for us. The guys are getting kind of anxious to go out there and have it actually matter. It ought to be a great weekend for Colt basketball,” said Bechtel.

Published 11/30/17

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Colts Have Some Horses

Clear Fork has the potential to enjoy a solid season in boys’ basketball this year, but potential can be a very dangerous word in athletics.

They return almost everyone from last year and have an influx of talent in the freshmen class.

With a 12 week season in football, the basketball team was late in getting eight of their guys, but coach Steven Bechtel says he believes they will survive the late start. “The good thing is we return a lot of guys with a lot of experience and their I.Q. for basketball is pretty high. We have been able to run through a few things and make adjustments along the way during scrimmages. The guys have responded pretty well. We just hope to be able to carry over that same momentum they had during football season,” he said.

Last weekend, the Colts and the Loudonville Redbirds made a special trip to Indiana to scrimmage in the same gym that the movie “Hoosiers” what shot. Bechtel says it was pretty cool. “We went over with Loudonville to play at the “Hoosiers” gymnasium there in Knightstown, Indiana. It was a scrimmage, but for the guys I think it was more about the experience than anything. They had some fun with it,” he told Swankonsports.com during practice on Monday, “A few of the guys shot underhand free throws like they did in the movie. I told them I didn’t really care about that at all. They are never going to play in that gym again, so I think they took full advantage of the situation and I think everybody enjoyed their time.”

There is some very good talent at Clear Fork and Bechtel says they are going to need to play together as a team if they are going to have a successful season. “We have talked about that already. Potentially we could be really good, but on other hand we have to make sure we share the basketball and we play together at all times at both ends of the floor. That will be our biggest obstacle to overcome,” he said.

This year’s freshmen were very successful at the middle school level and Bechtel says they will have an impact this year, it is just a matter of how much. “We have one up on varsity and he is meshing in really well with the guys. Then we have three at the JV level as well. It is just a really solid class and they are out here to work. The guys that work the hardest are going to be able to step in there,” he said.

When it comes to the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference, Ontario is a known quantity to Clear Fork and its fans, but Bechtel says overall this is going to be a pretty good basketball league. “Marion Harding won it last year over Buckeye Valley. North Union has some size. I think it is going to be a very, very good league. I think everybody is thinking we are going to go out there and do what that football team and I don’t think it is going to be like that. Every night it is going to be a fight. There are going to be some very good basketball teams and we are going to have to show up every night,” said Bechtel.

Published 11/21/17

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Colt Teams a lot a Like

If Clear Fork beats Bellevue on Friday night they will become only the second team in the school’s history to play in a regional final.

The last was in 1989, 28 years ago. That was when the Berlin Wall came down, something today’s kids only know through history books, hit singles were Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” and “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx, okay not everything was that great, and Michael Jordan had yet to win an NBA title. Okay, you want consistency Pete Rose was banned from baseball and he still is and I have the same hair style, just less of it.

Another thing that is consistent is the name Lyon. Jim Lyon played on the ’89 team, his son Bryce plays this year.

“I actually think I get more enjoyment out of watching him play and succeed than I did actually playing them game. I try not to compare what I would do with what they’re doing because of how different the game is. I think I’m more nervous nowadays than I was when I played,” said Jim Lyon.

Current Fredericktown head coach William Hartley played on the ’89 team and when it comes to memories he doesn’t even talk about the playoffs. “Two stick out, beating West Holmes, which finished the season 9-1, for our homecoming game. This gave us the “MAC” championship. Second would be defeating Mansfield Senior at Arlin. That team has (NFL player) Hugh Douglas on it. For some reason we were heavy underdogs going into that game,” said Hartley.

Luke Beal, a member of the 1989 team, and a former head coach at Northmor, Fredericktown, and Brunswick, and the current defensive coordinator at Medina Buckeye, echoes those comments. “For me, the most memorable moment was our win over Mansfield Senior at Arlin Field. It has been a long time, but that is the one game that stands out. They returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, so it seemed like we were in trouble, but we were able to rally back and score and upset win,” he said.

For Lyon, he talks about the Senior High win and the playoffs, but more about the relationships built then and still has today. “Even though it has been 28 years ago there is no short answer. I have such vivid memories of that season from things like the smell of the grass, the smell of the concession stand, the sweaty locker room, the sounds of the fans cheering, to the actual sounds of my teammates and coach’s voices. The obvious answer that most fans would probably give is the success we had that year beating Mansfield Senior at Arlin Field 43-7 on their homecoming night (the first year they combined Malabar and Senior High) going to the playoffs and winning the first round and losing to Versailles 3-0 in the second round. But, to me it was much more than that. Our team back then reminds me so much of this year’s team. I remember how we had true friendship amongst all of the players on and off of the field and understood Colt pride. I remember how the community came together and cheered us on with banners, parades, and signs,” he told Swankonsports.com, “As far as my memory of the team goes we were a tough, strong, physical, focused team that loved to put a helmet on someone (under (assistant) coach (Gary) Beal there was no other way.) I believe we had five or six All-Ohians on the field that year and started 10 seniors that played on both sides of the ball. Myself, Luke Beal, William Hartley, Jason Fraley, and Scott Tollison. My best memories are my great coaches, my great teammates, our team’s success, the community support and keeping the Clear Fork football tradition alive.”

Clear Fork was the top seed in their division four region this year and they were in 1989 too. Hartley doesn’t remember there being a lot of drama when it comes to making the postseason. “There were four teams (in each region.) We would watch for the News Journal on Thursday, which would publish the point updates on that day. We went into the playoffs as the number one seed. I believe we knew we would get in after the Senior High game, which was week eight,” he said.

Clear Fork made the playoffs the first time the year before.

Beal says the ’89 team has something that every coach wants. “That team had a special chemistry. There was a camaraderie and a level of trust that took a group of good athletes and allowed us to become a pretty good team. As a coach, I have always tried to build that type of chemistry with my teams,” he said.

Lyon says the game has changed a lot in almost 30 years and he feels this year’s team is certainly more athletic and they are probably better too… probably. “Even though the game seems to have changed so much since I played with the rules, the speed, and the style of play, the similarities between us are unbelievable! We were definitely a more run it down your throat, smash mouth, step on your throat, stop us if you can kind of team, but other than that we are very similar in the toughness, focus, aggressiveness, determination and physicality. My son Bryce is definitely quicker, more versatile, and smoother than his old man was. The secondary nowadays is only for the terrific athletes. Many more passing teams now which requires different responsibilities and coverages. A complete nightmare for any player that’s not focused. Today’s secondary players must be extremely athletic. That’s why I feel my son is a better player than I was. This team also had a great line and terrific linebackers like us on defense. Our team now has A LOT more weapons than we did. Today’s team speed is amazing. With the athleticism they have now they can run over 200 different plays and formations, where we probably had less than 50. If you would computerize our team to today’s team on Madden NFL football, today’s team would probably win, but they would also have more injuries,” said Lyon.

Clear Fork this season beat Bellevue (20-14) in overtime on week two. They beat Hartley’s Fredericktown team (27-6) on week one, so he knows a lot about them. He says this is what strikes him most. “Their overall team speed, good size on the D-line, and great linebacker play,” he said.

Published 11/10/17

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Colts and Redmen, Round 2

Clear Fork locks horns with Bellevue in the division four regional semifinals on Friday night at Mansfield Senior’s Arlin Field.

It’s the second meeting this season between the schools. The unbeaten Colts edged Bellevue (20-14) in overtime at their place back on week two of the regular season in early September.

The Colts (11-0), #3 in the final Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, beat Lorain Clearview (44-0) in their opening playoff game last week. This is the first Clear Fork team ever to be (11-0) during a football season.

They got a three and out and score on their first possession last week and coach Dave Carroll says they have been putting some things together on offense the last couple of times out. “I have been really happy with our offensive start and just production throughout the game the last two weeks. We knew we had the potential to put points on the board and put them on the board early and keep right on rolling. We have done that the last two weeks. We are kind of catching up with our defense. Our defense has done a fantastic job all year and held the fort down while we got our act together on offense. We kind of feel like we are clicking on all cylinders right now and obviously it is at the right time,” he said.

Bellevue (8-3) is a lot better on offense than the first time they played Clear Fork. Carroll says that is mainly is because of the return of Treston Francis. “There are a lot of things good about the Redmen. We were fortunate to get that win. You start with (Bryce) Ray, number 22, a 200 pound running back that is very fast. Their quarterback, well they have two quarterbacks, now. Number 11 (Riley Renward) played against us the first time and is a really, really good passer. His main target is the (Dakota) McPeak kid, number 24, a 6’3” receiver that has tremendous ball skills, jumping ability and body position. They have a nice sized offensive line, they are not huge, but they are nice sized. They do a good job with their scheme. Now they have Treston Francis back, who was out with an ankle injury in week two,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “He is their slot receiver and a free safety, but he is also their wildcat quarterback. I would say he will be the fastest kid on the football field on Friday night. He had a lot of yards rushing last week against Pepper Pike Orange. He is just a dynamic player. He is not a real big, physical kid, but if he gets loose he is usually gone. So, we have to contain him and tackle him well and don’t let him get out on the edge and go. They have a lot of weapons, no doubt.”

Both teams have two kids that play quarterback. Carroll says when Francis is in the game you expect the run, but there is still a lot of deception. “I think the main objective is to get him the ball. He will hand off to (Ray) and once in a while he will throw a pass, mostly play action passes. They don’t throw the ball with Francis like they do with (Renward). You pretty much know you better stop the run, but know you have both (Ray) and (Francis.) They will fake to one and run the other and the other one will block. It does add another dimension to their offense. (Renward) will run a little bit. In the game the first time I think he ran it twice. So, they don’t want to run (Renward.) So, this gives them the opportunity to run some option stuff, fake to the back and run the quarterback, and it makes it a little tougher to defend. You do know, the odds are (Francis) is not throwing the football too much when he is in there at quarterback,” said Carroll.

On defense, the Redmen have also made some changes to take away things Clear Fork was able to execute the first time they played. Carroll says their linebackers are in a different spots. “They have adapted a little bit. They have changed a little bit on how they play the perimeter with the three man side and the two man side when you give them empty and trips and so forth. The first time we had a lot of success throwing quick screens and bubble screens out there. We got some pretty nice yards out there with Trevon (Trammell) and (Bryce) Lyon. Since then he has kind of changed the way they line up. They are taking that stuff away from teams a little more then what they did in week two. They have made some adaptions there. They are a 4-3 team and they play zone coverage. They will get into a 3-3 stack once in a while where they will blitz one or two of their guys. It just kind of a change up they throw in there here and there. Ed (Nasonti) has been pretty consistent with that style of defense and his zone coverage. It is just a little bit of rearranging with where they play their outside backers is what I am seeing,” said Carroll.

Published 11/08/17

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Clear Fork With Proud Football Tradition

At its heart the Clear Fork Valley, made of the twin cities of Bellville and Butler, is a football town.

In the center of the Midwest with a rural character and whether your name was Walker or Doup or Meeks or Hamilton or Brokaw or whatever you grew up playing football in village parks or backyards or school playgrounds. Some of those kids probably dreamed of being NFL players, but first they dreamed of being Colts.

When Bellville and Butler high schools combined to form Clear Fork it was 1963, the time of John Kennedy, the time of Camelot. For the first four years, the Colt football teams under the direction of coach Bill Frazier went 36-2-2, that is a winning percent of 92 percent, pretty impressive to say the least.

Current Clear Fork coach Dave Carroll also played for the Colts, graduating in 1980. “The mid-sixties Colt teams set the standard of excellence for all of us players that came after them. The bar was set very high!” said Carroll.

This year’s team was the first since 1965 to complete a perfect regular season and 52 years in a long time ago. I can tell you that because I was born in May of 1965 and I have a lot of grey hair and a bald spot that seems to get bigger every day.

Swankonsports.com was able to talk to two guys that played on the 1965 team in Bill Worner and Steve Leedy about this year’s team and the one they played on a half a century ago.

Leedy says he made it to two games this season, one of the them being when Sloan Bowman kicked a game winning field goal as time expired to give the Colts a come from behind (23-20) win over Buckeye Valley.

He says these kids never give up. “I was able to get to two games this year (Buckeye Valley and Marion Harding.) I think that this year’s team showed a lot of heart and a neve give up attitude. They might be identified as Clear Fork’s “Kardiac Kids,” said Leedy. That was our course in reference to the 1980 Cleveland Browns, known for the late game heroics. Now, the Browns can’t even beat the clock with a phone call.

There were 80 players on the 1965 team. Worner says they are very proud of what the 2017 Colts have accomplished. “I and all of my teammates are very pleased to have some new members to what has turned into a pretty elite club. Hopefully, we will have more in the years to come,” said Worner.

There have been some close calls over the years, in fact the very next year the Colts were 9-0-1. In 1978, a team Carroll played on was 9-1, their only loss to Loudonville. In 1997, the Colts won their first nine games and lost on week 10 to Loudonville. The 2010 team, which won an undisputed Ohio Cardinal Conference title lost to Sandusky on week one and then ran the table.

Still Worner says it’s hard to believe it has taken 52 years for another perfect regular season. “Back in the beginning, Clear Fork was so successful that we would have not believed it would be 52 years before it would happen again. Congrats to the team and coaches, let’s keep this process going,” said Worner.

In 1965, the Colts were Johnny Appleseed Conference champions, they allowed no more than one score in nine of the 10 games. 3,500 fans gathered as they beat Fredericktown (12-6) on a pair of TD passes from Steve Walker to Dan Jackson. They rallied to down upset minded Crestline (28-24) on a Roger Bowers TD with 1:45 left. They then broke Ontario’s 23 game winning streak on the final week of the season with a (24-8) blitzing the of the Warriors. The Colts rans for 270 yards on the night and Walker scored three times, including a dazzling 94-yard score.

Of course, there were no playoffs then, only the “AP” media poll, which as a member of the media I can tell you nobody has enough intelligence on every team in the state to make an honest vote and that is with today’s technology. Back then it was on reputation. How many state titles has Massillon won since the playoffs began?

What if there had been playoffs, how would that ’65 team have done? “It is difficult to say how we might have done in a playoff. I do remember that we were not expected to have that great of a season by the public. I believe that my teammates had a great deal of heart also,” said Leedy.

Worner adds it’s kind of too bad we didn’t get a chance to find out. “Bob Parker said it well when our team was inducted into the (Clear Fork Valley Athletic) hall of fame, I don’t know if we would have stayed undefeated, but would have loved to have found out,” he said.

Published 11/03/17

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Unbeaten Colts Play Clearview

Clear Fork fans know the playoffs, but for their kids it is a new experience.

The Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference winners are making appearance number 13 in the postseason, that is more than just about anybody in North Central Ohio, but is their first playoff game since going two weeks deep in 2010, so none of their current players have tasted it.

Clear Fork (10-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, and the number one seed in their division four region, plays host to Lorain Clearview (9-1) on Friday night.

Coach Dave Carroll is proud of all they have accomplished, but he says it is time to move on. “We said on Saturday it is time for the second season. The first season is over, so now it is 0-0 starting over again. It’s a five game season. Just like the old cliché says one game at a time. It is all eyes, ears and attention on Lorain Clearview,” he said.

Clearview’s program has produced a lot of quality athletes. “The first thing that impressive about their program is they have a guy that is playing for the Dallas Cowboys right now. Anthony (Hitchens,) he played for Iowa. He actually got injured this year for the Cowboys. He is a middle linebacker for them. Then they have a kid from last year’s team that has a full ride to Michigan State. They obviously have some talent that comes through that school,” said Carroll.

It is not that the Clippers can’t throw the ball, but they certainly want to run it. Carroll says they are a power football team. “They love to run the football. They run a lot of two and three back formations. They are in the gun most of the time. They like to run up the gut. They like to run off tackle. They will run outside a little bit. They get most of the yards up inside,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Their quarterback (Anthony Terry,) we are calling him Cardale Jr. He is 6’4”, 245 pounds. He can throw. He has quite an arm. He does not run the football. In all of the films we have seen he does not run the football at all, even on a scramble. He is a big boy and he can chuck it down the field. They have some speed that can go get the ball. They really like the fade route, but they run some other pass plays as well.”

On defense, the Clippers run on odd front. Carroll says they move around a lot like Ontario did when they played them three weeks ago. “Defensively, they run a “50” or 3-4, whatever you want to call it. They will mix up their coverages, some zone, sometimes man. They remind me a lot of Ontario’s defense. They are very disruptive. They do a lot of blitzing and movement up front, so the offensive linemen have their work cut out for them picking up that movement and picking up the blitzes,” he said.

Clearview won the Patriot League, Stripes Division, this year, but they have not beaten a team with a plus .500 record this season. They are coming off a (46-14) win over Brooklyn.

Carroll says it is clear that Clearview wants to run between the tackles and play smash mouth football and that is something they have not seen a lot of this fall. “Watching film from teams that they play up there. A lot of the teams seem to do very similar things. They like to get a bunch of people in the backfield and pound away. It is from the gun usually, but it is a lot of inside run game. We don’t see a ton of that here. You will see inside zone run and outside zone and those kinds of things out of the spread. It is kind of a mixture of new football and old school football. It’s kind of cool,” said Carroll.

Clearview moves kids around a lot on defense and Carroll thinks that is good coaching. “Defensively, the definitely remind me of Ontario. Ontario was in a “50” front for the most part. They are very quick defensively. They are using them I think in a very intelligent way. They are moving them around. They are blitzing them. They are not huge, they have some big kids, but they are more quick and athletic than they are big and strong. That makes a lot of sense to move them around and blitz and disrupt opponent’s offenses,” he said.

Published 10/31/17

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Clear Fork Goes for Outright Title, Perfect Regular Season

If they beat Marion Harding at home Friday night, Clear Fork will win its first outright football title since 2010 and have its first perfect regular season since 1965.

They put themselves in that position with an exciting, come from behind, win (20-17) in overtime over Marion Pleasant last week. Trailing (14-0) with just over 4:00 to play Blake Dinsmore completed a pass to Jake Lowe with 4:02 left in the game and the Colts tied it with 1:34 remaining on Dinsmore’s TD pass to Trevon Tramell. After Pleasant missed a 47-yard field goal at the horn and kicked one on their overtime possession, Dinsmore ran another one in to give the Colts the win.

Veteran coach Dave Carroll says his kid never stopped believing. “I was an unbelievable example of believing in your teammates and believing in yourself and having a never say die attitude. I am so proud of the kids for that. I told them after the game that I apologize. I said you guys won that game in spite of me. I over prepared. I probably did some things offensively that put our kids in not the best situation. We did some different things. I kind of had in my mind that it was going to come down to us and Pleasant a long time ago and that is the way it panned out. I started game planning for them about a month ago. We added some things little by little. If had to do it all over again I wouldn’t do it. You would think somebody my age would already know this. Just let our kids do what they do, but I thought Pleasant was that good, and I have that much respect for them, that we need to have a couple of surprises for them, and those things didn’t work out real well,” said Carroll.

He says it in the second half they got back to things they are good at doing. “The game started out weird. They had that 10 minute drive. We jumped off side when we had them third and long and they got it. They had the ball the entire first quarter. We had some screwups offensively that put us in a bad spot and gave them the ball back and before you knew it it was halftime. All of those clichés you talk about as a football coach about never giving up and so forth. They kept saying out on the field that we aren’t losing because we can score 14 points quickly and by golly they were right,” he said.

Clear Fork (9-0,6-0), #4 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, plays at home against Marion Harding (6-3,4-2) in an “MOAC” game on Friday night. The Presidents beat River Valley (28-21) last week.

Carroll says the Presidents have good talent and good size and will be a tough challenge. “They are a very good football team. They are not very many points away from being undefeated. They lost by 14 to Jonathan Alder, they lost by seven to Pleasant and they lost by three or four points to Buckeye Valley, that’s it. They have some skilled people offensively,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They have three tailbacks and they use those guys at wide receiver. Number one is faster than all get out and the quarterback can run it and throw it. They have nice sized kids, they are not huge, huge, like some of the teams we have played, just nice solid looking kids. We have our work cut out for us. You would like to be in a situation right now were it was somebody that wasn’t doing so well this year. These guys are scary they can play football.”

Undefeated regular seasons don’t come around very often in most places. Carroll says a win Friday night would be special. “The biggest thing is when you get to 9-0 you want to go 10-0. The league title, undisputed champions, that would be nice, and going into the playoffs with momentum. There are a lot of things. One of the big things for me, and the kids, and for everybody, is to do something that hasn’t been done in 52 years. We have talked about that a lot since I have been here. This is ridiculous that our community has had to wait around this long for an undefeated season. There is something about that that is pretty special. As a group we aren’t talking about that right now. We are talking about what we have to do to beat Harding. We are keeping the eye on the prize of beating Harding right now. Everything else will take care of itself. We will celebrate those things later on. It is pretty important,” said Carroll.

Published 10/25/17

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Colts Must be Physical

Clear Fork and Marion Pleasant match undefeated records Friday night in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference championship game.

The winner gets no less than a share of the conference title.

Oh yeah, both teams are also first in their computer regions.

The Colts (8-0,5-0), #4 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, overwhelmed Ontario (35-0) last week limiting the Warriors to negative total yards and no first downs.

Coach Dave Carroll says their defense was focused and executed at a high level. “Our defense played really well. I know Ontario is hobbled with a lot of injuries and have been struggling the last few weeks offensively. I feel for them because we have been there before. Their coach is doing a good job with what he has got to work with at the point and time of the season, but our defense played great. They didn’t expect and easy win and take it easy out there playing. That is the sign of a mature group of kids and a great group of young men. I think all coaches try and pound in their player’s heads that is doesn’t matter who you are playing it is how you play. You have to play at the same high level every week if you want to have a really good year and they did that,” said Carroll.

Pleasant (7-0,5-0), #4 in our small school division, beat rival River Valley (27-14) last Friday. They want to feature a power running game with a number of guys carrying the ball and they have done that very well.

Carroll says their offensive line has been the key to their success on offense this year. “I think it starts were with their offensive line. They are one of the better ones, if not the best I have seen all year. It is pretty cool to watch because they are not big. Their biggest kid is 245. The rest of them are 200, 210, they just come off the ball low and quick and they hit you. They have the quick backs that hit the hole right behind them really fast. They pound it. It is old school football. It is what guys in my era grew up on. In today’s world, and I am as guilty as anybody so I’m not making fun, with all this basketball on grass that we all do spreading it out, it is kind of fun to see this style of football where they line up and run it down your throat,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “So, our defense has got their work cut out for them. We are a good run defense. It is going to be a great match-up with our great run defense against their great ruin offense. They choose not to pass it much, but when they do they have completed, this doesn’t count last week’s stats, 18 passes and six of them were for touchdowns. So, a pretty efficient passing game.”

It is likely going to come down to blocking and tackling and ball security like it normally does when very good teams play. Carroll says neither team is going to back down physically. “That might be the most fun thing to watch as a fan because we are physical and they are physical. I don’t think either side is going to back down from that aspect. Our kids have been physical all year. Yes, Clear Fork does have that reputation, but there have been years where we didn’t play physical football, but this isn’t one of them. Our kids they mix it up and they come off the football hard and we like to hit, tackle and block and all of those good things just like their kids do,” said Carroll.

Published 10/19/17

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Clear Fork Must be Prepared for a lot

Clear Fork shares first place in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference with Marion Pleasant and they play the Spartans next week.

However, this week they play host to likely their biggest rival now that they are in a new league, the Ontario Warriors.

Clear Fork (7-0,4-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, pounded Galion (41-0) last week.

Coach Dave Carroll was impressed with the way they were improved in pass defense. “Our defense once again did a great job. Up front those guys just continue to get better. It is hard to run on them. What I liked best is we didn’t give up too many passes. I’m not sure what the stats were, but I know Jake Lowe had a heck of a game in the secondary. He knocked down pass after pass. We have been challenging our secondary because we have had some teams that have gotten a little bit of passing on us and a few big plays here and there. We have challenged them if we want to be really good we have to put that to an end. They did a much better job of that on Friday night,” he said.

Ontario (2-5,0-4) has been bitten by the injury bug, including their quarterback, and that has hurt them. They lost (27-0) to River Valley last week.

Carroll says the Warriors still have some kids on offense that can make big plays. “First of all, I feel bad for Cam Todd. I believe he is one of the better quarterbacks in the league and he is only a sophomore. He is just a smooth passer with great footwork and a tremendous runner as well. They have quite a few capable skilled guys. Number 11 (Ethan Pensante) is a heck of a receiver. 36 (Nick Arnold), 8 (Nolan Hatfield), 22 (Tavion Harris), they have some kids that can carry the football. Obviously, the passing game is a little less without Cam in there, he is such an exceptional thrower. They have had two weeks to work on this. Last week, was probably pretty stressful on the coaches and the kids trying to get a new quarterback,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They used two kids in the game and I have been there before and that is a tough situation. They have another week to figure this out, so we have to be ready for everything and anything. (Arnold) he can run that football. He was their main running back. He is going back and forth from fullback when they are under center to quarterback when they are in the shotgun. He is a load. He is a strong kid, you can tell he has been in the weight room. He is an excellent runner.”

Carroll, who is also the Colts offensive coordinator, says Ontario is quick and aggressive on defense. “A big concern of mine and I have been challenging the offensive line, the entire offense, all week, is their defense is extremely quick and they put a tremendous amount of pressure on you. They blitz a lot. They are going to bring five, six, sometimes seven guys and they are making a lot of plays in the backfield. We have to do a good job of picking up blitzes and protect our quarterback and try and find some opening up there for our backs to get through,” he said.

With Ontario having not won a conference game, Carroll says they might try just about anything, so they have to be ready. “This is the third week in a row. River Valley had dropped some games, Galion had lost some games, and they don’t have anything to lose. They are in all likelihood out of the “MOAC” championship race, but if they can pick us off. We have to be ready everything and anything with reverses, trick plays, halfback passes, come out in all different sets, who knows what. They have nothing to lose, so why not? If we are the caliber that we expire to be we will adapt to it and do a good job,” said Carroll.

Published 10/12/17

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Lady Colts Have Battled Adversity

This has been a season like no other for the Clear Fork Lady Colts soccer team and one that include a Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference co-title with a win on Wednesday at Marion Harding.

A win gives them a share of the title with Ontario and Buckeye Valley.

The Lady Colts (12-3,4-1) have lost only once in their league and that came to Ontario (3-2) a couple of weeks ago. They beat Buckeye Valley (2-0) in September.

Coach Brittany Bechtel says they have risen to the challenge. “In the “MOAC” there were some good quality teams that we went up against, obviously Ontario and then Buckeye Valley was a trying game for us, it was a very good game. It was different in than the “OCC” where there is a little more challenging teams overall. There is nothing short in the “MOAC” when it comes to how talented some of those teams are. So, we get a little bit of everything,” she said.

That challenge has been made tougher by all of the injuries they have suffered this year. Bechtel says right now they are without five of their planned 11 starters. “I have definitely seen more injuries this year than I have ever seen. In the summer we lost our keeper, Bri Warner. She did play in our first game and then had an “MRI” done where she found out she tore all three ligaments. She had been a starter for three years. We lost a defender that had been starting for four years. She had surgery, she did something to her labrum. We lost our starting center mid for the past three years Mackenzie Thorne, we lost her in the summer as well. We lost Macey Wade, our starting center-midfielder in summer and then we lost her again to an ankle,” she told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We lost Ally Went, a starting forward for the past four years. She has been in and out several times and she is back out with a knee injury. We have five starting varsity players that have put at least three years on our field out right now. To be 12-3 it is not a bad year. We knew coming in we were going to have a lot of depth coming in and that has been paying off. We are getting to the point now where we have to stay healthy and it would be nice to get those other two back before tournament time, I’m just not sure there is enough time.”

Clear Fork plays at Lexington, a team that beat them (3-2) in August, in sectional final match on October 21.

Bechtel says it would be nice to get a little more healthy by then. She says it has kind of been Murphy’s Law for the Lady Colts. “They have kept their heads up and they have focused on one game at a time. People had to step up into starting positions. It seems like whether it is practice or a game it feels like we are losing somebody at some point. It is not a matter of if there is another injury, but who’s is next. Those are just the ones that are really out with end of the season injuries. That doesn’t count ankle sprains and things. We have had a lot of back injuries this year. I have had my starting sweeper out several games. I had our other starting striker out. We have dealt with the death of the father of a player. Our team has been through a lot of adversity this year and adversity shows character. This team to be fighting at the top like they are and dealing with things the way they are they are dealing with a lot of life lessons as well. I’m proud of how resilient they are. They have been really strong and I hope that really feeds into their strength when they really need it,” said Bechtel.

Published 10/11/17

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Clear Fork Expects a lot from Galion

Clear Fork is six for six this season, but they know things are going to get tougher over the last month of the regular season and that starts this week with Galion.

Last Friday, they rocked River Valley (52-8) in a Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference game.

Clear Fork (6-0,3-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, plays two kids at quarterback and last week Blake Dinsmore ran for two scores and Jared Schaefer ran for one and threw another. Coach Dave Carroll says they have a lot of weapons, ones you notice and some you don’t. “I think we had six different kids score. It is always nice when you get different kids get in the end zone because that is what they get recognition for. Even though they should get recognition for the block that got the kid into the end zone or protecting the quarterback that allowed him to throw the pass,” he said.

Carroll adds they also got big plays from their defense and their special teams units. “I’ll tell you the big thing that happened that allowed us to get such a big lead is we had interceptions, we had punt returns. Our defense and our special teams really set us up nicely several times, so we didn’t have to go real far, not to take anything away from the offense,” he said.

Clear Fork had three scores called back against Buckeye Valley in a (23-20) win, but he says they don’t have as many mistakes last week. “I thought we made some improvements. We were much cleaner as far as the penalties go. I joked with the officials before the game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Sunday evening, “I said we have some kids that run around, especially this number 7 (Dinsmore,) and I am telling you this because I don’t want you to blow the whistle. There are sometimes I am watching him and I say he is done and the next thing you know he is on the other side of the field. He had one those Friday night on a punt return. It was incredible and, of course, we had a hold or a clip. It was hard for the kids because he is running all over and it is a 10, 12 second play for them not to hold or hit a guy in the back.”

He adds that they were able to finish some plays that maybe they weren’t doing at least consistently early in the year. “The offensive line I thought made some improvement. We were cleaner catching the football. We didn’t throw it a whole lot once you got up to a certain point, we kind of shut that down. We got some nice pass plays completed that we were happy with,” said Carroll.

Clear Fork is at Galion (4-2,2-1) on Friday night. The Tigers were belted by Marion Harding (44-21) in an “MOAC” game last Friday. They had beaten River Valley (42-35) the week before.

Carroll says the Tigers have some big play makers in their offensive backfield. “I think you have to start with Harrison Ivy, the quarterback, he is quite an athlete. He is fast and he runs the ball very, very well and he can throw the ball. Then they have a tailback, he is one of the leading rushers, both of those two kids have quite few yards. Number 17 (Takota Chrisman,) their slot receiver is one of the leading receivers in the “MOAC.” So, they have some skilled kids that are pretty dangerous. When you look that their scores they have put some points on the board. 42 two weeks ago against River Valley and early on in the season they scored a bunch of points. They can be dangerous offensively,” said Carroll.

Clear Fork is in first place in its computer region in division four. Carroll says the understand they are going to get every team’s best effort. “That was kind of speech I gave them last Thursday. I told them we are going to get every opponent’s best coaching job, best game plan, and we are going to get their kids best performance. Is that a little bit of pressure? Yeah, I guess it is, but it sure beats the alternative of the last few years when it was here comes Clear Fork and we are going to get these guys. It is a great pressure to have. If you have the bull’s eye on your back you must be doing something right,” he said.

Published 10/02/17

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Clear Fork Kids Driven to Win

Clear Fork has won all five games they have played this season, sometimes in dramatic fashion, like last week, and their coach says his kids have the right attitude and that has been key.

They share first place in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference with Marion Pleasant after two weeks of conference play. They travel to River Valley to face the Vikings on Friday night.

Last week, Clear Fork stopped Buckeye Valley on fourth down, converted two fourth downs on their final drive, and Sloan Bowman provided the winning margin with a field goal at the horn and they beat the Barons (23-20) in league play.

Coach Dave Carroll says his kids never gave up. “I was really proud of our guys. They were frustrated, just like we were as a coaching staff, with some of the mistakes we made. We had some touchdowns called back and weren’t moving the ball quite as consistently as we would have liked to due to Buckeye Valley, they are good and big and strong and a very disciplined defense. Our kids just kept fighting and overcame penalty after penalty. That last drive was like a 60, 70 yard drive, but it took us almost 200 yards to get there with all of the flags. Our kids just refused to lose and did a great job and I am really proud of them,” said Carroll.

Clear Fork trailed most the game. They had three scores called back on penalties. Carroll says they had to come together in the end and make some big plays. “I think our kids, and I had the same feeling, it is a feeling inside of you during the course of the game, that we should be on top. We are outplaying them most of the time, but the scoreboard is not showing it, so the only thing that was what was left to do was to make sure the scoreboard showed that and our kids did it. It is one of those things that is hard to explain to people, it is very hard to coach, it is just that competitive, refuse to lose attitude. Some teams have it, some teams don’t. Some teams have that attitude, but don’t have that ability to overcome certain things, so far this team has had both,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I said the other night it is way more rewarding, not necessarily fun, to win a game like that where you are behind, you are down, and you have to fight and scratch to get the win, than to beat somebody 30-0. We told the kids that after Saturday we are forgetting about that and it was time to move on, but that is going to be a memory that you will have until the day you die. That was just sweet, the whole thing, the way it was done, the student body pouring onto the field.”

Clear Fork (5-0,2-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, first in their division four computer region, plays at River Valley (2-3,0-2) on Friday night. The Vikings lost to Galion (42-35) in a conference game last Friday.

Carroll says River Valley has some home run hitters on offense. “They have some good skilled kids. Their quarterback is like 6’1” and 195 and he will run the ball as well as scramble on the pass plays if you give him the opportunity. They have two running backs, the Spears kid and number 38. Spears is a big kid, 210 pounds, number 38 is smaller, but he is very quick, and runs hard. They have a couple of wideouts that are tall and run really good routes and have good hands. Skill wise they have a bevy of kids that do a really good job. Each week we tell our kids, like last week the leading rusher in the league and the kids rose up to it, they have to rise up again. Now it is more of a multi dimensional offense we will be facing,” he said.

Published 9/28/17

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Clear Fork Faces Big, Tough Buckeye Valley

Clear Fork hosts physical Buckeye Valley in a Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference game on Friday night at the Colt Corral.

It has been an excellent season for the Colts so far as they are unbeaten and ranked first in their division four computer region after four weeks.

Last week, they outscored North Union 24-0 in the second half and earned a (45-13) win on the road in the conference opener.

Coach Dave Carroll says they had to make some adjustments to what North Union was doing. “The first quarter was really good we jumped up 21-0. Then the second quarter got a little sloppy on both sides of the ball. We let them have some pass plays. We had a couple of mistakes there that would have hopefully slowed their passing game down a little bit. There were things we hadn’t seen out of them before, but they are still things that are built into our defensive scheme that if they do this, here is what we do. A valuable lesson learned for all of us. You have to try and rep things you haven’t seen on film just in case,” said Carroll.

After halftime, Carroll says they were able to come out and do some things. “In the second half we came out on fire offensively and rattled off three touchdowns and then early in the fourth we ended up kicking a field goal. We kind of took care of business. We just have to try and not have that bad quarter,” he said.

This year some teams have come out and done some things they hadn’t shown previously. Carroll says he believe Buckeye Valley is going to be true to what they have been doing though. “Against Jonathan Alder we knew they had a prolific quarterback and some really talented receivers. They threw the ball a lot anyway. When we stopped their run it was all pass and we kind of expected that. That is what we were hoping to be able to do. Last week, we weren’t really sure because North Union was a wing-T team and showed hardly any passing whatsoever, so it is kind of hard to prepare for those what ifs when teams start doing that. We are going to be in that same boat again somewhere. Buckeye Valley throws the ball quite a bit. They are kind of like Jonathan Alder they are pretty spit between run and pass. They are going to run number 5, Trent Davies, the kid that is the leading rusher in the league, a million times, then they are going to throw it to their slots and wide outs. Will they come up with some different things? I know by brother, the D-coordinator, is trying to prepare our kids for anything and everything. We have all of their films,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “The more film work you can view and study the more idea who can kind of get on what they could do off of what they already do. I don’t know if Buckeye Valley is the kind of team that would go wholesale change, implement a new offense in a week. I think they do what they do and they are doing it very well. Their back has 750 yards in four games, so I don’t think they are going to do a whole bunch different. We first have to prove that we can slow down that running back. He is very good, probably the best back we have seen so far.”

It looks like a good match-up between Clear Fork (4-0,1-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, and Buckeye Valley (3-1,1-0) and a (28-13) winner over River Valley last week.

Buckeye Valley has not allowed more than three scores in a game and Carroll says the Barons are a big, physical defense. “They are big. They have a 290 pound nose guard and the rest of their linemen are nice size. I think three out of their four linebackers are over 200 pounds. They have nice size up there. If we were going to line up and play and in the box game, running dives and stuff up the gut I would be a little concerned. I would have been concerned trying to do that to North Union, because they were big as well. Our game is we are going to spread you out and try and get our fast guys in space and run the perimeter and get the quarterback up in inside if we think we can and things like that. They are big and strong. Hopefully, our speed will help us out and we can out run them a little bit,” said Carroll.

Published 9/21/17

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Colts Must Stop Run Against North Union

Clear Fork, unbeaten in non-conference games this year, will travel to North Union to open up play in a new league, the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference, against the Wildcats on Friday night.

Last week, the Colts (3-0,0-0), #4 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, beat a former “MOAC” member in Jonathan Alder (28-14) to start the year with three straight wins.

Coach Dave Carroll says they did a good job in reducing turnovers, but they still must do a better job catching the ball. “The number one emphasis was no turnovers. After two fumbles and an interception in the Bellevue game we came back last week and didn’t have any turnovers at all. So, that is a big start, a big step. Another emphasis is we have to catch football when it is thrown to us. We had some opportunities, but we dropped some again. We thought we really could have got out in front of those guys. A couple times we had some pass plays that were thrown really well by our quarterbacks and the receivers weren’t able to bring them in. That has been a big point of emphasis the last two weeks and again this week we have got to make those catches. You are skilled guys, bring them in, get the yards, let’s go,” said Carroll.

Defense has been very good for Clear Fork this year. They have not allowed more than two scores in any game. Carroll says they have been solid at every level. “Up front we have some bigger kids up there this year and that is a huge difference. They are stronger kids. They get good push and they are doing a good job of reading their keys and getting off blocks and getting to the ball. Doing a good job of playing with their eyes and finding the football. Of course, that helps out your linebackers and Jacob Bailey and Jay Swainhart are doing a really good job. Our outside backers Bobby Costello and Trevon Trammell are doing a really good job as well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Our secondary was challenged for the second week in a row with a really good quarterback and a really good receiver. They got some passing yards on us. I have always believed in high school football if you can do a good job of consistently stopping the run and force teams to throw most of the time you have the upper hand and you are probably going to win and that was definitely the case. They went to passing every play, every other play, and that obviously puts stress on your secondary, but they handled it.”

North Union (2-1,0-0) lost the first week to Swanton (13-7,) but the Wildcats have responded with wins over Triad (54-14) and Grandview Heights (35-14) to come in with some momentum,

Carroll says they are big. “They have not given up very many points. They play really good defense. They are big on both sides of the ball. I was shocked when I put the film in for the first time last weekend. Both defensive ends are 6’4”, one weights 260 and the other one in 210. The nose guard was an All-Ohio player last year. I don’t know which side of the ball, he plays both ways, he is 285 pounds. They have nice looking kids across the board,” he said.

Clear Fork has been outstanding this year and stopping the run. Carroll says that is what they expect North Union to do. “One thing we have been pretty good at is stopping the run and they want to run the football. They don’t want to throw very much at all. Last week, I think they only attempted it five times. Now, that is a little misleading because the last couple of weeks they were killing the teams they were playing, so they didn’t really have to throw. Even in week one when it was a close ball game. They don’t want to throw the ball. They are a wing-T team and want to ram it down your throat. They will run it outside with a lot of misdirection, fake here, fake there, and give it to another guy, which we have been pretty good at. Hopefully our kids will need to read their keys against these guys with all of the misdirection and faking if your eyes are in the wrong spot you are going to get fooled and here comes a guy the opposite direction. They will run, run, run, run, run and bam then they throw it and are db’s have to read their keys and not fall asleep with all of the run,” said Carroll.

He says the Colt offense has to be very good at handling the multiple looks that North Union is going to give them on defense. “The thing I am must impressed with them other than their size is their defense. They only have three kids that play both ways. With a smaller school, a little smaller than us, only three kids play both ways. They play good defense. They give you multiple looks, multiple fronts, multiple coverages. The linemen have to be on their game as far as communicating with one another and adjusting their blocking scheme, their blocking rules, and following their rules based on what front they give you and be able to pick up blitzes and so forth. Hopefully our speed can get lose. We have a lot speed and if they can open up some holes we are usually okay there,” added Carroll.

Published 9/15/17

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Clear Fork to Face Another Good Team

Clear Fork put together a thrilling overtime win against a very good Bellevue team last week and now they must face another strong opponent as they host Jonathan Alder in non-conference play.

Clear Fork scored with just over 2:00 to play last week on a TD run by quarterback Blake Dinsmore and they scored in overtime when Trevon Trammell scored on a running play around the end. Bellevue appeared to be ready to at least tie the score, but the ball was snapped over the quarterback’s head and the Colts hung on (20-14) for the win.

Coach Dave Carroll says the kids are putting in great effort and they are executing. “Our kids played really hard. We talk about not playing perfect, but giving perfect effort and we are getting closer and closer to that pretty consistently. The thing now is we have to move on. It is amazing how many tags, phone calls, stuff you see on Facebook, congratulating us and all of the pats on the back. That is great and we greatly appreciate that and I am sure the kids have been getting the same thing. There is one group that doesn’t really care and that is Jonathan Alder. We have to get back to work and prepare like we did last week and we will celebrate that victory after the season is over,” said Carroll.

He says they have to be careful about over confidence after winning their first two games. “You can’t ever think that you have arrived. It is only week three and we have a lot of improving to do. We were fortunate to turn the ball over twice like we did against Bellevue and still win. We have to quit the fumbling stuff. The one we were in the red zone I believe or close to it and getting ready to score and the other one we were around mid-field, but we were moving the ball. So, we have got to hold on to that football. We got better on the penalty front than we did against Fredericktown. We made some improvements there. We have to hold onto the ball that is the number priority. We have to keep getting better in all phases of the game,” said Carroll.

Jonathan Alder (2-0) has wins over Marysville (35-32) and Marion Harding (21-7) in their first two games of the year. They won the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference red division last year, but are no longer part of that league. This is a non-conference game.

Carroll says they have a fine football tradition at Jonathan Alder. “Number one they have a great tradition. Some of us older guys remember Donnie Nickey that played for the Buckeyes and played in the NFL. He is a Jonathan Alder graduate. When I was at Danville we played them and they were good back then and they have kind of continued that through the years,” he said.

This year’s Pioneers have real good talent again with an excellent running back and Carroll says their quarterback is good at avoiding a bad play. “They have a real good tailback. He is back from last year. He is about a 185 pounder with extremely quick feet and runs hard. They want to pound him off tackle, and lead play and counter play and an “Iso” play. Their quarterback wasn’t going to play because he has a scholarship to play baseball at Marshall and he didn’t want to risk getting hurt, but he did decide to play and he has a nice arm. He can run, but they really don’t run him,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “What I believe he does best is he extends the pass play by scrambling around and feeling the heat and then setting up and throwing it. They have some nice receivers, number 13, is probably their go to guy that has caught the most balls the first few games. He is kind of a tall kid that has decent speed that is a good athlete.”

Carroll says Jonathan Alder does a lot of the same things on offense that Bellevue did last week. “They remind you schematically a lot of Bellevue. They line up with a stacked “H-back” that is a lead blocker and he will go out for passes. They run a little shovel pass underneath for him that is a good play for them. They are similar in what they do,” he said.

On defense, Carroll says they are solid too and can run down plays with their speed. “Defensively they are a four man front, a 4-4 or 4-3 defense. They get to the ball. You can tell their kids have been in the weight room, they are not overly huge, not quite as big as Bellevue was, but just nice looking kids and they can run, so they have a pretty quick defense,” said Carroll.

Published 9/05/17

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Colts Must be More Disciplined

Clear Fork plays host to Bellevue in the Hall of Fame Classic on Friday night at the Colt Corral in non-conference action and they have to be much better on offense if a win is in the balance.

In their opening game the Colts beat Fredericktown (27-6) scoring twice on kick returns, once on the second half kickoff and a second on a fourth quarter punt return.

Coach Dave Carroll says they played very on defense and very poorly on the offense against Fredericktown. “I am extremely pleased with our defense. We pretty much shut them down to nothing other than that pass play they got on our JV’s there at the end. The special teams scored two touchdowns. The returners did a great job and our blockers setting up the wall on the punt return and the wedge on the kickoff return,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Offensively as equally disappointed. We have to clean a lot of things up. We can’t have all of those penalties, a lot of them were just those stupid penalties as coaches call them, illegal motion, substitution issues. We were trying to do some different things offensively and that might have contributed to some of the chaos. We have to be a little more disciplined, a lot more disciplined, not commit those penalties. What is unacceptable no matter what you are doing offensively we had four turnovers. We had two picks and two fumbles, that just can’t happen. We are working on that.”

The good thing for the Colts is their mistakes are fixable. Carroll says that is what they must do this week in practice. “You can’t make kids bigger or faster or more talented or experienced from one week to the next, but we can definitely button up some of those mistakes that we made. We have been very good at not doing those things in the three scrimmages. That is where you are surprised, of course, in a disappointed way and now it counts, now we are keeping score. That is when you want to have the tightest focus and make the least mistakes. When you can get away with a win and we dominated on the defensive side of the ball and still not play well offensively and cough the ball up four times. There are some great lessons to be learned there. If you go out there and wipe them off the field you might be a little more laxed this week,” said Carroll.

Clear Fork and Bellevue both have solid histories in football and have played four times over the last 10 years. Carroll says he has great respect for Bellevue and its coach Ed Nasonti. “We played them my first four years here. We beat them pretty good the first two years and they got us pretty good the last two years. They were on the top of a run the fourth time we played them they ended up being state runner up lost to Akron St. Vincent-St.Mary and had the Santoro kid at quarterback and they were loaded. It was a good series. They have a very good tradition. There is good football up there around the lake in the “SBC.” They are a traditional playoff team year in and year out. Coach Nasonti is a tremendous coach. He played there and he has coached there for a long, long time. They have an established program,” said Carroll.

Last week, Bellevue scored on a Bryce Ray TD run with 2:54 left in the game and the Redmen beat Canton Central Catholic, the defending division four state champions, (21-17) last week in their home opener. Carroll says the Redmen don’t make mistakes. “What I’m most impressed with Bellevue is their discipline. I don’t believe they had one penalty. We could not find one penalty in their first game. They are a physical football team. They run to the football. They tackle really, really well. They don’t do things to hurt themselves,” he said.

Published 8/31/17

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Gower Part of Clear Fork Football Tradition

Kevin Gower, one of the great fullbacks in Clear Fork football history, will be inducted Saturday night into the Clear Fork Valley Athletic Hall of Fame.

Gower played varsity football at Clear Fork from 1984 through 1986. He was a two-time All-Ohio selection and ran for 3,033 yards in his career.

He currently lives in Plain City, Ohio, northwest of Columbus, and works in the insurance industry,

He says football was in his blood. “It is a great honor to be recognized as one of the beast football players to come through Clear Fork. When you start playing football in the fifth and sixth grade you really don’t know what you are getting yourself into. My brothers played for Clear Fork and I kind of followed in their footsteps,” he said.

At least once in his career Gower carried the ball 20 straight times. Not sure if the term had been invented yet, but it was definitely smash mouth football in the valley. “It was kind of an old school, Big Ten, kind of football. We kind of lined up in the “I” or the Wing-T and you knew you were going to run the ball. We probably ran the ball 75 to 80 percent of the time. They stacked the box and they knew what you were going to do. You just hoped to get three, four, five yards at a time. It was kind of the way it was,” said Gower.

When you have a run based offense Gower says the running backs get the glory, but it is really the guys on the offensive end that deserve the credit and that was certainly true in his case. “I have to give credit to all of the guys I played with they were really talented. They made the holes that I had to kind of sneak through sometimes. Give all of the credit to the linemen they worked really hard,” he said.

Weight training is all of the rage know in all high school sports, not just football, but in the early to mid-80’s it just starting in the valley. Gower says his class was sort of on the ground floor and he thought is a big plus for the program. “The kids today are doing 12 months out of the year. As I recall my freshmen year we weren’t doing any weight training, but it was kind of hitting the colleges and was starting to get down into the high schools. Starting my sophomore year (head coach) Tom Sargent and some of coaches got some weights, I don’t know where they got them. They put them in the theater of the high school and it was kind of first year of weight lifting. I don’t think anybody really knew what they were doing. They got some benches, they got a squat rack and they had some old free weights. We just went in there three nights a week and we kind of learned as we went,” said Gower.

Gower ran for 268 yards in a game for the Colts. He went on to play football at Capital University in Bexley on the east side of Columbus.

He says is he proud to be a Clear Fork Colt. “They started pee wee football and they taught us from the ground up. In the fifth and sixth grade, an all the way through junior high they did a good job of teaching us football. One of the things I’m really proud of when I got into the working world and started traveling around the state is people kind of know who Clear Fork is. We are kind of known for a rough hardnosed football player,” said Gauer.

Earl Fry, captain of the undefeated 1953 Bellville Blue Jays football team and members of the 1977-78 Clear Fork basketball team, will also be inducted into the hall of fame on Saturday night in a ceremony that will be held at the high school. The program is open to the public.

 
 

Colts First Regional Qualifier Makes HOF

They say there is really nothing like the first time a school wins a district title.

For Clear Fork that was March of 1978 when the boys’ basketball team won the Class “AA” district title at Ashland University and advanced to the regional tournament.

The team that includes Rocky Black, Dave Jung, Kevin Weikle, Steve Studenmund, Jay Guth, John Rinehardt, Bruce Harter, Jeff Norris, Jay Brokaw, Chuck Golden and Doug Ute, will be inducted Saturday night into the Clear Fork Valley Athletic Hall of Fame. The ceremony, which will also include the induction of 80’s football player Kevin Gower and Earl Fry, a football player in the mid 1950’s at Bellville High School, will begin at 6 PM at the high school.

Unfortunately Terry Gordon, the head coach of the Colts, will not be in attendance. He passed away in 2006. Pat Durham, then the junior varsity coach at Clear Fork at the time, will introduce the team on Saturday night.

To a man the players believe Gordon was a major reason for their success. “The first thing I think about is Terry Gordon. He was such a dynamic figure and in my opinion had a tremendous amount to do with the success that we had. I really think he was a big reason for the success we had from the 75-76 group through 79-80, which would have been Doug’s senior year. I really think that was a really good period of basketball at Clear Fork. During that time we were in the district four of the five years and won it once. You can talk about kids and players and all of that, but at the end of the day you just have to give coach Gordon a lot of credit for putting that program in place. Pat Durham was part of that as well. He was longtime JV coach and most of us played for him,” said Guth,

Guth is a highly regarded doctor in the greater Mansfield area and also serves as an assistant basketball coach at Lexington High School. He was an all-district selection as a junior in 1977-78.

Doug Ute, the only sophomore on the team, was its leading scorer (15.6 ppg) and would become the Colts’ first All-Ohio selection. He is currently the Superintendent of the Newark City Schools. He says Gordon was a great motivator. “The relationship that coach (Gordon) had with his players, and with being involved in education there is always someone that you can point back to that helped change your life. You felt like you meant something to him and he was highly invested in Clear Fork, not just in athletics, but the Clear Fork School District in terms of believing in it not only as a basketball coach, but a classroom teacher. He cared about you and you knew that. He put us kids in front of him. He could take a group of people and put a purpose with them and set some goals,” said Ute.

Ute and Guth were the team’s leading scorers that year and Golden, a leading business man in the valley and former booster club president, says everybody knew their role. “We had a good mixture of guys. We were a pretty tall team that year, we were 6’4”, 6’5” across the top four guys. We played well together. Doug (Ute) and Jay (Guth) pretty much carried the team and everyone filled in and did their roles throughout the game,” said Golden.

Black, the Deputy Superintendent of the Ohio Department of Commerce, and one of three seniors on the 77-78 team, says they had some scorers, but he thinks the difference a lot of times was their ability to defend as a team. “I think we all had a singularity in purpose and I think we had a really ferocious defense. I think we were focused on defense as much as we had good shooting. We had the best defense that we could possibly have, especially when we pressed,” he told Swankonsports.com.

The team finished 14-4 in the regular season and then beat Colonel Crawford (75-51) and Mansfield Malabar (57-56) in sectional tournament games played at Ashland High School advancing them to the district level.

Three of the team’s four regular season losses were by one point to Margaretta (67-66,) Lexington (67-66) in overtime and Shelby (54-53) and Guth believes the tough regular season schedule was a plus come tournament time. “Coach Gordon really upgraded our schedule. We started playing Mansfield Senior and that’s back when they were big. We played Madison. We played Coshocton. He was looking for competition. I think when we played Willard and Wynford we knew they were good programs, but I don’t think we were in awe of them in any way. I think we went into those games expecting to win. I think we were well prepared for the challenges. I think everything was geared not necessarily to beat the weakest teams on our schedule, but beat the teams at the top of our schedule,” said Guth.

The Colts claimed regular season wins over Malabar (67-61) in overtime, Madison (50-49) and Mansfield Senior (60-59) that season.

Ute, who led Buckeye Central to the regional tournament as a coach, says he didn’t feel the Colts were underdogs in that district tournament. He says they were confident. “I didn’t feel like we were an underdog. We played in our regular season schedule schools that were definitely equal to them. I think we really felt like we had a good team and we could beat anybody. We played within our system and played hard. Our coaching staff was fantastic and they had us believing that we could play with anybody,” said Ute.

The Colts beat Willard (65-52) in the district semi final played March 1, 1978 at Kates Gym at Ashland University and followed that up two days later with a (63-55) win over Wynford.

Golden again points out the leadership of Gordon and says the team had outstanding chemistry. “Everybody got along and everybody worked hard. Also, everybody knew who was in charge of that team and that’s Terry Gordon. Who stood out on the basketball floor or the classroom. He got your attention right away as soon as you approached the basketball floor,” he said.

Sometimes egos can get in the way, even with good teams, and Guth says he and Ute and still very good friends. Doug coached their sons on an “AAU” basketball team. He says that was the case when they were in high school too despite claims to the contrary. “I think when Doug and I played together there was some sense in the community maybe there was some friction, which was never the case. Doug and I have always felt highly of each other and supported each other throughout our careers,” said Guth.

Black, one of the captains of the team, says they had only one goal. “There was absolutely no drama. It was just very, very smooth. We had very similar personalities. They all wanted to win. That is why it worked as well as it did,” he said.

And win they did.

 
 

Clear Fork Expecting Everything From Fredericktown

Clear Fork begins its football season on Friday night with a visit to longtime rival Fredericktown in a rivalry that dates back to the 1960’s or before.

The final result of last week’s preview scrimmage with Madison was heavily in favor of the Colts, but coach Dave Carroll did not like his kid’s mental approach to the game, especially early, and he says that can not happen this week. “The kids have worked very hard and we have some nice athletes. They are very hungry to get started with real games instead of scrimmages and practice. Hopefully we learned a little bit from last Thursday in our preview. I overheard some of them chitchatting in some down time about what they were going to do to their opponent last Thursday before the scrimmage and we went up there in the first quarter and we didn’t do anything to anybody. Thank goodness we woke up and then we exploded, but when you overlook or underestimate an opponent bad things happen to you,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We tell our kids it doesn’t matter the whole season who you are playing it is about how you play and how you play as a team not making mistakes. You can’t worry about the scoreboard, you can’t worry about your opponent, it is about what you do in your preparation and in your play. Hopefully, they learned a little because we stunk in the first quarter.”

In a 180 from the last couple of years Clear Fork is very experienced this season, but Carroll says they are still going to be a little nervous on Friday night, at least he hopes so. “I don’t think there is a kid that we are putting on the field that hasn’t been a starter at least one year, a lot of them for two and three years, and Bailey for four years. Hopefully they have a little bit of the butterflies. I always say when I am not feeling a little nervous and I am old as the hills and when I am not getting nervous and excited and all of that on Friday nights it is time to quit. I think there is still going to be some of that. It is not going to be all my gosh what is going to happen? They know that,” he said.

Clear Fork crushed Fredericktown (42-7) last year, but the Freddies are going to be better. Carroll says former Clear Fork player William Hartley, the Fredericktown head coach, is going to have some things up his sleeve. “It is on their home field. It’s a rival game. You know opening week. They are going to jacked up. This is a big game for them. This is a big game for us. It’s that rival that goes back years and years to Butler and Bellville days. Will Hartley, I can’t say enough about him watching him as a head coach the last several years. He is a former Clear Fork Colt, but he does a fantastic job. He prepares his kids. His kids are disciplined. They do things right. Every year he is pretty good at having some wrinkles for us, something we haven’t seen. He is hiding some stuff, we know he is. We are trying to throw stuff at our kids to get them prepared for anything and everything. He always has some very good adjustments and wrinkles we haven’t seen. So, it is going to be a dandy,” said Carroll.

Published 8/24/17

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Clear Fork Looks Good in Scrimmage

It was just their first test against another opponent and it didn’t count for anything in terms of wins and losses, but Clear Fork looked pretty strong against a good opponent in a scrimmage on Tuesday night.

The Colts dominated Defiance Tinora, a playoff team from a year ago, in a scrimmage at the “Colt Corral.”

Coach Dave Carroll says they were able to get a lot of work in with a number of players and they did some really good things on both sides of the football against the Rams. “We got in a lot of good work. A lot of kids got reps. We were able to get our ones a lot of reps, but in the varsity part of the scrimmage we also got a lot of our twos in, so we get to see them on film against a good varsity football team. Film tells you so much than what you can see with your eyes. The thing I like, and what we kind of thought going in, we have a lot of kids that can do things with the ball,” he told Swankonsports.com after the scrimmage, “Both of our quarterbacks played really well and all of our skilled kids either ran or caught the ball well for the must part. That is the hardest thing to see, but it looked like the offensive line was opening up some pretty good holes for us. I don’t think we let them score in the varsity part of it. Anytime you get a shutout.”

Both Jared Schaefer and Blake Dinsmore saw time at quarterback for the Colts.

Yes, there were a lot good things, but things are far from perfect and Carroll says they certainly gave things to work on this week. “There are some things we have to shore up. A couple of times they got receivers behind us. They run, run, run, and then they throw a deep play action pass on you. It’s self discipline and reading your keys and being where you are supposed to be. A couple of times I thought our tackling was a little shotty, not wrapping up or leaving our feet. These are all fundamental things that we have to be really good at,” he said.

Clear Fork plays Loudonville and Lexington in their next tune up on Saturday. Their preview is against Mansfield Madison on August 18. They open the season at Fredericktown.

Carroll thinks he has a good group that is willing to work hard and get better as a team. “Overall they are a good group of kids that are working hard and having fun. It was a pretty good performance. They were 7-3 and got in the playoffs last year and have everybody back. They are expecting to do big things this year. It is back to work (Wednesday). Back to two a days,” he said.

Carroll says no matter how good you look on one night you have to know you can get better. “I don’t know how many times we scored. We scored quite a bit. We just have to stay calm. You can’t think we have arrived or anything like that at this point and time. You just have to keep fighting and keep getting better and see how far we can take each individual kid and collectively as a team and see how good we can be,” he said.

Published 8/09/17

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Clear Fork Experienced and Talented

Clear Fork begins play in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference this fall and they will field a team with both experience and talent on both sides of the ball.

Coach Dave Carroll says they have good numbers in all classes and he has seen some good things from a lot of the players this summer and during the first week in camp. “Well we are pretty excited. We have quite a few kids out. We are up to 60. What is real nice about it is if we had a game today there wouldn’t be anybody on the field for the varsity game that wasn’t a junior or senior. So, our varsity group is the upperclassmen that is as it should be. The last several years we have had to play some freshmen and sophomores and in the “OCC” or any league it doesn’t work out real well,” he told Swankonsports.com after practice on Friday, “We have a real solid JV group, the middle group, and they are still fighting for jobs. We have a really good freshmen group. A lot of nice sized lineman and have some good backs and a very good quarterback. So, we are excited. We have everything in because these guys have been here over the summer. We have been to camps and seven on sevens. Usually at this point you are still putting in base plays. We’ve got base plays, trick plays, all our passing game, the whole nine yards. We are pretty excited they are a fun group to coach.”

In July, Clear Fork, and a lot of schools, participate in seven on seven competitions, and Carroll says they looked good despite not having all of their guys. “In some of those seven on sevens we did not have some of our top players because of either and injury or we had one player that tragically his brother was in an accident and passed, but other guys stepped up and got some reps. We had a nice summer,” he said.

Clear Fork plays at Fredericktown in their first game, hosts Bellevue on “Hall of Fame Weekend” and then hosts Jonathan Alder, They play their first game as a member of the “MOAC” at North Union on week four.

Carroll says they have a lot of offensive weapons, but they have some kids that can play on defense too and they have experience. “We have quite few kids that started in the past. Jacob Bailey this will be his fourth year being a starter, he is an inside linebacker. Kids like Jake Lowe, Bryce Lyon, and Bobby Costello. He didn’t start for us, but he started for Madison the last two years at corner Blake Dinsmore. He moved back to Clear Fork, that is where he is from originally. He took a two year hiatus up there for the Rams and he is back at Clear Fork. He is an awful good player,” he said.

Published 8/04/17

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Fry to be inducted into HOF

 

          There is no question that Earl Fry is old school and that has little to do with is age, but rather is attitude towards sports and to life.

          The 81-year-old Fry this September will be inducted into the Clear Fork Valley Athletic Hall of Fame as part of hall of fame weekend activities slated for September 1 and 2. 

          He was a two way starter at Bellville High School for a 1953 team that went undefeated, the first ever at Bellville.  He was the team captain and played center and middle linebacker for head coach Fred Martinelli, who nominated Fry for the hall.

          "Earl snapped the ball and was an efficient blocker for our explosive runners.  On defense, playing the middle linebacker position enabled Earl to make tackles sideline to sideline.  It is unfortunate that statistics were not kept at that time.  I might add that Earl's leadership as team captain added a quiet, but confident demeanor to our team that gained the respect from our opponents, media and fans," said Martinelli.

          Fry, who spent 33 years as a teacher and 34 years as a football coach, has been modest in accepting his impending enshrinement to the hall of fame.  "I am proud to accept this honor for all of the teams I played on here at Bellville," said Fry, "I would like to share the honor with all my Blue Jay teammates.  This is truly an honor that I shall always cherish."

          He wanted to especially thank his coaches at Bellville in Martinelli, Marv Frye and Dutch Raether.  Plus, his influences as a teacher in Wayne Wookman, Ross Smith, Mary Garber and Margie Kaup.

          After graduating from Bellville in 1954, Fry went on play football at Wittenberg College were he also played center and middle linebacker from 1955 to 1957.  He was the team MVP in 1957 and was first team All Ohio Conference.  He was also UPI All Ohio Center.

          Fry's wife Patty passed away last February.  "I wish she could have been here for this.  She played a big part in whatever I have been," said Fry.

 
 

2017 Clear Fork Valley Athletic Hall of Fame Class Named

 

          Two individuals and a team will be enshrined this September into the Clear Fork Valley Athletic Hall of Fame during a ceremony set for Saturday, September 2 during Hall of Fame Weekend celebrations.

          One of the Colts all time best running backs Kevin Gower (CF ’87,) a workhorse in coach Tom Sargent’s power running game, Earl Fry (Bellville ’54) was a center and middle linebacker for the successful Blue Jay football teams of HOF coach Fred Martinelli in the early 1950s, and the 1977-78 Clear Fork boys’ basketball team, the first Colt team to make the regional tournament.

          Gower was a big part of the Colts resurgence on the football field and became the school’s second 1,000 yard rusher in the fall of 1986.  There weren’t many mysteries about the offense that year, Gower was going to get the ball it was just a matter if the play was designed to go left or right or right up the middle.  He once carried the ball for 20 consecutive plays.

          Fry was a two way player for the Blue Jays and Martinelli says his quiet leadership was a major factor in the success of the 1953 Bellville football team, the first undefeated team at the school.  He was the captain and played center and middle linebacker for the 8-0-1 Blue Jays.  He later played at Wittenberg College and was head football coach at Urbana High School for two seasons and an assistant coach at a number of schools from 1960 to 1991.

          The 1977-78 boys’ basketball team was (18-5) and advanced to the regional semi finals beating Mansfield Malabar (57-56) to win the sectional title, Willard (65-52) in the district semis and Wynford (63-55) for the Class AA district title.  The team featured four members of the HOF in Doug Ute (CF ’80,) Jay Guth (CF ’79,) Jay Brokaw (CF ’79,) and Chuck Golden (CF ’79.)  They were cornerstone of what made Clear Fork one of the most successful boys’ basketball teams in North Central Ohio from mid 70’s to the mid 80’s.

 
 

Colts Lose in State Semi-final

  

          Clear Fork played its final game of the season on Thursday as Warren Champion scored a run in the top of the seventh and beat the Colts (2-1) in the division three state semi-final at Huntington Park in Columbus.

          It was the second straight year the Colts lost in the semi-finals.  Waynedale beat them in 2016.

          Champion catcher Michael Turner singled in Justin Taninecz with the winning run in the seventh.  Pinch hitter Noah Gradishar led off the seventh with a single and Taninecz pinch ran for him.  He moved to second when Kyle Forrest walked.  Turner then reached reliever Jarod Smith with the game winning single.

          Champion (27-3) took the lead in the second on an RBI single by Andrew Russell.  Clear Fork (18-13) tied in the bottom of the third when Hunter Auck singled, advanced to second of a ground out, and scored on RBI single by Hunter Boyer.

          Drake Batcho went the distance for the Golden Flashes striking out nine along the way and permitting only four hits.  “We ran into one heck of a pitcher.  I have a feeling he is going to be going places.  He was the real deal.  You can scout a team and scout what a pitcher has, but until you see him.  I think the eyes got too big for some of these kids.  Some of our weaknesses kind of showed.  I told them keep your head up we went in as a team and we lose as a team.  Yes, there were some little things that we could have done better, but the bottom line is we didn’t put any runs on the board.  We had one run and had some opportunities, but that guy slammed the door and you have to tip your hat to him,” said Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab.

          Clear Fork starter Mitch Dulin, a sophomore, went the first six and a third giving up two runs on eight hits.

          In a key play in the fifth inning with the score tied (1-1) Staab claimed that Batcho interfered with second baseman Jared Lind’s attempt to complete a double play.  He says he got no satisfaction from the men in blue.  “I was really upset because he made the wrong call.  He said he veered away.  I said he veered away because he did not slide.  The rule states that you either have to veer off or slide and he did neither one of them,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game,” He was a very arrogant umpire like some of them that you get up here because they are old enough to be able to do it enough times.  That was a bad call and it is a shame that all four of them have to stick together because of one arrogant umpire.”

          Staab has been involved in the Clear Fork baseball program since the 1980’s.  He says he will now step aside and allow his son Joe, an assistant coach for the Colts, to take command.  “It is going to be different I’ll probably be in the stands yelling at umpires.  Joe (Staab) is going to take over and I think that is a good thing.  I am done this is my 35th year of coaching baseball and I think it is time to give up the reins to Joe.  Joe can coach Thomas (Staab) and the boys and let’s hope we get back up here,” he said.

 

Published 6/01/17

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Clear Fork Faces Top Notch Pitcher

  

          Well, if you look at records Clear Fork is the underdog in the division three final four.  They are the only team among the four to have double figure losses on the season.

          However, it is fair to say they are playing their best baseball of the season in winning seven of their last eight and not allowing a run in the regional tournament last week in Elida, beating Ottawa Glandorf (2-0) in the semis and Pemberville Eastwood (10-0) in the final.

          The Colts (18-12) play Warren Champion (26-3) in the state semi finals on Thursday morning at Huntington Park in Columbus, home of the Clippers.

          Champion beat Chippewa (2-0) in a regional final played on Saturday.  Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab says it was a clean game.  “We went up and scouted them on Saturday.  Their regional final was cancelled, so that was nice.  They played Chippewa.  They game was an hour and 15 minuets.  Chippewa’s pitcher walked the first two batters and they ended up scoring and that was the only two runs in the game.  It was pretty quick,” he said.

          Clear Fork will throw sophomore Mitch Dulin, who is (6-0) the last two seasons in the tournament, and Champion will counter with Drake Batcho, a big lefty.  “Champion’s ace is a big lefty about 6’4” and 240 and according the “PVR” he throws 88 to 90, but a lot of those are showcase material stuff that a lot of people buy into.  Cooper from Edison was the same way.  I think he is going to be just like Cooper, a little bigger and maybe throws a mile or two faster.  We didn’t really get to see him.  He is a big boy, their clean up hitter with an all or nothing swing.  Hopefully he is a little nervous and we will use the same theory we did with Cooper by making him throw a lot into the count and build up his pitch count and maybe we can get to him eventually,” said Staab.

          Huntington Park is 325 down the leftfield line, 318 down the right, 360 to leftcenter, 365 to rightcenter and 400 feet to centerfield.  That is going to be bigger than any high school field.  Staab feels that will help them.  “Anytime you play in a big park and you are able to let your outfielders roam that is always a good thing for our outfield does a good job tracking down the ball.  We noticed that Champion’s outfield plays really deep.  Eastwood tried to do the same thing and then we started blooping balls in and then they came in and we tried to hit it over their heads.  I think in that big spacious park I think everybody has the tendency to play a little deeper,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I thought Thomas (Staab) our centerfielder did a good job last year of tracking down balls.  They have some big hitters.  Their catcher is going to Kent State and he is going to be tough to run on.  Hopefully if the pitcher has a slow move we can figure out his move to first and that is the only way we are going to be able to steal.  We are going to try and keep our heads positive.”

          Clear Fork lost to the state semis last year and a lot of guys that play this year played last year and Staab thinks that is a plus for the Colts.  “I think it is huge.  Last week we talked about this during the regionals.  Jared Lind and Mason Cox and some of those guys were our cheerleaders and now they are starters.  We spent the first half hour looking around the stadium just in awe and it is hard not to playing in a “AAA” ballpark like Huntington Park, it is so beautiful, knowing all of the players that have played there in the past.  I think we are still going to be in awe for a while.  I think this team has a little bit more urgency kind of like we have unfinished business.  Hopefully we will be able to continue what we have been doing for two weeks,” said Staab.

 

 

Published 5/30/17

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Clear Fork Punches Ticket to State Tournament

  

          The Clear Fork baseball team will play in the state tournament for the second year in a row.

          They demolished Pemberville Eastwood (10-0) in six innings in the division three regional final at Ed Sandy Field in Elida on Friday evening.

          Junior Jalen Sheriff went all six innings allowing only two hits and only one base runner past second base and Galvin Bailey sent the Eastwood bus driver to start the bus with a fifth inning grand slam.

          Sheriff has been the Colts number two starter for most of the year, but he had been on the self with an elbow injury most of the last two weeks.  “It was unbelievable.  First, Jalen pitched a great game.  He struggled a little bit, he hasn’t been out there in a while.  He got an inning Tuesday versus Fredericktown and threw 12 pitches and struck out the side.  So, we felt like let’s give it a shot and see how far we can take him,” said Clear Fork baseball coach Rusty Staab.

          The Colts got busy right away with two runs in the first inning when Jared Lind, Luke Clark and Hunter Boyer had three straight singles to plate Lind and Clark scored on an error.  They got another when Gage Belcher doubled and scored on Thomas Staab’s RBI single to make it (3-0) in the second.

          They got five in the fifth when Staab opened with a double and scored on Boyer’s second RBI single.  A.J. Blubaugh’s single loaded the bases and set the tone for Bailey.  The junior rightfielder turned on an inside fastball and deposited it over the leftfield fence for a grand slam.  “We nickeled and dimed and got two runs in the first and then another two runs, but that blast by Gavin Bailey just opened things up.  That is the most exciting thing I have seen in a long time,” said Staab.

          Assistant coach Bob Pore told Bailey before he went to the on deck circle, “You know, you haven’t done anything lately to put a smile on my face”… that changed on the second pitch of the at bat.

          With the kind of bats the players are required to use there aren’t that many home runs any more, not to mention grand slams.  Staab says he told Bailey to wait on his pitch.  “Gavin has had a great swing up the middle lately.  I said, hey, stay out of the middle that will be a double play,” he told Swankonsports.com on the field after the game, “Try and turn on something until you get two strikes and sure enough he made me look awful good.  It was just exciting and we are on a roll now and who knows what happen.”

          The Colts had 13 hits Friday, three for extra bases, and Staab says they are starting to feel pretty good at the plate.  “We have all been healthy finally.  Thomas (Staab) has been healthy, Luke (Clark) has been healthy, Hunter Auck has been healthy.  It is getting warmer and everybody is starting to feel a little better.  They are sweating a little bit now.  All of those hours at “Hittsville” have been paying off,” said Staab.

          Jared Lind in particular likes the surroundings of Ed Sandy Field.  He had two hits in a (3-0) win over Ottawa Glandorf on Thursday and added three more on Friday.  “Jared is on a streak right now.  He is on one of those “Bull Durham” streaks.  You tell him to wear the same clothes and don’t get his hair cut because he is just crushing the ball,” added Staab.

          Eilda has been a pretty good venue for the Colts they are (6-1) there over the last 12 years and have won their last six in a row.  “In ’05 we lost to Archbold, who ended up winning the state that year.  The 2010 team, Joe’s team, swept and then we did last year and this year.  So, yes, it is worth a two hour drive on the bus that feels every bump on 30.  We have been fortunate,” said Staab.

          Clear Fork (17-12) plays either Chippewa, the Wayne County Athletic League champ, or Warren Champion, who play Saturday at Massillon High School, June 1 at Huntington Park in Columbus in the division three state semi-finals.

 

Published 5/27/17

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Clear Fork Blanks Ottawa Glandorf in Regional

  

          Mitch Dulin pitched a three hit shutout and second baseman Jared Lind had the biggest hit of his life as Clear Fork shutout Ottawa Glandorf (2-0) in a division three regional semi-final game played at Elida Middle School on Thursday afternoon.

          They play Pemberville Eastwood for a regional title on Friday.

          Dulin went the distance for Colts and Lind drove in the game’s first run with an RBI double off the rightfield fence in the bottom of the fifth.  Clear Fork scored another run a hit and stolen base by Gage Belcher and throwing error by Titans catcher Austin Horstman in the sixth.

          Dulin (8-1) did not allow an Ottawa Glandorf runner past second base all day long.  He only walked one and coach Rusty Staab says the sophomore has been a big time pressure pitcher in his young career.  “Not to jinx anything, but right now he is 6-0 in tournament play.  He is just a bulldog.  He has done such an amazing job all year,” he told Swankonsports.com on the field after the game, “His motion looked a little goofy until about the fourth inning.  He was really slowing things down with his leg kick and then he was exploding and everything was low.  I think he adjusted well.”

          Dulin induced 12 ground balls in the game and Staab says his infielders did a super job of gobbling those balls up and turning them into outs.  “That is the best defense we have played all year.  That’s what I told them when we got to the huddle the best thing to look at was zero errors.  Our infield played great.  There were a couple of pop ups that dropped in, but there isn’t much you can do about that,” said Staab.

          Staab and his coaching staff did get up closer Gavin Bailey in the bullpen, but they never brought him in.  “We made his parents happy by warming him up,” Staab chuckled, “It wasn’t like (Dulin) was losing velocity.  Whenever Mitch sees that he kind of kicks it into another gear because he wants seven innings, he wants a complete game.”

          Lind, the Colts starter at second all year, has been solid on defense and is one of the best bunters this reporter has ever seen wear a Clear Fork uniform, but he hasn’t shone much power until Thursday.

          Leadoff hitter Thomas Staab had a one out single in the fifth and then stole second base, his second steal of the game.  Lind then blasted the ball over the head of Titians rightfielder Logan Miller and it bounced off the fence.  Stabb scored from second to give the Colts the (1-0) lead.  “That is like watching Ozzie Smith hit one out back in the bay.  The wind was blowing at the right time.  He got it up in the air and (their right fielder) was playing in.  He probably should have been running a little harder so I could send him to third and he could have scored on Luke’s fly ball,” said coach Staab.

          In the sixth, Belcher, pinch hitting for Bailey while he was warming up, singled to left and then stole second base.  He then attempted a delayed steal of third and appeared to be a dead duck, but Horstman threw the ball down the leftfield line and Belcher scampered home with the second run.  “He stole third on his own.  That was not my call.  That was one of those, hey what are you doing?  Hey, good job.  That run was huge.  That was one of those things.  Thomas (Staab) was back like we talked about the last two weeks and he is able to do things and we are rolling,” he said.

          Clear Fork (16-12) will play Pemberville Eastwood (21-5) in the regional final at 5 PM on Friday evening, again at Ed Sandy Field in Elida, for a ticket to their second straight state tournament.  Eastwood beat Archbold (5-4) in the second game on Thursday.  The Colts beat Eastwood (9-1) in last year’s regional semi-final.

 

Published 5/25/17

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Freddies Best Clear Fork

   

          Fredericktown tallied four runs in the sixth inning to beat Clear Fork (6-2) in a non-conference baseball game played Tuesday at American Legion Field between two teams that have qualified for the regional tournament in division three.

          Fredericktown scored two in the first and the Colts answered with one of their own.  The Colts tied it with a run in the fifth, but the Freddies put it away with a four spot in the sixth;

          Clear Fork (15-12) plays Ottawa-Glandorf in a regional semi-final game Thursday at Elida.  Fredericktown (21-8) faces Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy Thursday at Athletes for Action Park in Xenia.

          Freddies coach Ryan Hathaway thinks this was an excellent way to get prepared for the regional.  “It is convenient for us and for Clear Fork being this close, two good baseball teams in the same area.  (Tuesday) night our goal, and talking with coach Staab, was to make sure both teams are ready.  We won’t see them until the state championship.  We wish them the best of luck and we hope we see them there.  Hopefully we can take care of business, so we can set ourselves up for that as well,” said Hathaway.

          Colts coach Rusty Staab was very disappointed in his team’s execution on Tuesday.  “There were some bright spots.  You really have to dig deep, but there were some bright spots.  Gavin (Bailey) pitched well, Jalen Sheriff pitched well, but that is probably about it.  I got my voice back because I was going to be calm, cool, and collected (Tuesday,) but we played so bad.  Not to take anything away from Fredericktown their eyes lit up when we threw strikes and our guys took until we got two strikes,” he told Swankonsports.com on the field after the game, “It was embarrassing, but that is why we play it.  I am glad lost like that than we won where they play terrible, we play terrible, but end up winning so we actually think we were good.  It is what it is.”

Clear Fork tied the game (2-2) on an RBI single by Jared Lind in the bottom of the fifth.

          However, Fredericktown got to reliever Jarrod Smith in the sixth inning scoring four times on five hits.  Trace Hatfield had a two run single and Clem Cunningham had a run scoring single as part of the explosion.

          Hathaway says they have been hitting pretty well as a team over the last little bit.  “We have been swinging it well lately.  I thought our approach was good (Tuesday.)  That was the big thing we were working on just making we got everything cleaned up if there were questions with whatever we had going on.  Just making sure we are playing our best game going into Thursday night,” said Hathaway.

          Maybe the best thing was nobody got seriously hurt in game and Hathaway says that was really good considering what lies ahead the rest of the week.  “In the first inning when (Nick) Cunningham got hit by the foul ball I was cringing a little bit.  It was good we got out of here without any injuries and the same on their side.  It is good to have everybody healthy gearing up for what could be a fun run this weekend,” he said.

 

Published 5/23/17

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Lady Colts Make Regional With Win over Upper

  

          Macy Wade and Emma Keene both had three hits and Darian Gottfried scattered nine hits in going the distance as Clear Fork downed Upper Sandusky (5-2) in a division two district final played at Edison High School on Saturday.

          Clear Fork scored three times in the top of the second and Gottfried held the Lady Rams scoreless for the first four innings and with a tally in the fifth the Lady Colts took a (4-0) lead.

          However, Upper Sandusky would score single runs in the fifth and sixth.  Clear Fork added one in the seventh to take a three run lead

          Clear Fork coach Jeff Gottfried says Upper brought the tying run to plate in the bottom of the seventh.  “We got a lead on them in the top of the second to give us a 3-0 lead.  Darian threw very, very well to keep them at bay for a while.  They are a very good hitting team in Upper Sandusky.  Our bats got us a lead and we were able to hang on for a while.  It got a little dicey toward the end, but nothing outrageous or anything.  We were up 4-0 at one time.  It was 5-2 going into the bottom of the seventh and we had two outs.  They got a couple of hits in a row and brought the tying run to the plate,” he told Swankonsports.com on Saturday night, “The last batter actually got a base hit and we threw the runner out at home plate to win the ball game.  It was pretty well played on both sides.  Fortunately we were able to able to come up with enough runs there at the beginning and were able to hang on.”

          Again it was a big defensive play from a freshman, just like in Thursday’s semi final win over Shelby, as Brooke Robinson gunned down a runner from right field to end the game.

          Clear Fork (25-3) got some production from the bottom part of the order, especially Keene and Gottfried says that was pretty important.  “Looking at the box score our top three hitters were 1-12.  If you told me we were going to win a ballgame with the top three hitters going 1-12 I would sign up for that game any day.  Macy Wade in the four spot in the order had three hits and Emma Keene probably had her best game of the season.  She had a bunt singe and then laced two singles later on.  She just played like a senior like you would ask her to do.  The team as a whole played pretty decent,” he said.

          Mistakes are what kill you in games like this and Gottfried says a throwing error in the second inning by Upper Sandusky (22-5) kind of got them going.  “When we scored out three runs in the second inning we got our first run on a throwing error.  We were just bunting to move a runner up from first to second base.  It was a pretty decent bunt and the third basemen threw it over the first basemen’s head, the right fielder is sleeping and it goes all of the way down the right field line and we score from first base.  That kind of got the momentum going.  Sometimes it just takes a little thing like that.  With two good teams that might be the only run you get in the game.  They started off with some mistakes.  We made a couple of our own.  One of the two runs we gave up was unearned with just a misplay on a ground ball.  When it came to crunch time and we had to make a play we certainly did,” said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork plays Oak Harbor, the Sandusky Bay Conference bay division champion, a (4-0) winner over Maumee on Saturday, in the regional semi-finals next Wednesday at the Tiffin University.  Gottfried knows the Lady Rockets are very good, but he says they will come to play.  “I was having a conversation with a guy that does scouting for me.  He was talking about our opponent and I had to remind him back in ’09 the teams we beat Lima Bath, we beat Keystone, we beat Tallmadge.  Sometimes in those games you only need one run.  The other team can not score a run with their arm and as long as you can play solid defense and make plays we will figure out how to scratch for a run.  That will definitely be a conversation to have with out team on Monday about how good we really are as well,” said Gottfried.

 

Published 5/20/17

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Colts Back in Regional

  

          Clear Fork will be making that trip to Elida for the division three regional baseball tournament this coming week for the second straight year after blasting Margaretta (9-2) Saturday in the district final played at Shelby High School.

          Freshman Gage Belcher rose to the occasion on Saturday.  He was an emergency starter in place of the injured Jalen Sheriff, out with elbow problems, and he threw five innings of four hit baseball, allowing just two runs.

          Coach Rusty Staab says Belcher is just another example of the next man up theory.  “Gage Belcher is the epitome of what has been going on with our team all year.  This has been an incredible adversity year with all of the kids that we have had hurt and people just stepping up and taking other people’s spots,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “One thing this is going to do is make them greater kids and adults when they get older because they are going to have to deal with reality and adversity in life not only in their career, but with their family and their wives.  This has been nothing but just gutting it out.  Jalen Sheriff goes down and Gage gets the ball and pitched awesome against Lexington and pitched great here (Saturday.)”

          Margaretta is known for a loud dugout and Clear Fork not as much until Saturday when they were matching the Polar Bears.  Colts assistant coach Bob Pore thought Belcher really fed off of that excitement.

          The Colts took a (2-0) in the second on a sacrifice fly by Paul Francisco and RBI ground out by Belcher. 

          They put up five in the fourth highlighted by RBI hits by Francisco, Belcher and Luke Clark.  Two more came home in the fifth on another RBI hit by Francisco and RBI ground out by Belcher.

          Staab says their offense was able to take the pressure off of Belcher and relievers Jarrod Smith and Gavin Bailey.  “When we are scoring 10 runs in the district semis and nine runs in the finals our offense has finally woken up.  Now we have a little bit of pressure off our pitching and defense.  We had our error, but we turned it around and made some nice plays.  Our offense is making our defense relaxed because we are scoring runs.  If that is a 2-1 ballgame who knows what happens,” said Staab.

          Clear Fork (16-11) will make their way to Eldia on Thursday to meet Ottawa-Glandorf, a (4-1) winner over Coldwater, in a regional semi-final.  Staab says with all the injuries and close losses they have really turned it around over the last 10 days.  “We are happy to continue, but we have just lost that and we are thinking how in the world are we ever going to make it, but slowly but surely we got there, we got hot just like we did last year.  Let’s hope we have another hot week, so we can get down to Columbus,” he said.

          The Colts had runners at least as far as second base in five of the seven innings, they stole three bases and were continually putting pressure on Maragretta and starter James Fisher, who last four and a third innings.  “With that pitch count rule that number 17 (James Fisher) pitched 45 pitches Thursday.  It is hard to bounce back from just one days rest.  He came in and pitched at four o’clock on Thursday and here is warming up at noon on Saturday.  We figured the longer he is out there we are going to get to him, kind of like (Edison pitcher Clay) Cooper.  So, when he is in the third inning, four inning struggling he has to throw it over the plate and we were fortunate to hit it,” said Staab.

 

Published 5/20/17

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Clear Fork Thumps Edison in Districts

  

          Thomas Staab had three hits and Paul Francisco and Hunter Auck had two each and Clear Fork pounded Edison (10-1) in a division three district semi-final Thursday evening at Shelby High School.

          The Colts (15-11) play Margaretta (10-11) in the district final on Saturday at Shelby.

          Edison’s Clay Copper came in with a 7-1 record and a 0.25 ERA, but the Colts chased him in the fourth.  Coach Rusty Staab says their patience at the plate was key.  “He is still probably the best, in the top three pitchers we have seen all year.  Cooper is a stud and our game plan was to get the pitch count up.  It worked he was at 63 after two innings.  He was at 80 after three.  We kept and innings going, they didn’t have too many 1-2-3 innings, that was key,” he told Swankonsports.com in the dugout after the game, “Then we have some breaks.  We had a 2-0 lead early and we made some good plays.  The next thing you know Paul comes up with a big hit and it is 4-0 and they are yanking him and that is a huge advantage for us.”

          Clear Fork scored two in the bottom of the first on a two-run single by Gavin Bailey.

          Mitch Dulin had stranded two in scoring position when he got Bryce Roberts to hit a dribbler back to the mound in the top of the first.

          Edison coach Sean Hoover says they just couldn’t get the big hit.  “They executed with guys on base.  They got that two strike hit through the infield and scored runs.  We had the same opportunities and we just didn’t get those hits to go through.  You are a lot more relaxed if you get that lead,” he said.

          The Colts had seven two-out hits against Chargers pitching and Staab says that is something they have not gotten much of this year.  “We have not had them all year.  If we had two out hits we would have been 12-2 in the “OCC” and would have won it, but we didn’t against Mt. Vernon both games, we didn’t have it against Madison both games.  We didn’t have that two out hit, (Thursday) we did,” he said.

          Dulin, the big sophomore, went the distance for the Colts on Thursday, allowing five hits, walking one and striking out two.

          Leading (2-0) in the top of the fifth Staab made an over the shoulder catch of a Nick Frederick drive to save two runs and then the Colts bats got hot in their half.

          Francisco got probably the biggest hit of the day back through the middle to score two and make it (4-0) and three more scored  before the third out could be recorded and the route was on.

          Clear Fork won a regional title last year and Staab hoped going in that they remember that.  “One of the biggest things I was concerned with, me, (son) Joe (Staab) and Mark (Lind) even though we went where we did last year these kids, there are still some young guys, will they remember how to do it and will they be able to shine (Thursday,) especially Paul Francisco,” said Staab.

          Not only did he get two hits, but Francisco dug at least four throws out at first place and made a brilliant catch near the Clear Fork dugout.  “The catch he made here by the dugout was amazing.  He is player of the game,” said Staab.

          As far as Margaretta, a (7-5) winner over Galion in nine innings in Thursday’s first game, Staab says Friday will be big study day.  “I know Gage Belcher is starting and we are going to go over the scouting report.  I didn’t really watch them.  Chris Hollar and Mark Lind have 97 different things they wrote about them, so we will be fine.  We need a good practice (Friday,) he said.

 

Published 5/19/17

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Clear Fork Rallies to Beat Shelby

  

          Clear Fork scored three times in the fifth inning and held on to beat Shelby (6-4) in a division two district semi-final game at Edison High School on Thursday.

          The Lady Colts (24-3) play Upper Sandusky (22-4) in the district final at Edison on Saturday.

          The two teams had played in the regular season and Clear Fork won (7-4) and Lady Colts coach Jeff Gottfried says there were some similar elements to the game, one being the fact the momentum seemed to change a lot.  “It was similar in the way things happened.  Obviously it was a different atmosphere being a tournament game.  The ebbs and flows to the game, it was there.  They scored a run in the top of the first inning.  When we played at their place earlier in the season we were the ones that scored first and they came back.  It was just two good teams going at it.  High school sports is about getting momentum and getting it on your side and trying to keep it there.  We had it in the bottom of the first.  We were up 3-1 and the next thing you know they kind of chip at you and they are ahead by a run 4-3.  We made a great defensive play in the top of the fifth inning to get us out of a jam that would have given them another run and put them up 5-3.  That just kind of got our offense kick started and in the bottom of the fifth we were able to put a three spot on the board and go up 6-4.  The last three outs we had to work for it, but we were able to get it done,” said Gottfried.

          It was that defensive play in the top of the fifth inning made by freshmen catcher Carson Crowner that was the biggest play of the night, according to Gottfried.  “Carson Crowner is a freshman and we kind of switch her back in forth with Haylie Miller, a sophomore, at shortstop and catcher.  Carson is a better athletic person to behind the plate, but we feel that Haylie is maybe more solid at shortstop.  It turned out that Carson was behind the plate when the play happened.  Honestly had it been earlier in the game it probably would have Haylie.  We switch it back and forth based on courtesy runners situations,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “Later in the game I could pinch run for Haylie.  It was one of those things it was right place, right time.  It was a rise ball that kind of got a way from her a little bit and tips off Carson’s glove.  Just being the athlete that she is and she slides to the backstop on her knees like you are taught to do.  I just told her be an athlete.  She made a great play and made a great throw to Darian covering the plate.  It was bang, bang at the plate.  It was a perfect throw, perfect tag and that got us out of the inning.”

          Shelby had taken a (1-0) lead in the top of the first on a sacrifice bunt, but the Lady Colts responded with three in their half, keyed by an RBI double by senior pitcher Danian Gottfried.  Shelby continued to execute the short game and took a (4-3) lead after four and half. 

          Clear Fork took the lead back on Gottfried’s two run double and an RBI hit by Miller.

          Coach Gottfried says it kind of allowed them to gain some momentum.  “We went to the bottom of that fifth inning and led on with Brooke Robinson and she was a able to hit a ball in the 5-6 hole and got on base.  It just got it going.  Honestly I don’t remember every play after that.  I think Whitney Snavley was able to chop one up the middle.  We got first and second and no outs and we have something cooking because we are at the top of the order with Carson and Darian.  I think Carson got a bunt hit, so we had the bases loaded with no outs.  Darian got a base hit up the middle to drive in two and put us ahead.  It is all about momentum and that play you just never know what is going to be, but it was a big moment at a big time and it certainly helped springboard us to a victory,” said Gottfried.

          Upper Sandusky beat Bellevue (8-7) on Tuesday and Gottfried says they have a lot of talented kids.  “They are a solid ball club.  We were able to go up there and scout them.  They have some hitters.  The (Blayc) Haker girl is going to pitch for them I would guess.  They have a couple of pitchers, but she is their main one.  She is their leadoff hitter.  She is the one that gets it going for them.  They have some solid players around her.  The (Abigail) Fogle girl at shortstop.  They are a good team.  They are well coached.  Dave Young does a nice job with them.  I really think if we are able to play the way we play I think we have a good chance.  I think we have a scouting report on what Upper is going to do.  I think if we go pitch and play good defense things will take care of themselves,” said Gottfried.

 

Published 5/19/17

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Brown Ready to go for District Tournament

  

          The division two district tennis tournament begins Thursday morning at Bowling Green State University and Noah Brown of Clear Fork is in the field.

          That in itself is a pretty rare feet for a Clear Fork tennis player, but Brown has a real chance to be successful at the district level.

          He advanced to the sectional final last Saturday at Shelby High School before losing to Luke Henrich of Mansfield St. Peter’s 6-4, 6-4.

          His coach Ryan Vermilion says Brown is a kid that is always working hard and trying to improve his game.  “His work ethic is outstanding.  He is constantly in at Lakewood (Racquet Club) working out with the Lexington players, (Lexington coach and Lakewood director) Ron Schaub, always taking lessons.  He just has a constant work ethic,” he said.

          Lakewood is located in Lexington, but Vermilion says kids from all over the area take lessons there.  “There is a lot of competition from area schools.  Actually Luke Heintrick goes there and works out.  Then you have the Webster boys this year, so there are a lot of kids from area schools that go in and work out at Lakewood,” Vermilion told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night on the eve of district play.

          Brown, who is (18-5) on the season, plays Cade Mullins of Ada in his first round match at about 10 AM on Thursday. 

          Vermilion says they have been working a lot this week to make sure Brown is prepared mentally for the match.  “We have talked many times about being prepared mentally for the matches.  Going in and coming out strong to get ahead.  We have been preparing him all week and talking to him,” he said.

          Henrich plays Ismael Assi of Ottawa Hills in his first round match.  Brent Webster of Lexington faces another player from Ada in Zack Beaschler.  Jared Schnee of Bellevue takes on Tyler Gargas of Ottawa Hills.  James Hill of Edison, who won the Port Clinton district, meets Ben Brinkman of Lima Central Catholic.

          Luke and Blake Webster of Lexington face a team from Kenton in a first round match in division two doubles.  Mike Sazdanoff and Benton Drake of Lexington play a team from Lima Shawnee.  Two teams from Norwalk have also qualified for district play.

          Two rounds will be played on Thursday and the semi final, consolation match and the final will be played Saturday morning.  The top three finishers qualify for the state tournament, which is next week in Mason, near Cincinnati.

 

Published 5/18/17

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Clear Fork Hammers Lexington in Tournament Opener

  

          Darian Gottfried allowed only one hit and one unearned run and Clear Fork beat longtime rival Lexington (11-1) in six innings in a division two sectional semi final on Tuesday in the valley.

          Gottfried retired the last 10 Lady Lex hitters she faced, striking out five in a row at one point.

          Clear Fork got on top right away in the bottom of the first when Carson Crowner reached on an error and scored without the benefit of a hit to make (1-0) early.

          It became (4-0) when the Lady Colts scored three times in the second inning when they got a hit from Caitlynn Hilverding, stole two bases and benefited from a hit batter and two Lexington errors.

          They broke it open when they six times in the fourth highlighted by an RBI triple by Crowner, an RBI single by Zara Thomas and a two run single by Hilverding.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says they kind of felt their way around early and then were able to get things going.  He says Lexington coach Mike Hamman knows what they try to do.  “It is kind of a feel game.  We have seen Lex so many times and he knows our kids well.  He knows their strengths and their weaknesses and he has a scouting report that is 20 years old on us and he knows our tendencies,” he told Swankonsports.com on the field after the game, “It just took us a while to get adjusted.  She was spinning the ball pretty decent on us.  I think we just kind of waited her out and took advantage of some mistakes that she made. We hit the ball hard in that middle inning.”

          Darian only had one walk on the night compared to nine K’s and her dad says the key was she was able top throw strikes early in the at bat.  “The biggest thing with her is getting ahead.  When she gets behind and has to grove one she is going to face some good hitters and they are going to take advantage of her.  That was the biggest thing for her (Tuesday) was to get ahead.  She really was in attack mode and really set the tone for us out on the mound,” he said.

          The Lady Colts have one the area’s best power hitters in the Haylie Miller, plus Macy Wade and Gottfried have shown some power too, but it was the running game that was the killer on Tuesday night.  They finished with six stolen bases and were constantly taking the extra base on hits and advancing on errors, sometimes a couple of bases.

          Coach Gottfried says they want to be aggressive.  “We have certain kids that can and we know that.  Even if the other dugout knows it is going to happen they still have to throw it to plate and then throw us out.  We have some power too.  We didn’t show much of that (Tuesday) night, but I think that was more pitch location on their part.  We did hit a couple of gap shots that busted the doors open for us.  We do what we have to do to get some runs,” said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork (21-3), #2 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, plays Tiffin Columbian of the Northern Ohio League, the ninth seed, in a sectional final, again at home, on Friday.

          Gottfried says playing Tuesday allowed his kids to get their feet wet a little bit.  “That is why I wanted to play this game.  I didn’t want to wait.  Sometimes the pressure mounts too much when you are setting their waiting on everybody else.  Our kids are relaxed.  They are having fun.  We are going to get to play (Wednesday) in a conference game.  It is just like we have been doing all year long.  We play three or four games a week and keep plugging away and go win the next one,” he said.

 

Published 5/10/17

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Colts Beat Lex; Gearing up for Tournament

  

          Clear Fork pitchers Mitch Dulin, Jalen Sheriff and Gavin Bailey held Lexington to one run on four hits on Monday and the Colts beat the Minutemen (7-1) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game at American League Field on Monday.

          During a ceremony before the game the field was dedicated in honor of the Legion Post 535 in Bellville, who has provided a generous sum of money for the improvement of the field as well as other projects for the baseball team over the last 50 years.

          Clear Fork (12-11,7-6) took (2-0) lead in the second off of Lexington starter Jacob Depperschimdt on RBI hits by Paul Francisco and Mitch Dulin.  They added two more in the third highlighted by an RBI single down the third base line by Jarrod Smith.  It became (5-0) in the fifth when Hunter Boyer scored on a balk.

          Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab says they got really good pitching and finally their offense is starting to wake up a little bit.  “We got a little bit of timely hitting.  For the first time we played a team where they were the ones hitting line drives and we were making great plays.  Usually it is the other way around.  We try to preach to our pitchers if you throw strikes and let your defense play it is not as boring a game as some people think.  Jalen (Sheriff) felt a little tweak in his arm and Gavin (Bailey) comes in and starts walking and you are just putting a team right back in the game when you are giving up bases,” said Staab.

          Lexington scored its only run in the sixth on an RBI single by Ian Moore.  The Colts responded with two in their half of the sixth on a single, three walks and two wild pitches.

          Clear Fork will play its final “OCC” game ever when they travel to Lexington (14-8,8-5) on Wednesday.  Staab says it always makes him simile to beat the Minutemen.  “It is always nice to beat Lex and I know that they are saving some pitchers, but it is still a win and I hope for the best for them in the tournament after (Tuesday,)” he said.

          The Colts will play either Willard (1-18) or Bucyrus (9-9) in their division three tournament opener at American Legion Field on Friday.  The Redmen, a (14-2) winner over Ridgedale on Monday, and Willard, a (3-0) loser to Ontario, play on Wednesday in semi-final play.

          Clear Fork got hot at the right time of the year last year and advanced to the state semi finals before losing to Waynedale.  Staab says that they have the makings for another run.  “The biggest thing that I worry about is our offense.  Yes, we had timely hitting, but we still have guys that have no idea what they are doing up there and that is what is frightening.  We just can’t wait for our leadoff hitter to get back in the lineup next week because who knows if he can?  We just have to get more production out of the top and the bottom of the order.  Our middle is doing fine,” he told Swankonsports.com on the field after the win, “Luke (Clark) is in a little bit of a slump.  He hit that shot at the first baseman, but after that.  I am telling him you are not going to get anything.  Everybody knows who you are, so quit swinging and take walks.  He is stubborn though.”

          Clark was hitting over .500 for the first half of the season.  Staab says a key to get some guys around him to get hits too, so he can get some better pitches.  “It was nice see to Gavin get two hits and that has been a long time coming.  It’s all mental for him.  Now he should feel really good.  He came in in the seventh and pitched well after the first two batters.  We are kind of getting back on track,” he said.

 

Published 5/09/17

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Clear Fork Gets to Within One

  

          Mt. Vernon was three outs away from earning a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference softball title, but you never count out the Clear Fork Lady Colts, history tells us that.

          Clear Fork scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and rallied to beat Mt. Vernon (7-6) and now trials the Lady Yellow Jackets by one game entering the rematch at Mt. Vernon on Wednesday.

          Trailing (6-4) with one out in the bottom of seventh Darian Gottfried reached when her pot up dropped in the Mt. Vernon infield.  Haylie Miller took advantage and belted her 10th home run of the season to tie the game and set the Clear Fork crowd on fire.  Macy Wade then doubled, her third hit of the day.  Zara Thomas followed with her third hit when the Mt. Vernon third basemen knocked down a hot shot.  With runners on first and second, Caitlynn Hilverding hit a slow roller between first and second and Mt. Vernon was unable to make the play and the winning run scored from second.

          Lady Colts coach Jeff Gottfried says they were able to make the big plays with their backs against the wall.  “It was an uphill battle from the top of the first.  They scored three and we are down early.  Give our kids credit we put three on the board in the bottom of the first to make it a new ballgame.  Then we struggled to get anything going.  They kind of held us at bay to the fifth when we got one run, but at time they were up 6-3.  We gave ourselves a chance in the seventh inning,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “We didn’t get the leadoff batter on, but Darian hit a little pop up in the infield that they had a miscommunication on and the ball fell.  Then Miller hit her big home run to tie it up.  Once it’s tied up our kids can really relax and we were able to produce even after that to get the game winning run.”

          In order to win games like Tuesday you have to have a belief and Gottfried says there is no give up in his kids.  “That is in our dugout.  We have had that belief for a lot of years.  It is what is great about this game there is no clock you play until the end.  It was nice to be in that home dugout and have the last swings at it.  Our kids once we got that thing tied up they were loud.  They were loud all night long.  They were pumped up and they were really excited when the outcome turned out like it did,” said Gottfried.

          Wednesday, Clear Fork (18-2,9-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll, will be at Mt. Vernon (17-1,10-1), #1 in the poll, with a lot at stake in terms of the “OCC” title.  “I told the girls it is going to be even tougher down there.  Mt. Vernon is mad.  I think we made that Yellow Jacket a little mean, but you know what?  We gave ourselves a chance and that is all we can ask for is to get that next game and we will see what happens,” said Gottfried.

 

Published 5/03/17

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Mt. Vernon Earns Share of “OCC”

 

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          Mt. Vernon railed to beat Clear Fork (5-3) on Tuesday evening and that win coupled with a Wooster loss to Madison gave the Yellow Jackets at least a piece of the Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball title.

          Clear Fork scored first with three spot in the second inning on Tuesday.  After a base hit by Hunter Boyer, a walk to Gavin Bailey, and a bunt single by A.J. Blubaugh loaded the bases, Jarod Smith plated the first run with a sacrifice fly to right.  Mitch Dulin followed with a two run single to give the Colts a 3-0 lead.

          Mt. Vernon scored twice in the fourth on an RBI single by Marcus Shellenbarger and a sacrifice fly by Dylan Tarrh.  They then tied the score on RBI single by second baseman Jaret Gaumer in the top of the fifth.

          Jacob Tiell led off the top of the seventh with a double to letfcenter and scored on a on an infield grounder by Nate Orr.  A second run in the inning scored when Isaac Stallard got involved in a run down between first and second and Tim Zeller scored before he was tagged out.

          Mt. Vernon (17-3,10-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, has made it a practice of coming from behind in recent weeks. 

          Coach Rob Gross they keep their heads in the game and keep pushing.  “All year long I feel like when these guys have tasted adversity we have kind of stayed with the approach.  We stayed with it (Tuesday.)  Tim (Zeller), they kind of got to him in one inning.  We kind of preach to our pitchers that you are going give up some runs, but keep us in the games until our offense comes along,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “We were able to do that.  It was nice to have that insurance run at the end.  We didn’t have our big inning, but it was nice to be able to have that steady approach and get us back in the game.”

          Tim Zeller went the distance for the Yellow Jackets allowing seven hits, walking three and striking out five.  He was able to get out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the fifth by striking out Gavin Bailey.

          Gross says he got better as the game went along.  “Clear Fork has a good ball club.  They can hit baseball.  It helped to get us fired up and get back into the game at 3-2.  You could just tell after that that Tim was zoned in.  He mixed his pitches more.  He got his curveball over for strikes and that is important when you are facing a good hitting team,” he said.

          The two teams play again on Wednesday afternoon at Mt. Vernon.  A win by the Yellow Jackets gives then the outright title.  “As we have preached again all year long it is huge to get that first game of the series.  It is even more huge to be on the road to get it.  Now we go back home (Wednesday) and hopefully we can finish it off.  I know we have to take care of business, but it would be nice to get a little help too,” said Gross.

 

Published 5/03/17

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Lady Colts Bounce Back

  

          A night after dropping a one run decision to Madison, Clear Fork bounced back to down the Lady Rams (8-2) on Wednesday and keep themselves in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race.

          Catcher Haylie Miller hit two home runs and the Lady Colts scored six runs in the first two innings.

          Madison beat Clear Fork (5-4) on Tuesday and the Lady Colts trailed Mt. Vernon by two games.  Clear Fork coach Jeff Gottfried says Wednesday night was a game they absolutely had to win and his girls came ready to play.  “We knew we didn’t play very well (Tuesday) night.  We kind of felt like we left some things out on the table that needed to be accomplished.  Our number one goal was to defend that conference.  I know it is a new year and it really isn’t defending you have earn the next one.  Our kids took the loss pretty hard (Tuesday) night.  We didn’t play very well.  We didn’t hit the ball very well.  Basically our backs were against it.  We couldn’t afford another loss.  To get that conference title back here at Clear Fork again with two losses with now four games to go we know we have to win out,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game on Wednesday, “Our kids came ready to play in that first inning.  I think we were nice and relaxed and we made some great adjustments from (Tuesday) night.  We didn’t have time to practice so you pretty much had to verbally go through things pre game.  Our kids responded very well with what we suggested they do and it showed by the way we played (Wednesday) night.”

          Gottfried says they came out focused and were able to put the pressure on Madison right away.  “Leading off the first inning Carson Crowner hit the ball hard to the third basemen and put some pressure on them with her speed.  They misplay the ball so we get on that way and we advance the runner to second base.  She steals third and we just play the way that we play.  Haylie Miller connected on one in the first inning and put us up 2-0 and gave a nice start.  We didn’t quit.  Caitlynn Hilverding drove in Macy Wade with our third run of the first inning.  I think Madison knew from then on we were going to bring it.  We put three more runs on the board in the second.  We hit the ball.  We had seven hits as compared to (Tuesday) night when we only had three and played much, much better defense (Wednesday) night.  Like we told the girls when you pitch and play defense you are going to keep yourself in a lot of ballgames,” said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork (15-2,8-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, plays first place Mt. Vernon next week and finishes against Lexington.

          Gottfried says his kids are coachable and they tend to respond very well.  “We made the adjustment at the plate.  We thought this is the approach they were going to use because we saw what they did (Tuesday) night.  The basically pitched us the same way.  Our kids, give them credit, we made suggestions for them, this is what you need to do, this is the way they are going to try and attack us.  We need to turn it around and start attacking them.  The kids did that they listened very well.  High school sports is all about momentum and it was on our side early and stayed on our side all night long,” he said.

 

Published 4/27/17

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Madison Edges Clear Fork

  

          Cal Rickert scored on a suicide squeeze bunt by Cameron Finley in the top of the 10th inning and Madison got past Clear Fork (5-4) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Wednesday night.

          Cal walked with one out in the 10th, stole a base and advanced to third on a single by Hunter Galbraith.  He scored what turned to be the winning run on Finley’s bunt.  Gavin Adkins, Madison’s fourth pitcher of the night, got the Colts 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th for the save.

          This is Clear Fork’s last year in the “OCC” and Madison coach Doug Rickert felt it was a big win for him and his program.  “It is huge because we have had great games all of the way through.  We talked to our kids about the history here.  When they won the state championship (2010) we are the only undefeated team ever in “OCC” history and when we came here that night we were able to beat them.  I’ll never forget Mike Siwek’s three run homer that night.  We told them that every game we play they are going to be well coached and they are going to be ready to play.  They are going to make a strong tournament run.  There is no doubt about it that that team can get all the way to state again.  We have really been battle tested,” He told Swankonsports.com on the field after the game, “We have had so many one run ball games.  Early in the year we wouldn’t have won this game, no way we would have won this game.  Right now they just believe in themselves and we are getting production out of other kids finally and we are making our plays.  In ten innings we gave up four runs.  We will take that anytime.”

          Madison (9-9,5-4) scored first in the game on Trenton Mortimer’s two-out RBI single in the top of the second.  The Rams would add another run in that inning on an error.  Clear Fork would make it (2-1) in when Hunter Boyer scored when Mortimer threw the ball away trying to pick him off third base in the fourth.  Madison went back up (3-1) when Cal Rickert scored on a passed ball in the top of the fifth.  Mortimer came up with another RBI single in the sixth to make it (4-1) Madison.

          The Colts (11-9,6-4) were down to their last out in the bottom of the seventh when Mitch Dulin came through with a two-run single and pinch hitter Jarrod Smith added a run scoring single.

          Both teams had their in extra innings.  Madison left them loaded in both the eighth and ninth and the Colts also left the bags juiced in the ninth.

          It was small ball that turned the trick in the 10th and coach Rickert says they were ready to execute.  “We missed some bunts early that we were a little frustrated with. Cameron Finley can handle the bat as well as anyone on our team.  That was an excellent squeeze bunt on a really, really tough pitch.  We had some big plays in the game.  We talked about that being a really big play.  I thought Cal (Rickert) getting home on that little passed ball with a big play.  You don’t realize you have to add a run every time out.  We were a little frustrated that we didn’t get some bunts down.  In the ninth we left them loaded and they left them loaded.  It was one the best high school games I have been involved in,” said Rickert.

          Logan Daniels and Layne Berrier relieved starter Chase Jessee and Gavin Adkins came in to get the last three outs in the 10th.  Rickert says they made some big pitches.  “Layne Berrier has been a very good pitcher for us.  His arm angle was down, he was walking some guys and we brought in Logan (Daniels) he is a strike guy and he got us out of a jam.  He was wearing down just a little bit.  We were able to come back with Gavin (Adkins) who hasn’t pitched in a while and I thought he was fantastic in the last inning throwing strikes and making them hit the baseball,” he said.

 

Published 4/27/17

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Lady Colts Continue to Roll

  

          Darian Gottfried scattered eight hits in going the distance and Caitlynn Hilverding went four for four with four RBI and Clear Fork smoked West Holmes (10-3) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference softball game on Wednesday.

          They trail Mt. Vernon by a game in the “OCC” standings.  The Lady Yellow Jackets beat Wooster (11-1) on Wednesday.

          Again on Wednesday there was some late inning magic for the Lady Colts as they scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth highlighted by a three run homer by Haylie Miller, her sixth of the season.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says they have been able to come up with that big inning lately, especially late in the game.  “We haven’t gotten off to fast starts, but we have scored a run maybe in the first, second or third.  We are not putting crooked numbers up, but we are getting one or two here or there.  It does seem as of late when we get to those late innings we will put a crooked number up like we did (Wednesday) night,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “It was 5-1 going into the bottom of the sixth and we put up a five spot.  I mean it was huge.  We got a big three run home run from with two outs from Haylie Miller.  That was a back breaker.  A 5-1 ballgame West Holmes still feels like they are in it.  That home run was definitely the deciding blow.”

          Miller has developed into as a good power hitter as there is in local softball.

          Darian again did her normal outstanding job.  Her dad says she knows what she has to be successful.  “They hit her all over the place (Tuesday) night.  They had eight hits.  They had more hits than we did.  I didn’t feel like they hit it as well (Wednesday) night.  She battles.  She knows she isn’t going to dominate as a pitcher.  She relies on her defense.  She is gutsy, very gutsy, that is the best way to describe her.  She has a lot of confidence out there and really trusts what her battery mate in Haylie Miller calls and they go at it,” he said.

          Clear Fork (14-1,7-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, faces a big series with rival Madison next Tuesday and Wednesday.

          Gottfried says they are in stretch drive now.  “They said we only have three weeks left?  And I said, yeah.  It’s crunch time now.  We have Madison, we have Mt. Vernon, and we have Lex.  I mean they are stacked up.  I mean it is one game at a time.  I just had to remind them we are past the halfway point of the season.  I think they still think we are in the gym, I don’t know,” said Gottfried with a smile on his face.

 

Published 4/20/17

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Colts Get Past West Holmes

  

          Jarrod Smith and Gavin Bailey combined to throw four plus innings of shut out baseball out of the Clear Fork bullpen and the Colts rallied to beat West Holmes (5-4) Wednesday in Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball.

          The win keeps the Colts (9-7,6-2) a game behind conference leader Mt. Vernon, who beat Wooster (12-11) on Wednesday.

          West Holmes marched 10 players to the plate and scored four times in the third inning chasing Clear Fork starter Dylan Wade.  Brendan Bridenthal, Shane Jones and Eric Hanna all had RBI hits for the Knights.

          However, Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab says the bullpen was able to save the day.  “Dillon didn’t pitch the game that he was able to pitch.  I think he is in a little bit of a pitching slump.  He’ll get out of it.  He just needs to work a little harder.  We are down 4-0 and I am thinking we don‘t want to waste anymore pitchers what am I doing to do?  Then Jarrod (Smith) kind of kept us in the game.  We made some plays and then we had the big inning,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “We are still struggling offensively.  When we have the bases loaded and our clean up hitter is up and he pops up to the first basemen that kind of makes me concerned.  We were able to have some two out hits finally that we haven’t had this year.”

         Clear Fork got four of their own in the fourth, highlighted on a two-run single by Hunter Auck.  They then took the lead in the fifth when two errors and a hit by Luke Clark loaded the bases.  What turned out to be the winning run scored on a sacrifice fly by Bailey that plated Jared Lind, but turned into a double play when A.J, Blubaugh was thrown out at the plate.

          Bailey came in with a runner of first base and nobody out in the top of the sixth and was able to stand two runners by striking out Brigger Cline.  He walked two guys in the seventh but was able to retire Drew Campbell on a line drive to right to end the game.

          Staab says they have been wanting to use Bailey as a close this year.  “That is what we have been planning all year for Gavin to do is to come in when we get the lead and shut the door down and that’s what he did.  It was a little tense at first.  We still have to teach him the pick off moves and the bunt coverages, but it is only game 16,” he laughed.

         Injuries continue to be a concern for the Colts.  Leadoff hitter and centerfielder Thomas Staab, the youngest son of the coach, was injured when he was hit by a pitch on Saturday against Olentangy Orange.  He suffered a hairline fracture on this leg.

          Coach Staab says they need to continue to find ways to score runs and stay in games.  “It has been baby steps.  We lose Luke (Clark) and you hate to talk about injuries.  I think the kids are getting over the fact that we ain’t going to have Thomas (Staab) for at least three weeks, so we are going to have to manufacture some runs and get to the top of our order up so we can get some runs in and do the things we are supposed to do.  It is starting to happen now, so we hope that it continues,” he said.

 

Published 4/20/17

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Colts Down Ashland in “OCC” Action

   

          Mitch Dulin went the distance allowing only three hits and Thomas Staab was 3-for-3 with four RBI and two runs scored as Clear Fork belted Ashland (9-1) in Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball on Thursday at American Legion Field.

          The Colts (7-5,4-2) also got some production from the bottom of the lineup as Gage Belcher, Dulin, and Mason Cox combined for thee hits and six runs scored.  “It was the first time this year that it was a 1-9 effort.  We did the same thing (Wednesday) we jumped out to a 6-0 lead and then got complacent and they almost came back and beat us.  We showed some resilience (Wednesday.)  (Thursday) with Mitch (Dulin) it so great to have an ace that you say that we need this outing out of you and he gives it to us every time.  We had some run support and played some great defense.  It has been a while since we have played error free baseball, well we had an error there in the seventh, but it is starting to come around.  It is starting to look better than it did a week ago,” said Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab.

          Dulin stuck out eight and retired 13 in a row at one point.

          Only one runner got as far as second base in the first two innings, but the Colts put up and five spot in the third highlighted by a two-run single by Staab and three stolen bases by Clear Fork.

          Ashland coach Rob Lavengood says they made too many mistakes, but he says Clear Fork was the better team on Thursday.  “We got off to a good start the first couple of innings.  After two innings we are setting 0-0 and then they put some pressure on us by doing some things offensively and we didn’t handle it really well.  We had a couple of errors, a couple of passed balls, wild pitches, some lapses on defense that allowed them to have a five run inning.  When you give up a crooked number that is tough to come back from,” he told Swankonsports.com before getting on the bus, “You have to give them credit.  I thought the Dulin kid pitched well and they put the ball in play and put some pressure on us.  I felt like they beat us (Thursday) night and I thought (Wednesday) we beat ourselves.  The difference is they outplayed us (Thursday) and you have to give them credit.”

          Clear Fork got four more in the fourth highlighted by an RBI single by Staab and a two-run double by Jared Lind. 

           The Colts trail “OCC” leader Mt. Vernon by two games.  Staab says they are going to get better as the season progresses.  “I think once we get all of our guys off the “DL” I think that is really going to give us a mental push too.  We are waiting for Hunter Auk to get back, and for Jarrod Smith and Luke Clark, of course.  We have guys that are doing a great job, role players that are coming in and being starters, but I think when we get our main group back on the field that is when we can take the next step,” said Staab.

          Clear Fork plays a tough non-league schedule and Staab says they will play one of Ohio’s best on Saturday.  “We can celebrate this win, but we play one of the top D-one schools in Ohio in Olengangy Orange with one of the best players that is probably going to get drafted with Tyler Brown.  So, we have our work cut out for us on Saturday.  We like to play really good teams and set it as a yardstick to see where we are at.  Maybe get a few autographs after the game,” he said.

 

Published 4/14/17

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Clear Fork Rallies Past Plymouth

  

          Emma Keene’s RBI double in the bottom of the seventh inning gave Clear Fork a come from behind (8-7) win over Plymouth in non-conference softball action in the valley on Thursday.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says they made some mistakes and maybe didn’t have the focus they normally have, but he says the really rose to the occasion when they needed it the most and that is what is team, and his program, is all about.  “It was one of those wins where sometimes you win ugly, but it is better than a pretty loss.  That was an ugly win for us.  It has been a tough week.  It was a tough loss (Wednesday) night to Ashland and I think we had some hang over affects (Thursday,) but give our kids credit.  We just fought hard.  A senior came up with a double down the line to win the ballgame after she had had an error earlier in the game to cost us two runs.  Nobody felt worse than she did with the dropped fly ball.  She kind of redeemed herself.  That is one thing we can say about our kids is they fight and they fight hard and I’ll take that everyday,” said Gottfried.

          Trailing (7-4) to begin the bottom of the seventh Darian Gottfried singled to open the frame and came home when Haylie Miller ripped a two-run home run to make it (7-6) Plymouth.  Macy Wade then doubled, stole second, and scored on an error.  Now it’s a tie game, but not for long.  With two out Shannon Longshore walked and stole second and scored the winning run on Keene’s double.

          Gottfried says there is no quit in his Lady Colts.  “That is the great thing about this sport there is no clock.  Until that last out is made you just keep fighting and you dig a little deeper.  There is a poster that is right outside on that wall as they come in and out of that locker room every single day that says you’ve got more.  They look at it everyday and say there is more in the tank.  We you think you are tired, when you think you are defeated, pick each other up,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “We have had a tough week.  Macy Wade had a grandfather pass away and all of the kids feel that.  They feel her sorrow with her, but they just keep rallying around each other.  I still like this team.  We are not where we want to be, but we still keep fighting and at the end I think we will be where to be.”

          Clear Fork (10-1) will host Wayne County Athletic League powerhouse Hillsdale on Friday.  Gottfried looks for a tremendous game.  “It is a good team to finish up with.  We kind of picked that up the last minute.  We will see what we are made of.  We have played three days in a row with two “OCC” games and a tough win on (Thursday) night.  Let’s go play ball.  I told the girls you can do one of two things.  You can come out and lay and egg like you are tied of the week or you can come out here and fight pretty hard and I think I know what team is going to show up and I think Hillsdale will show up.  You will be in for a special treat Friday night,” he said.

 

Published 4/14/17

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Clear Fork Pitcher Chooses College

  

          Darian Gottfried has played three sports at Clear Fork High School, but it’s softball that is her true love.

          She will be a four year letter winner playing for her parents head coach Jeff Gottfried and his assistant Kerri.

          She has chosen to take hear skills west and will play for Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota, beginning next year.

          Darian says she went on a college visitation this year and sort of fell in love.  “We know the coach out there and she came home over break and kind of looked at me and she thought I should have the opportunity to go out for an official college visit.  So, we went out.  I just really liked it,” she told Swankonsports.com Wednesday morning, “It was nice and small and kind felt like Bellville in a bigger sense.  They seemed to have a program going and I want to be part of that.  It’s an awesome opportunity to go out there and play the game I love.”

          She signed her letter of intent during a ceremony with family, friends, and teammates on Wednesday in the high school library.

          The Yellow Jackets are coached by a Clear Fork graduate in Lane Leedy and she says Gottfried can be a building block in her program.  She likes her makeup.  “Darian is a standout pitcher with an incredible work ethic.  She mixes good speed with great down ball action and a stellar change up.  That’s the scouting report, but for me Darian represents everything you look for in a student athlete.  She has poise, compassion, skill, drive, self-awareness and most importantly academic superiority,” said Leedy.

          Plus, she knows where Gottfried comes from and that makes this really special for her.  “She was born and raised in this uniquely special environment, as was I.  That makes this incredibly special to me and to the growth of the program,” added Leedy.

          Darian knows she is not going to play right away for the Yellow Jackets, but she is willing to put in the work.  “The plan right now is for me to redshirt my freshmen year and then play after that.  So, I will probably take next year to develop my skills more and go from there,” she said.

          Black Hills has also recruited Shelby’s Maddie Fidler to their program along with two young women from Colorado.

          It is 1,276 miles from the Clear Fork Valley to Spearfish.  It’s about an equal distance from Black Hills State to the Pacific Ocean.  Darian says the distance from home might help her grow up a little faster.  “The goal was to not go that far away from home, but I guess 19 hours is pretty far.  I think it will be fun though because there is someone else going out there from Shelby and she is one of my friends and I think it will be fun.  With technology I can facetime all of the time and I will get to come home on breaks.  I think it will be better that I won’t be able to just drive home whenever,” she said.

          As for her mother?  We hope she grows up too.

 

Published 4/12/17

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Lady Colts Stay Unbeaten

  

          Senior Darian Gottfried went the distance allowing just six hits and freshman shortstop Carson Crowner had three hits, two runs scored and three stolen bases as Clear Fork topped Ashland (5-2) Tuesday in Ohio Cardinal Conference softball.

          They share first in the “OCC” with Mt. Vernon.

          Clear Fork (9-0,5-0) took the lead in the first when Crowner singled, stole a base, advanced on an error and scored on a wide pitch.  Bryanna Masters tied the game with a home run in the top half of the second, but the Lady Colts would come right back. 

          They scored in the bottom of the second when Zara Thomas walked, stole two bases and scored on an infield ground out by McKenzie Baker.  It became (3-0) in the third when Whitney Snavely singled, advanced to third, somehow avoided being caught in a run down between third and home, and scored on a force play. 

          Two more Clear Fork runs scored in the fifth when Crowner again singled, stole two bases, and scored on a sacrifice bunt by Gottfried.  The final run scored on a rocket shot by Haylie Miller over the left center field fence, her fourth homer of the young season.

          Masters drove in her second run with an RBI double in the sixth.

          Clear Fork’s first four runs were directly due to do their speed on the bases.  “I think we have a good combination of some power and some speed.  Against Masters you have to generate some of your own offense sometimes because she is good she is going to shut you down.  You are not going to string three or four hits together to score a run.  You are going to have to generate some stuff.  Fortunately we had the right kids get those hits where we could use our speed and crank out some runs,” said coach Jeff Gottfried.

          It has been a rough start to the season for Ashland (1-6,0-5,) who has also played unbeaten Mt. Vernon and talented Shelby.  Coach Bill Herman says he is starting see some good signs.  “Bry did a nice job.  We are starting to come together.  It is early in the season.  We have played what seven games.  Things are starting to fall into place for us.  We will get it figured out really soon.  Everybody is back from spring break and that stuff.  It’s too bad we had to start with some of the tougher teams in our conference,” he said.

         Clear Fork stole nine bases on the day and also picked up extra bases with the aggressiveness.  Gottfried says that is the way they like to play.  “It’s fun, the kids the enjoy that.  Sometimes it is risky, risk versus reward, it probably all evens out in the end.  I know our kids enjoy playing that way and I think our fans enjoy it certainly and I enjoy coaching that way.  It’s a mentality that our kids have they know when we are aggressive I am not going to be upset about it if we make a mistake,” Gottfried said.

          Darian Gottfried, who will sign a national letter of intent to play college softball at Black Hills State University on Wednesday, was again on top of her game.  Her dad says the biggest thing was no walks.  “I thought she threw very well.  The biggest thing is stay away from those free passes.  She didn’t allow a walk on (Tuesday.)  Masters had two hits and drove in two runs.  She is a good player and sometimes good players just get you, but overall she handled the other eight kids in the lineup very, very well.  She set the tone for us out on the mound,” he said.

          Clear Fork’s defense has been solid all season and again there were no errors on Tuesday. A new name, freshman Brooke Robinson made a circus catch in rightfield in the seventh inning.  Gottfried says that was a huge play.  “I don’t think there was anything that was outstanding or spectacular.  Probably the best one of the night was the one in the last inning.  I mean if that one falls they have two runners on no outs and they have something brewing with the tying run at the plate.  Instead we have a freshmen come in and she had a big hit in Saturday’s doubleheader.  She is one of those kids that I think will be ready maybe a year from now, but when we have a chance for her to come up and help us she certainly can,” said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork and Ashland play again at Ashland on Wednesday in “OCC” play.  They are both part of the Wendy’s Tournament in Ashland over the weekend.

 

Published 4/12/17

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Lady Colts Shutout Wooster; Share “OCC” Lead

  

          Darian Gottfried fired a two-hitter and Clear Fork blanked Wooster (6-0) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference softball game on Tuesday night in the valley.

          The Lady Colts defense backed her up with no errors on the day.

          With a strong wind blowing in all game long, the Lady Colts power game was limited a little bit.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says they had more success when they started using the entire field and that led to a big three run double by Caitlynn Hilverding in the third inning and a (3-0) Clear Fork lead.  “We will take it.  We tell the kids every game starts with pitching and defense.  Some nights you are going to struggle to score some runs.  With the wind blowing in (Tuesday) night we hit two balls that on a normal days they would have been in left field of the baseball field, but the wind just beat it up and we had to adjust and start hitting the ball backside a little bit,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “We got a clutch hit in the third inning.  A three run double to put us up and that kind of got things rolling for us.  Definitely pitching and defense was solid all night long.”

          Gottfried added he believes this is one of the better defensive teams he has had at Clear Fork and there have been some good ones.

          Clear Fork (5-0,3-0) scored three more times in the sixth.

          They ended up with nine hits and Gottfried says they did a pretty good job of adjusting to how they were being pitched.  “She was trying to pitch us inside and all we were doing was hitting foul balls off the third base dugout, so I told our hitters the second time through the order let’s back off the plate a little bit and make that pitch be down the middle and outside because that is where you have to hit it with this wind.  If you try and pull it into the wind it is just not going to go anywhere.  A couple of hits that drove in some runs were up the middle and to right field,” said Gottfried.

          Macy Wade had three hits for the Lady Colts on Tuesday.  Emma Keene and Gottfried added two more.

          Clear Fork shares the “OCC” lead with Mt. Vernon, a (3-0) winner of Madison on Tuesday.

          They play at Wooster on Wednesday and Gottfried says that game is just as important, if not more so.  “It is still early.  We are only three games into it and I told the girls the same thing in the circle.  This game doesn’t mean anything if we go over there and stub our toe.  The second league day is always a chance for a let down, especially with the weather.  It is going to be cold again (Wednesday) and you just have to kind of play as it is.  We tell our girls every game it is sunny and 70 in our dugout,” he said.

 

Published 4/05/17

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Wooster Drills Clear Fork

  

          Wooster scored five runs over the first two innings and broke it open with four in the fourth and went on to hammer Clear Fork (16-3) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Tuesday.

          Leadoff hitter John Nebesky had four hits, three runs scored and three RBI and second place hitter Calvin Blair added four hits and a run scored for the Generals.

          They totaled 15 hits on the day and first year Wooster coach Scott Young says they have been talking a lot about approach at the plate and the Generals has a good one on Tuesday.  “We have been emphasizing approach at the plate.  I think we are kind of learning as we go with a pretty inexperienced team.  We talk about that after and before every game and (Tuesday) night I think we got ourselves in good hitter’s counts and when we got our pitch to hot we didn’t miss it.  We were still aggressive on the bases, but we were smart,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “I think again that is growing pains.  (Tuesday) night it kind of all got put together.  It all starts with a good approach at the plate and knowing what we are looking for is certain counts.”

          Designated hitter Michael Cicolani had the biggest hit of the day for the Generals.  He unloaded a three run homer onto the softball field in the first inning and the Generals never looked back.

          Clear Fork (3-3,2-1) couldn’t get many clutch hits and their pitchers issued 14 free passes to the Generals.  Colts coach Rusty Staab says it was a game he would like to forget.  “It was every aspect of the game.  We couldn’t throw strikes, we couldn’t hit the ball, but we made up for it by not fielding.  It was one of those days,” he said.

          Luke Clark had two hits for the Colts.  The highlight of the day for Clear Fork was Gavin Bailey’s solo homer in the sixth.’

          Drew Friedoff made his first varsity start and went six strong innings allowing seven hits, walking four and striking out five.  “That was his first varsity start.  It was his first varsity innings.  He knew we needed a good outing from him (Tuesday) night and he came out from the very first pitch and was pounding strikes.  I will be interested to see his percentage of strikes.  When I checked in the fifth inning he was about 80 percent strikes.  If we can do that we are going to have a lot of success.  We tell our guys we have to be 65 percent strikes and first pitch strikes we want to be around 90 percent.  All in all it was a good first outing for him.  Now the challenge is to try and come back (Wednesday) and try and do the same thing.  Against good teams you have to do it two days in a row, not one,” said Young.

          Wooster (3-2,2-1) is the defending “OCC” champion, but they are much younger this year.  Young is confident his team is going to get better as the season goes on.  “That is what we have been telling these guys since we started in February,  We are not going to be the same team in March and early April as we are in mid-May.  I think was we get more experience and we grow together as a team and we get live looks against other good ball clubs I think we are only going to get better.  We have to play to get better.  We are doing a good job right now of taking an approach and applying it to the game and hopefully we are starting to see some results,” he said.

          The two teams meet again Wednesday this time at Wooster.

 

Published 4/05/17

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Clear Fork Shuts Down Tygers

  

          Jalen Sheriff fired a five inning perfect game on Wednesday as the Clear Fork downed Mansfield Senior (11-0) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference played at American Legion Field.

          Sheriff struck out six of the 15 batters he faced, including the last two.  He allowed only three balls to be hit to the outfield.  Centerfielder Thomas Staab made a tremendous diving catch of line drive hit by Bryce Hudson in the first inning, that would be the closest the Tygers would come to getting a hit.

          “He was in command.  I told the boys the last time we had a game like that was in 2000 in the regional semis against St. Thomas Aquinas Robbie Thrush threw a perfect game and we won 10-0.  It has been a while.  He had a lot of 3-0 or 3-1 pitches and he came back and slammed the door.  That is the Jalen Sheriff we all know, so it was great to see,” said Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab.

          Sheriff had two thee ball counts in the fifth, including going 3-0 on Breyon Mills, the final hitter he would face, but he came back to strike out Mills and end the game.

          Clear Fork (2-2,1-0) scored three times in the first inning on a RBI double by catcher Luke Clark and two runners scoring on wild pitches.  They then exploded for eight runs in the bottom fourth on when they got four hits and were aided by six Mansfield Senior errors.

          Staab says their goal Wednesday was to take care of business early and they sort of did that after some extra encouragement.  “They are down a little bit this year and they have some young players and we didn’t want to play seven innings.  We wanted to try and get the pitch count down, but we kept popping up.  That lefty kept us out on our front foot and finally I had to say anytime there is a pop up we are doing 150 pointers and somehow that changed all of the sudden.  We have been playing well enough to lose the last couple of games and now we finally came out of a little bit of a hitting slump and did a good job,” he said.

          If the weather permits the Colts and Mansfield Senior (0-4,0-1) will get together again on Thursday at Arlin Field. 

          The other scores in the “OCC” on Wednesday include Madison beating Lexington (3-1), Mt. Vernon trouncing Ashland (18-3) and Wooster downing West Holmes (11-1) in five innings.

          Staab says this has the making of a good team they just have to continue to get better.  “Our two losses came having a lead going into the seventh.  We are going to be a good team we are just not there yet.  We are not doing the little things and we are not making plays that we have been practicing in the gym all winter and it shows.  This is a game where we kind of felt a little bit of confidence and felt loose and just came out and hit the ball.  We got a great outing by Jalen obviously and Gage (Belcher) gets the ball (Thursday) and we have Worthington on Saturday and hopefully we kind of turn this thing around,” said Staab.

          Clear Fork caught fire at the end of last season and advanced all of the way to the division three state semi finals.  Staab says other teams haven’t forgotten that, but they the Colts need too.  “We were here when it was dark (on Monday.)  We did a lot of work on the field, we did a lot of running, we did a lot of screaming.  River Valley came out and just kicked our butts on our field.  I told them it reminded me a lot of the ’96 team.  In ’95 we were in the regionals and we had everybody back.  I am not saying they went through the motions, but they just expected everything,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game on Wednesday, “People are playing a team that went to state last year.  That is all over with for us.  We can’t live on that.  Other teams are saying, hey, this is a team that went to state last year and this is a great opportunity for us to play well and beat them.  So far, Marion Harding and River Valley beat us.”

 

Published 3/30/17

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Clear Fork Wants to Leave “OCC” With a Bang

  

          Clear Fork’s baseball team advanced to the division three state semi finals lat year before losing and they are bringing a lot of that talent back this spring.

          They have some pretty big goals in their final year as a member of the Ohio Cardinal Conference.

          Veteran coach Rusty Staab says they are harboring thoughts of leaving the league with the trophy in their hands.  “We are having a blast.  Our expectations are really high this year.  It is going to be our last year in the “OCC” and we are looking to leave the “OCC” on good note.  We know that has been a whole big saga and everything, but unfortunately we are leaving.  For us to leave on a high note with us possibly winning it I know those are high expectations, but that’s what we have this year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We have a lot of optimism.  The kids are working hard.  Our secret weapon Joe Staab has really been working with the hitters.  Our conditioning has been top notch.  We are ready to go I just wish Mother Nature was.”

          Pitching is key to baseball at any level and Staab says they have a number of guys that can get the ball over the plate with good stuff and that is going to be the backbone of their club this year.  “Mitch Dulan is looking great.  Jalen Sheriff, Davin Bailey, you through in a Gage Belcher, a Dillon Wade, and Jared Smith.  We have the potential to do some serious things.  This winter they all play on travel teams.  They have been getting some individual instruction from some pitching coaches, ex professionals.  So, their mechanics are looking really good.  Their velocity has gone up and I really think that is going to be our strength,” he said.

          The Colts had two scrimmages this past weekend cancelled.  They are supposed to open the season with a doubleheader at home against Marion Harding on Saturday.  They being “OCC” play with a back to back date with Mansfield Senior on Tuesday and Wednesday.

          Rusty’s son Joe, who led Wynford to an “N10” title last year, is now an assistant for his dad and Rusty says that is already paying dividends for the team, especially at the plate.  “I think last year we all kind of knew it was Thomas (Staab,) Luke (Clark,) and Hunter (Auk) and that was it, but that is where Joe has come in.  Joe has really worked with the hitters.  Their common sense at the plate and going up with a purpose instead of just trying not to strike out.  They are working their butts off and we are seeing a lot of progress,” said Staab,

 

Published 3/22/17

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Lady Colts Looking For Players

  

          Clear Fork is one the true dynasties of high school softball in North Central Ohio and they are working hard this preseason to maintain that reputation.

         It has been an interesting preseason in terms of workouts and things that can be accomplished.

          Veteran coach Jeff Gottfried says it takes a lot of mental discipline from the players.  “This preseason ranks right up there with some of the worst ones.  You kind of get that little carrot early on when you really don’t want to be outside yet because you have so many things you really need to focus on, the fundamental stuff, but you feel if you don’t go outside you have wasted a golden opportunity.  When it is all said and done that was about three, four weeks ago it seems like and it is like what good does it do now?  It’s 22 degrees with snow on the ground.  You work on the discipline side of things,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “You can reference it to games and situations where there are certain things that are out of your control and other things that are in your control.  You control what you can and that is your own play and get yourself ready for the season.”

          The Lady Colts won another Ohio Cardinal Conference title last season, but Gottfried says they really have a lot of holes to fill this season.  “Every time we have a new year it is a new bunch coming in.  You always miss those ones that left you from the previous year.  This year is a huge year.  We lost six seniors from a year ago and they all had some sort of role for our team and our program.  There are lots of question marks, lots of holes to fill.  I hope we get some scrimmages is because quite frankly I don’t know until we have seen the kids in action how they are going to perform and fill in those holes.  The upper classmen are doing a great job of passing along to other ones on how they act and what they do putting on that Lady Colts softball uniform,” said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork has four scrimmages scheduled for next week and Gottfried says it will be important for them to get in as many of those as possible.  “You would like to get 28 innings in before you get started.  Four scrimmages and seven innings at least or maybe even more because we go for the maximum time we are allowed.  I still tell everybody give me 20 games because it is going to take more 20 games to figure our team out.  What kid needs to be where and we will have it figured out and headed in the right direction.  Certainly when you can get some innings in that don’t count to teach and correct and at least get those kids headed down the right path to start the season will be nice,” he said.

 

Published 3/17/17

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Puder at the Buzzer Gives Western Win Over Clear Fork

   

          Dale Smith fed Colton Puder on the left block and he laid it in at the buzzer and Western Reserve edged Clear Fork (36-34) in the division three district semi-finals on Thursday night at Norwalk High School.

          They play Edison (15-9) for a district title on Saturday afternoon back at Norwalk.

          “I thought they really over collapsed on baseline penetration.  That is something we picked up on film.  Every week we will highlight a couple of things we think will work.  I guess it was good to save that one for the end.  We said, hey Dale, you have two reads and Dale made the perfect read.  Puder did the easy part,” said Western Reserve coach Chris Sheldon.

          Clear Fork (7-17) played its best basketball in the tournament with wins over Galion and New London.  Coach Steven Bechtel says his kids gave great effort.  “Both teams just battled.  They just made one more play at the end and it just happened to be at the buzzer.  I couldn’t be prouder of the kids with the way they came out and battled every single possession and throughout the tournament and the season too.  Just picking up after a rough year and getting that momentum and carrying us to this position,” said Bechtel.

          Western Reserve, a team that normally relies on the three point shot made only 1-18 threes on the night.  Sheldon says they kept shooting them because that is what they are about.  “It was just a gutsy performance.  We didn’t let it bother us.  I told them at halftime we are getting good looks, we are good shooters, we have to be ready to stroke it, and keep hoisting it.  That’s what we do,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “You don’t get to the district championship game by changing colors.  The zebra has stripes and so do we and our stripe is the three point line.  It was key for us to just keep battling.”

          Puter’s was the only field goal scored by either team in what was a physical fourth quarter.  Clear Fork tied the game at (34-34) at the 4:46 mark of the fourth quarter on two free throws by Justice Rebman.  There were some missed shots, but there was some pretty good defense too for both teams.

          Smith led Western with nine points.  Rebman was the only player in the game in double figures with 10.

          Sheldon says Clear Fork beat them to a lot of the 50/50 plays in the fourth quarter, but his kids gave it all they had.  “I really thought in the fourth quarter they got more than us.  We were just fortunate they couldn’t make a basket either because we gave them a lot of second shot opportunities.  If we don’t clean that up Saturday we won’t be near as fortunate as we were (Thursday) night.  I thought our kids sold out and gave every once of sweat they could and poured their hearts out and we are just fortunate to have the ball last and hit a big bucket,” said Sheldon

          Clear Fork held a five point lead (28-23) with 4:37 in the third quarter on Brennan South’s field goal and a four point lead with 1:49 left in the third after two free throws by Jay Swinehart, but they couldn’t hold on.

          It is the second year in a row for a Western Reserve (15-8) and Edison (14-9) showdown in the district final.  Edison won last year (55-38) and they won a regular season game this year (51-48) on February 18.

“They have some really good players.  It starts with Roberts and Ostheimer and they have some really nice role players.  We had a heck of a battle three weeks ago that came down to the wire.  I am sure me and Kyle (Hammond) are expecting the same thing come Saturday night.  Their kids and going to play well and our kids are going to play well.  We’ll throw the ball up and at the end of 32 hopefully its good news for the Riders,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 3/10/17

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Clear Fork tries to Keep it Going

  

          After not winning a game since mid-January, the Clear Fork Colts have responded with two of the better performances of the season in the division three tournament.

          They play Western Reserve in the district semi-finals at Norwalk High School on Thursday night.

          The Colts destroyed Galion (81-51) last Wednesday and then beat the top seed in New London (61-41) last Friday to earn a sectional title all in the face of playing for what amounts to a lame duck coach in Steven Bechtel, who was told February 17 he was not going to be rehired for next season.

          It was Clear Fork’s first sectional title since 2004.

          Bechtel says right now they are doing a lot of good things on both offense and defense.  “I feel we are playing pretty solid at both ends of the floor and we just have to continue to do that.  Talking care of the basketball and finding open guys and then continuing to box out and finish possessions defensively,” he said.

          Western Reserve (14-8) finished as runners-up to New London in the Firelands Conference this year.  They can put five guys on the floor at one time that can make threes including Colton Puder, Tyler Bartlett, Aiden Markley, Cody Palmer and Dale Smith. 

          Bechtel says that makes them extremely hard to guard.  “They have a lot of exceptional shooters out there.  They have a lot of size as well.  Their defensive intensity is very, very good.  We are going to have our hands full.  We just have to go out and make sure we are taking care of the basketball and getting out on their shooters as well,” said Bechtel.

          Western Reserve’s reputation is built on how they play defense.  Bechtel says they play with great intensity and with a number of guys.  “It is not what they do it is how they do it.  They are very, very intense.  They are just relentless,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They come after you whether you are in the half court or the full court and they do a great job of it.  They sub guys in and they continue to do that and bring the same effort and intensity.  That is going to be 32 minutes long.  We just have to a great job of waking care of the basketball and finding open guys.”

          Clear Fork (7-16) has had a problem with its consistency this year, likely related to its youth.  Bechtel says to win on Thursday night they have to be solid in everything they do.  “I think we have to get out on their shooters.  They gave four or five guys that can actually fill it up pretty good.  We have to take care of the basketball.  We have to play solid defense and finish each possession with a rebound,” he said.

 

Published 3/09/17

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Underdog Clear Fork Looking for Upset of Top Seed

  

          Clear Fork is looking to pull the upset as they face New London, the top seed in the division three district, in the sectional finals on Friday night at Shelby High School.

          The Colts shot 60 percent from the field and five players finished in double figures are they buried Galion (81-51) in a semi-final game on Wednesday night.

          Coach Steven Bechtel says all of that offense came from how tenacious they were on defense.  “Our offense really came from our defense.  In the second quarter we really picked up the intensity.  We got deflections and we got run outs to easy baskets.  Obviously when you start putting layups in and making easy baskets the hoop gets a little bit bigger.  It really opened us up offensively to have a good night there,” he said.

          At (6-16) the Colts have played well in a lot of games this season.  Bechtel says they have to be able to take what they did on Wednesday night to Friday night.  “We feel pretty good if we show up and play like we are capable of we feel like we can play with just about anybody,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They are a very, very good team and they have the player of the year in Ryan Lane.  He is an exceptional athlete and an exceptional player and he has a lot guys around him that can shoot the basketball.  So, it is going to be a really tough challenge for us, but I think our regular season has got us prepared and we should be ready to go.”

          Lane is the district six coaches association player of the year and is headed to Kent State on a baseball scholarship.  Bechtel says he makes the players around him a lot better.  “I think the biggest thing about him is how well he makes everyone else around him play.  It is very unselfish.  He has probably averaged pretty close to a double double all year long.  Those other guys have stepped up and hit open shots.  We have to find them.  It is going to be tough, but I think our kids are going to be up to the challenge,” he said.

          Tournament pressure is different than regular season pressure, so both teams will be feeling that, maybe a little more for New London (17-5) because they are the number one seed.  Bechtel says it really boils down to which team executes better.  “There is a lot of pressure because we don’t want it to be our last game either.  I know they are the number one seed, so there is a little added pressure there. It is two teams that play hard and really rely on their defense, just taking care of the basketball and get open looks.  Whoever can take care of the ball best and executes offensively and defensively is going to come out on top,” said Bechtel.

 

Published 3/03/17

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Colts Have to Make Open Shots

  

          Clear Fork is beginning to execute pretty well on offense and they are getting open shots now they have to start making more of them.

          They travel to West Holmes for an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.

          Last Friday, they chased “OCC” champion Wooster as hard as anyone in the league has all year before losing (71-64) to the Generals.  Coach Steven Bechtel says if not for a shot period of time in the fourth quarter they might have had the upset.  “We pushed them as far as I think they have been pushed so far this year in the league.  The kids bought into the game plan.  We went out and we executed and we made shots when we really needed to.  We got stops when we needed to as well.  I think there was about 90 seconds there in the fourth quarter after we took the lead that we would have loved to have back.  They had an 8-0 run there.  Those guys can score in bunches.  We were just not able to overcome that 8-0 run,” said Bechtel.

          Hillsdale beat the Colts (72-62) in a non-league game on Tuesday night at Les Hauenstein Gym.  Bechtel says it was a night when they just couldn’t make shots.  “I don’t think offensively we played poorly at all.  We shot 8-33 from three point range and these are wide open looks.  We discussed that after the game and (Wednesday) at practice as well.  We were getting open looks we were executing offensively we just didn’t hit shots,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Defensively we knew their three guys were really good and they found the mismatch each time down the floor.  Rogers is a mismatch against most kids that he is going to go up against and he just played really, really well and they went right to him and we didn’t have an answer for him.”

          Clear Fork (5-14,2-10) travels to West Holmes (1-20,1-12) on Friday night.  The Colts beat the Knights (68-63) on January 13.

          The wins haven’t been there this year, but Bechtel says the Knights still have talent.  “They are a dangerous team.  They can score many different ways.  They are athletic.  They are not huge by any means.  They have got guys that can put the ball in the basket.  No matter how well they may be playing they are always going to play hard.  Going down there I believe it is senior night, so they are going to be full up with a lot of energy.  It was a close game with us the last time, so I am pretty sure that they are feeling pretty confident they can come in and play well and come out with a win.  Hopefully we can play Colt basketball and knock in some open looks and come away with a win,” said Bechtel.

 

Published 2/16/17

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Clear Fork Likes Underdog Role

  

          Clear Fork plays at unbeaten Wooster on Friday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference action and there probably aren’t many people outside of their own locker room that give them a chance in Hades of winning, but then again nobody else should matter to them.

          The Colts (5-12,2-9) came close to upsetting Mt. Vernon (61-55) last Friday in an “OCC” game and upsetting Ontario (46-43) last Saturday.  Coach Steven Bechtel was happy with the way they played last weekend and he says they have to continue to move forward.  “Winning is the main goal and if we go over there and play as well as we possibly can and build on what we did last weekend.  Put ourselves in position in the fourth quarter to have a chance to win.  Obviously Wooster has come out on top in all of their games this year because they are extremely good and they hurt you in so many ways.  We just have to go over there and continue to work, play our game, and take care of the basketball, do the little things, and give ourselves a chance,” said Bechtel.

          Wooster (17-0,12-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, has already claimed in the outright “OCC” title and they are ranked number three in the state in division one in the statewide media poll.  They beat Clear Fork (71-50) in their first game.

          Bechtel says they hope to keep the game close and see what happens.  “We have to play well enough to give ourselves the opportunity to win the game in the fourth quarter.  Then when that clock starts winding down and we can get ourselves in position to put some more pressure on them, especially potentially handing them their first loss and that kind of thing, that is what we have to try and work for,’ he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I know it is going to be extremely, extremely hard, but I think our kids are working hard, they are buying in, and I expect us to go over there and play really well.”

          Turnovers, especially in live action, are something you can not have against the Generals.  Bechtel says they need to keep their heads.  “We have already talked about that this week. We have to limit our live ball turnovers.  We can’t have those live ball ones.  If we get a five second count or a three second count, something like that, we can at least get back, and make them play against our five guys, make them earn their baskets.  That will be a huge key.  They do a great job of amping up the pressure and getting baskets for themselves.  I think that is why they are undefeated and we have a huge challenge ahead of us,” he said.

 

Published 2/09/17

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Ontario Survives at Clear Fork

   

          Ontario made four of four free throws in the final 48 seconds and they held off Clear Fork (46-43) in a non-conference boys’ basketball game at Les Hauenstein Gym on Saturday night.

          Clear Fork freshman guard Brenan South converted a driving layup with 1:57 to play to tie the game at 40.  Ontario retook the lead (42-40) on Logan Jones basket with 1:09 remaining.  Quan Jackson gave Ontario a four point lead (44-40) when he converted two free throws with 34 seconds.  On the next Clear Fork possession Chase Endicott buried a three pointer from right corner to reduce the Colts deficit to (44-43) with 21 seconds to go.  Ontario was able to get the ball inbounds and Tre Jordan was fouled and made both three throws with 18 seconds left for a the final margin.  Clear Fork got off a final shot, but it was no good.

          Clear Fork led (24-22) at the half and (29-28) after three quarters as both teams struggled to find good shots.  Ontario coach Joe Balogh says they were more aggressive in the second half.  “I told our kids we were much better in the second half then we were in the first.  I thought in the first we got a little timid offensively and didn’t attack.  I really liked the way our guards took the ball to the basketball.  Quan (Jackson) was good, Jackson (Todd) was good.  We put it on the glass to finish plays,” he said.

          The Colts (5-12) lost two tough games this weekend.  Mt. Vernon beat them (61-55) Friday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.  Coach Steven Bechtel says he hopes they can take what were good efforts and move forward.  “We told the players even after (Friday) night.  That is two nights in a row we played extremely well on both sides of the ball and gotten great effort from our bench as well.  Different guys had to step up and score for us.  The bad thing is we don’t have anything to show for it.  Hopefully, this week we will get back in practice and continue to build on these two efforts,” said Bechtel.

          Balogh has been the Ontario varsity coach since 1986 and he says there have been a lot of tough games for them in the valley over the last 30 years.  “I give Clear Fork a lot of credit.  It’s hard to get kids to understand over the years that we have played there haven’t been very many double digit wins that we have had, especially down here.  This has always been a somewhat difficult place to play and they made it difficult for us (Saturday) night,” he said.

          Ontario’s first lead in the second half came on Quan Jackson’s free throws (26-24) with 2:42 left in the third quarter, but Gannon Seiffert’s two field goals gave the Colts a (29-26) lead with 1:36 left in the quarter.

          Jones old fashion three point play gave Ontario a (31-29) lead with 6:25 left.

          Balogh says they have to make some defensive adjustments in the second half in order to make the Colts more uncomfortable.  “They handled our full court pressure in the first half really, really well.  I don’t think we were really able to create any kind of tempo.  In the second half we made an adjustment and went to some man where we kind of turned and trapped.  The big part was we got some turnovers in the first two, two and half minutes of the third quarter and expended a lot of energy, but we really didn’t stretch anything out,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “I think we only got a couple of points.  We can’t complain we played (Friday) night and (Saturday) and they played Tuesday, Friday and (Saturday.) What you found was two teams that were tired basketball teams, but played really hard.”

          The Ontario coach says they tried to sub a little more after an overtime win (63-60) over Shelby Friday night, but he knew who had to be in the game at the end.  “We tried too, but when we get down to the stretch we are not going to take Trey, Quan and Jackson and some of those guys off the floor.  There is a trust level in those guys and they want to be on the floor.  They make plays, so we tried to use a little bit more of our depth, but late in the game that is not going to happen,” he said.

          Ontario (12-5) had three players in double figures led by 14 from Quan Jackson.  Jackson Todd and Logan Jones both had 11.  Endicott had 11 to lead Clear Fork scorers.

 

 

Published 2/04/17

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Clear Fork Needs Four Quarters

  

          Clear Fork has a couple of home games this weekend with Mt. Vernon in Ohio Cardinal Conference action on Friday night and Ontario in non-league play on Saturday night.

          They lost to Fredericktown (59-57) in a non conference game on Tuesday night.  Coach Steven Bechtel says they didn’t start playing well until the fourth quarter and it was too late.  “We just have to be more consistent.  The first three quarters we kind of didn’t play to our potential and that kind of thing and then woke up in the fourth quarter and really put together a good quarter and put ourselves in position to have a chance to win the game, unfortunately we just came up a little bit short,” he said.

          Clear Fork normally starts a freshman and two sophomores and they do have some youth trying to adjust to varsity basketball and Bechtel says they are going to make some changes.  “We are dealing with young kids and sometimes you never know what you are going to get.  That is just something with the coaching staff we just have to find a better way to get them motivated or get them going or whatever the case that way,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We are going to try something a little bit different to start out with and hopefully that will get us going and we can maintain that effort throughout the 32 minutes.”

          Mt. Vernon (7-9,5-5) plays at Clear Fork (5-8,2-8) on Friday night.  The Yellow Jackets played one of their better games of the year when they beat the Colts (67-33) on December 30.

          Bechtel says they have a lot of solid perimeter shooters.  “They are a good perimeter team, the move the ball well, they share the ball well.  The (Collin) Barteau kid probably sticks out the most, but they have a guy averaging 10, they have a guy averaging nine, a guy averaging eight, and another guy averaging eight too.  They are pretty consistent across the board.  We have to do a great job just guarding the basketball and if they are going to shoot those outside shots that we do have a hand up on them,” said Bechtel.

          Ontario (10-5) will be at Les Hauenstein Gym on Saturday night.  This, of course, becomes a Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference game next year.

          The Warriors have won eight of their last nine games.  Bechtel says this a typical Ontario team in a lot of ways.  “I think they are similar to Mt. Vernon except they are just a little more athletic and they might not have the best perimeter shooters on Saturday night, but they can shoot it from three.  Joe (Balogh) has been doing this a long time and those guys have been playing really, really well as of late, so we are going to have our hands full come Saturday night too,” said Becthel.

 

Published 2/03/17

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Clear Fork Preparing For Mansfield Senior

  

          Clear Fork is going to try and do something Tuesday night that they haven’t done in 35 years… beat Mansfield Senior twice in a season.

          They are going to have to play better than they did in a (73-36) loss to Lexington in Ohio Cardinal Conference play last Friday.

          Coach Steven Bechtel says they didn’t make some open shots early in the game and that led to some poor execution overall.  “We didn’t execute very well.  I thought we did early in the first quarter I thought we did a really good job, watching it on film I thought we did a pretty good job.  Offensive we didn’t hit shots in the first quarter, but we had some wide open looks, they just didn’t go down.  Kind of over the next three quarters there was kind of a snowball affect shots didn’t fall and we kind of broke down here and there defensively not getting back in transition and Lexington took full advantage of that,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They did a great job at both ends of the floor.  It was a complete game by them.  Obviously we can play better and hopefully (Tuesday) was can do it.”

          Bechtel says they have had a couple of good workouts coming into the game against Mansfield Senior.  “We had a short practice there on Saturday and we had a good practice on (Monday) night getting ready for Mansfield.  There are a lot of things we have to do well just to stay in the game.  I think the kids are going to come out ready to play to prove that last Friday was not our best showing and improve on that,” he said.

          Mansfield Senior (2-11,1-7) lost to West Holmes (60-53) last Friday night and they have lost their last seven conference games.  Still, Bechtel says they have athletes and have played some pretty good games.  “Despite their record they are still a pretty good basketball team and our record is not a whole lot better than theirs.  Both teams have to go out and do what they do well and do it for 32 minutes.  Time will tell in what defense we have to be successful in and how we have to attack them offensively.  We have to come out and execute like we have done before,” he said.

          Clear Fork (5-7,2-6) beat Mansfield Senior (60-53) on December 23 marking their first win over the Tygers since January of 1984.  They have not beaten the Tygers twice in a season since 1981-82 when they beat them on a pair of buzzer beaters by Scott Gehrisch and Jeff Baumann.  Bechtel says it will be a big challenge.  “I hope we have some confidence going into the game.  We are later in the year and we are a better basketball team then we were then and we did beat them over there on their home floor.  It is still going to be a huge challenge.  Coach J.T. (Reese) gets them going really hard and they are going to come out with everything they’ve got.  They want to kind of steal one away from us on our home floor now,” said Bechtel.

 

Published 1/24/17

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Clear Fork Facing Another Strong Defensive Team

  

          Clear Fork lost at Ashland Tuesday night and they play another very good defensive team when they host the Lexington Minutemen in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.

          Ashland beat the Colts (52-31) on Tuesday night and coach Steven Bechtel says they made it very difficult for them to get anything in the paint.  “I think they did a great job defensively (Tuesday) night.  They altered our shots inside and we couldn’t make any shots on the outside.  So, they did a great job in their game plan.  We felt good the first half.  We were down 22-16, but we continued with cold shooting and you have to give a lot of credit to Ashland,” he said.

          The Arrows enjoyed a big size advantage in the game.  Bechtel felt his team was pretty good on defense at times, but Ashland did score some easies by getting the ball down the floor.  “We were affective at times.  We tried to mix it up a little bit between man and zone just to try and keep them off balance a little bit.  We were successful sometimes.  They really got out and pushed the ball a few times and got some easy baskets.  They did a great job of executing when they need to and hit some big shots as well.”

Clear Fork (5-6,2-5) plays at home against Lexington, perhaps for the last time, at least for a while, with the Colts leaving the “OCC” after this year.  The Minutemen (11-2,5-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school, lost for just the second time all year to the Madison Rams (56-53) on Tuesday night.

Bechtel thinks the Minutemen are really good on defense and on offense they are efficient.  “Their defense is exceptional.  I think they do a great job there.  They some size on the inside and they have guys on the perimeter that do a great job handing the ball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Offensively they don’t beat themselves.  I am very impressed with how they take care of the basketball.  Guys have stepped up in key games for them.  It is going to be a huge challenge for us come Friday.”

Lexington has one the best big men in the area in sophomore Cade Stover.  Bechtel says they have to keep him off the boards.  “He is a very physical kid.  He has a lot of tools and he uses that body really, really well.  I think the biggest thing is just limiting him on the glass.  If he is going to score inside so be it, but we have to limit his second chance opportunities.  The whole team we have to keep off the boards.  We will try to contain him and hopefully come away with a win Friday,” said Bechtel.

 

Published 1/19/17

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Mental Focus Key for Clear Fork

  

          Clear Fork has talent and more experience and they have beaten Mansfield Senior this year, but they have not always been ready to play and that needs to change.

          The Colts put in a pretty good effort in a (71-50) loss to unbeaten Wooster in an Ohio Cardinal Conference play last Friday, but that kind of effort, at least mentally, was not there in a (55-53) loss to Lucas on Saturday night.

          Coach Steven Bechtel says his team was not ready to play on Saturday night and it cost them and that also have been the reason for the ups and downs the team has went through.  “I think most teams are like that that are in our situation.  We felt we played fairly well on Friday night against Wooster. We came out and competed and obviously they are a very talented basketball team.  Mentally we just weren’t ready to go on Saturday night and that was kind of disappointing,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Coming off a game like Wooster we had to be mentally ready and mentally prepared.  We have a huge challenge in front of us this weekend as well.”

          Clear Fork (3-5,1-4) entertains West Holmes (0-10,0-5) in and “OCC” game on Friday night.  West Holmes plays Berlin Hiland on Tuesday night.  They have lost an enormous number of close games, four of them by less than 10 and two by one point.  They had a 16 point lead on Ashland in the first half last week.

          Bechtel says this is another game they absolutely must be ready to play.  “That is a huge challenge for us.  You look at that record and you think it is going to be an easy basketball game, but mentally our kids have to be prepared and expect a game.  These guys beat us twice last year.  Coach Troyer has those guys playing really, really well right now.  He does a great job with them unfortunately they haven’t been able to come away with that win and hopefully this Friday we can prevent them from coming away with their first one,” said Bechtel.

          Clear Fork has a similar game against Loudonville (1-9) on Saturday night in non conference play.

          Bechtel says they are better team than a year ago, but they just have to have better mental focus.  “We have taken some huge strides.  The guys complement each other this year and we have grown in those areas.  The mental part is really tough.  Hopefully, Saturday’s loss is going to be a huge learning experience for us and we can take be steps forward this weekend,” he said.

 

Published 1/10/17

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Lucas Rallies Past Colts

  

          Lucas rallied for an 11-point third quarter deficit to beat Clear Fork (55-53) in a non-conference boys’ basketball game on Saturday night at the Les Hauenstein Gym.

          The Colts took a (32-21) lead with 7:50 to play in the third quarter on a back door layup by Jared Schaefer, but the rest of the quarter was dominated by the Cubs, who immediately went on a (15-4) run to tie the game (36-36) on Jacob Miller’s three pointer with 2:32 to play in the quarter.  They would take lead on a lay in by Jackson Hauger (41-39) with 1:15 to play in the stanza.

          Clear Fork scored the final three points of the quarter to lead (42-41) after three periods.

          Lucas would take the lead (43-42) with 6:42 to play on a jumper by Jeb Grover and then (47-46) with 4:04 left on another basket by Grover.  They took their biggest lead at (51-46) on a rebound basket by Dylan Dennison with 1:55 left.  They made enough free throws the secure the win.

          “We handled it well.  We missed some free throws and tried to make it as hard as we could on the coach.  You can’t ask for any more than that.  That is a sign of growth there to be able to win games like that.  That was a great one.  We have a stretch in our schedule now where we think we can win some games, so that was a big one to get us started,” said Lucas coach Taylor Iceman.

          Lucas held Clear Fork’s leading scorer Chance Barnett to only four points on the night.

          Coach Steven Bechtel feels they need to show a little more patience than they did Saturday night.  “I think we did that is the first half too.  We said we want a high percentage shot.  Coming off last night our legs were not going to be there like a normal Friday night.  I told them we have to be a little more shot selective.  Lucas did a great job I credit then a lot.  They made shots when they needed to and they got big stops when they needed to down the stretch,” said Bechtel.

          Dennison led the Cubs with 17 points, Grover added 12 and Josh Murphy had 11.  Iceman says it was nice to finally make some shots in the second half.  “We have struggled to shoot the ball here, so it was nice to see some go through.  If we can just make free throws and layups and jump shots all on the same night we will be pretty tough,” he said.

          Lucas (6-4) plays host to Mansfield Christian in a Mid-Buckeye Conference game this coming Friday and then plays Crestview, Kidron Central Christian, and Crestline the week after that.

Iceman feels they were as physical as Clear Fork, if not more.“Obviously Clear Fork with the league they play in they see that kind of physicality every night.  That is always what I am worried about coming over here.  We didn’t handle to well early.  We were able to fight threw it and get the win,” said Iceman.

          Jay Swinehart led Clear Fork with 13 points, including a three with seven seconds left to cut the Lucas lead to one (54-53) but it was too little too late for the Colts.

          Clear Fork (3-5) returns to Ohio Cardinal Conference play next Friday what they host West Holmes.

 

Published 1/07/17

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Clear Fork Faces Unbeaten Wooster

  

          Clear Fork is preparing to play unbeaten Wooster in Ohio Cardinal Conference action on Friday night and then an improved Lucas team in non-conference play on Saturday.

          Last week, they were drilled by Mt. Vernon (67-33) in “OCC” action and coach Steven Bechtel says it was simple the Yellow Jackets played very well and they didn’t.  “I give Mt. Vernon a lot of credit.  They came out and executed on both ends of the floor and we didn’t.  We couldn’t throw the basketball in the ocean if we tried.  On defense, nothing was really going for us.  We talked after the game a little bit that we have to put this one behind us and move on.  The practices this week I think we are and now we are preparing for Wooster,” said Bechtel.

          Yes, they want to learn from what happened last week, but Bechtel says they can’t dwell on it.  “I told them within two weeks we were on the high of highs and we were at the low of lows.  Obviously we know how good the win was against Senior High and how bad we felt after the loss to Mt. Vernon.  You want to forget, but it is sill in the back of your mind and you know about it, but we just have to move on from that.  If we don’t want to feel like that anymore we have to come out and compete,” he said.

          Clear Fork (3-3,1-3) plays at Wooster (8-0,4-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division.  They beat previously unbeaten Lexington (63-41) in a conference game last week.

          Bechtel says they are just good everywhere.  “They do a lot of things well.  I don’t know if you can pin point what they don’t do well.  So, they really force you to do everything right.  They do a great job of getting guys that basketball in great sports for them to score whether it is to shoot it or it’s a guy inside,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Obviously the pressure they put on you is extreme and it is from the tip to the end.  We have to be ready mentally and physically to handle the basketball.”

          With addition of Trevor Smith this season, Bechtel says that has made the Generals more affective in the half court and more dangerous.  “They are the best in the open floor where they cause havoc and make you turn the ball over.  They also have to ability to stretch the defense with they way he can shoot the basketball and that opens it up for a lot of other guys,” he said.

          Lucas (5-4) has become a better team this year with the ability to score more points.  Bechtel says they execute well.  “Coach Iceman has done a great job over there.  They have those kids really believing.  They have changed the culture with a winning attitude.  The kids play hard.  He has done a great of putting the kids in the right position to score baskets offensively and defensively they are much improved,” he said.

 

Published 1/04/17

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Clear Fork Looking to Build on Momentum

  

          Clear Fork beat Mansfield Senior for the first time in 33 seasons last Friday and they look to build on that when they head to Mt. Vernon to tangle with the Yellow Jackets in Ohio Cardinal Conference action on Friday night.

          The Colts rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Mansfield Senior (60-53) last Friday to earn their first win over the Tygers since January of 1984. 

          Coach Steven Bechtel says they made some big plays on both ends of the floor at crunch time in order to get that win.  “Obviously every win in the “OCC” is a big win and with Mansfield probably a little bit bigger.  Our kids really stepped up down the stretch.  We got some timely stops and he hit some big baskets when we really needed to,” he said.

          A win over Mansfield Senior will boost anybody’s confidence, including the Colts, and Bechtel says they want to take that momentum and continue to play some pretty good basketball.  “We obviously want to build on some momentum after winning a game like that on the road, especially the league that we are in, hopefully we can just carry that on and have some success down at Mt. Vernon this Friday,” he said.

          Clear Fork (3-2,1-2) plays at Mt. Vernon (3-4,1-2) on Friday in the “OCC.”  The Yellow Jackets held a one-point lead entering the fourth quarter last Friday, but lost to Ashland (62-48) in a conference game.

          Bechtel says they play well on defense and they have a number of guys that can make perimeter shots.  “They are a very solid basketball team.  They have quite a few guys that can shoot it from the perimeter and defensively they are very sound.  I think coach Coon has those guys playing very, very well and it is going to be a tough match-up,” said Bechtel.

          Mt. Vernon has been able to put together runs, mostly based on their outside shooting, against Mansfield Senior, West Holmes and Ashland.  Bechtel says they have to be able to sort of shorten those rallies a little bit.  “Especially being at home.  They could miss the first few and the next six or seven could go down.  We have to get out there on their shooters and make every shot contested and try not to let them make them in bunches,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We are just going to have to scratch and claw like we do normally and hopefully we can come out on top.”

 

Published 12/28/16

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Colts Play Tygers

  

          Clear Fork goes in search of its first Ohio Cardinal Conference victory at a place that is never easy to win, no matter what year, in Pete Henry Gym at Mansfield Senior on Friday night, two days before Christmas.

          Last Friday, the Colts lost a tough one in overtime to Madison (56-54) in conference play.  They only scored 10 points in the first half, but coach Steven Bechtel says they came out of the locker room and really played well in the second two quarters.  “We were pleased with our effort.  We battled back.  We had a little rough first half were we weren’t hitting too many shots.  We kind of came out and had a really strong third quarter.  I am really proud that our defense stepped up,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We got timely stops when we needed them.  Down the stretch there Madison just made one more play than we didn’t and that happened to be the difference in the ball game.”

          After the game last week, Bechtel told his players that it was a game they did a lot of good things and they need to remember that going forward.

“I told our guys hopefully this will be a great learning step for us down the road that we are going to come out on top in some of these.  I was really proud of how they stepped up and handled themselves down the stretch and throughout the game.  We only turned the ball over six times and we put ourselves in position to win the basketball game,” said Bechtel.

          Clear Fork (2-2,0-2) plays at Mansfield Senior (1-4,1-1) on Friday night in “OCC” play.  The Tygers losses have come to Ontario, Mansfield St. Peter’s, Wooster and Sandusky.  Together they have lost only six games and four of those are by the Warriors.  Bechtel says this is still a very talented team.  “That is a very good 1-4 basketball team.  They do so many things well.  They push the basketball, they still rebound really well.  They are unbelievable off the dribble.  It is not going to be any easy task that is for sure.  Yeah, 1-4, but those kids over there can really play,” he said.

          The Tygers have quick guards that are going to come after you on defense and they have the athleticism to be tough on the glass.  Bechtel says the Colts just have to be very good at what they do.  “We just have top go in and be sound both offensively and defensively.  If we do those two things I feel pretty good about our chances.  Maybe we have learned from the Madison game and we can put ourselves in position and maybe we can come away with a “W,” he said.

 

Published 12/21/16

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Clear Fork Picking up Steam

  

          Clear Fork has won two of its first three games and their win over River Valley on Tuesday night was one of their better performances over the last couple of years.

          The Colts (2-1,0-1) turned a tight game at the half into a (68-47) win over the Vikings as Chance Barnett tossed in 31 points. 

          Coach Steven Bechtel says their defense in the second half set the tone.  “The first half was a little back and forth with them.  Each team made a little run and would climb back into it.  At the half we were maybe up one.  In the second half I thought our defense really stepped up and got stops when we needed to.  I know it is only the third game of the year, but I thought that was the best we had executed our offense,” said Bechtel.

          Bechtel says that win was a boost in confidence for his team, no question.  “That was a huge win for us on the road, on a Tuesday night, you never know what you are going to get sometimes that way and the kids really responded.  Now we have to get ready for Madison,” he said.

          Madison (2-2,0-1) have been very good and just pretty good so far in four contests.  They play at Clear Fork in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.  They let a lead get away in the fourth quarter against Lexington losing (51-49) in overtime last Friday in “OCC” play.  On Saturday, they were downed by a very good Sandusky team (63-51) in non league play.

          Bechtel says that Kyle Jackson has been a big factor for the Rams so far this season.  “He has stepped up in a big way.  He does a lot of different things for them, he can handle ball, he can shoot the ball, he has size.  He is the kind of player every coach would like to have.  He does so many things and does them really well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “He is a great complement to Tyrell.  They have other guys too that can play their roles really, really well.  It is going to be a big challenge for us.”

          You always must execute against Madison because Bechtel says they always play very good defense.  “Their defense has really, really taken a hold the last few years since Mergel has taken over.  They are really physical, they switch a lot of things, and they do a great job of communicating.  We have to go out and execute if it takes a few passes to get a shot that’s what it takes.  We have to do a great job of taking care of the basketball,” said Bechtel.

          Clear Fork plays Tiffin Columbian (3-1) in the first game Saturday morning in the “OCC/NOL” challenge at Ontario High School.  Bechtel says they have to bring some energy.  “They have some solid guards.  They have a post kid that is really athletic and pretty good.  Right now our focus is on Madison.  We have a lot deeper team and whatever we have left on Saturday morning.  I think all hands will be on deck.  We try to find the right chemistry and they right people to go out there and fight for a win on Saturday morning as well,” he said.

 

Published 12/15/16

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Clear Fork Girls Earn First Win

  

          Clear Fork picked up its first win of the girls’ basketball season on Tuesday night in drilling Galion (53-27) at Les Hauenstein Gym in non-conference play.

          Coach Chuck Schmitt says he was really happy for the girls.  “The girls have been working hard all preseason and they certainly deserve that,” he said.

          Galion scored the first basket of the night on a three pointer by Gabby Kaple, but Clear Fork took the lead on Macy Wade’s basket with 5:54 left in the first quarter and never trailed again leading (17-8) after one, (29-10) at the half and (40-16) after three quarters.

          The Lady Colts (1-3) had four players in double figures paced by Tabitha Hamilton and Regan Marshall with 12 a piece, 10 of Hamilton’s came in the first quarter, nine of Marshall’s in the second half, 11 from Wade and 10 from Darian Gottfried.

          Schmitt says they did a better job Tuesday night of executing their offense than they had in losses to Fredericktown, Shelby and Mansfield St. Peter’s.  “(Tuesday) night we got some things.  We hit some post people inside.  We hit some open threes, I don’t know how many we had, but it seemed like we hit some.  Just the flow of our offense was better (Tuesday,) he told Swankonsports.com after the game.

          They connected on six three pointers on the night, four by Marshall, and one each by Wade and Gottfried.  Galion (1-2) was pretty much helpless to defend Clear Fork’s dribble drive offense resulting some easy chances near the basket and some wide open three point attempts from the wing.

          The Lady Colts open up Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Thursday night at Ashland against the Lady Arrows (0-3) and then play Ontario (2-0) on Saturday in the “OCC/NOL” challenge at Shelby High School.

          Schmitt says they are going to need to continue to get better if they are going to beat the good teams on their schedule.  “We need to get better in every area.  I hate to say it like that.  We need to get better defensively, on the ball, stop the dribble.  I think we are playing pretty good help defense, so we need to continue with that.  Get defensive rebounds.  Offensively is just rhythm, being able to execute what we want to do, have patience.  That was it (Tuesday) try to dominate on defense and have patience on offense,” said Schmitt.

 

Published 12/07/16

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Clear Fork Tips Off “OCC” Play

 

          Clear Fork opened the season with a good win last Saturday at Mansfield Christian, but it will be a step up in competition when they play host Ashland in their Ohio Cardinal Conference opener at Les Hauenstein Gym on Friday night.

          The Colts pulled away in the fourth quarter and beat Mansfield Christian (51-46) last week.  Coach Steven Bechtel says they were able to make some big plays in the late going to secure the win.  “We were pleased.  We played a lot of guys and a lot of guys played really, really good minutes and everybody played really well.  It was close pretty much the whole game.  We were really proud of how the guys stepped up at the end of the game both offensively and defensively to help us get the victory,” said Bechtel.

          They were (4-19) last year and Bechtel says he doesn’t think they were would have won a tight game like Saturday night last year and that is a good sign.  He says they have playmakers.  “I think that is what we were lacking last year.  Last year in a game like that we probably would not have come out on top, but I though with the experience that we have from last year going into this year and adding few other pieces to the puzzle that really meshed together and we made the plays that we needed to,” said Bechtel.

          Ashland (1-0) landed a big win on Friday night (60-59) over defending Northern Ohio League co-champ, and division two district runner up, Sandusky.  They feature Grant Dembow, Garrett Denbow and Griffin Gerwig are all 6’5” are taller, plus the Arrows have some athleticism. 

          Bechtel says they will play tough defense and even with their height they have the ability to run the floor.  “When you look at Ashland they are going to be well coached.  Jason Hess does a great job over there.  They have a lot of length this year on their squad.  We are going to have to come out and adjust to that early,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They are going to come out and play really well defensively.  Offensively they are going to want to get up and down the floor a little bit.”

          Gerwig paced Ashland with 23 points and 18 rebounds in the win over Ashland.

          Ashland out rebounded a very athletic Sandusky squad in their first game by 10.  Bechtel says they are going to have to keep the Arrows off the board on Friday night, but that is the case in another game that they play.  “I think that is every game no matter how big the other team is if you can win the glass and limit them to one shot that will be a huge key,” he said.

 

Published 12/06/16

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Clear Fork Opens with Mansfield Christian

  

          Clear Fork tips off the boys’ basketball season at Mansfield Christian in non-conference play on Saturday night.

          Coach Steven Bechtel says they have made some nice progress during the preseason, but they still have a lot of things to get better at doing.  “I think with every coach it gets a little long and drawn out and you are kind of ready to go and actually have the lights on and actually play a real game.  I think we have been pretty pleased with the progress that we have made.  Obviously we are not where we need to be, but I don’t think any team is where they need to be here early in December.  I am happy with the progress we have made and the kids are working really hard with what we want to do,” said Bechtel.

          The Colts return some veteran players to their roster including leading scorer Chance Barnett and Christian Beer, but they will have some younger players too.  Bechtel says it will be key for the older kids to show some leadership.  “We are really counting on those guys that got a lot of playing time last year and a lot of playing experience to really step up and be leaders.  Saturday night is going to be the first varsity game for some of these kids and they are going to be thrown right into it right away and it is going to be a quick adjustment.  We are counting on that leadership and those upperclassmen to really step up and lead those younger guys,” said Bechtel.

          Bechtel says there are three things they have to do every night if they are going to be a good basketball team this year.  “I think every coach’s hope is to hang your hat on playing great defense, taking care of the basketball, and just finding the open guy and getting open shots.  It doesn’t always work that way.  Obviously, we are going to try and play great defense.  Those are three things we are going to have to do to be successful,” he said.

          Mansfield Christian is also a team that is going to feature some youth on its roster, but some veterans too.  Bechtel thinks that the first few minutes of the game are going to be crucial for them.  “They have a great ball handler in the McPeak kid.  They have some guys coming back.  I think they are going to be very similar to us in that way where they have a few veteran guys back and they are going to be counting on a lot of young guys,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Anytime you go against a team coached by John Kurtz you are going to get a team that is going to take care of the basketball, they are going to execute their things really, really well and they are going to play hard defensively.  They are going to have a game under their belts because they play Friday and they are going to feel pretty comfortable at their home place.  We are going to have our hands full, so are going to have to make sure we go over there and match their intensity and get through those first three or four minutes and kind of settle into our game.”

 

Published 12/01/16

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It’s Going to be a Process at Clear Fork



          Clear Fork has a new girls’ basketball coach this season in Chuck Schmitt and he is talking a lot about improvement.

          The Lady Colts open the season on Friday night at home against Fredericktown in non-conference play.

          Schmitt says he has been very happy with the approach and effort he has seen from the players in November.  “Absolutely I have been pleased.  The girls have been working extremely hard.  They have been doing what we asked them to do both mentally and physically.  We have not had one bad practice since we started on the 28th.

          There will be a new approach to both offense and defense this year at Clear Fork.  Schmitt says there is going to be a learning curve to all of that new stuff.  “We are putting in our offense and they are learning the intricacies of the motion offense and how we run it with a lot of screens, a lot of cuts, ball movement.  We are trying to penetrate and kick a little bit for some threes.  We are gaining ground there, but that is going to take a while.  We are playing man to man defense and trying to be aggressive.  That is different for the girls,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They have been playing a lot of zone, particularly last year.  So, are new challenges for them.  Each day I think we are progressing a little bit more and they are learning what relentless effort really is.  So, it has been good.”

          The coach thinks that if they take things one day at a time and concentrate on getting better they have the elements for a good team.  “My biggest concern is for our girls to get better everyday, play as a team, be together, with our building blocks, successes and attitudes.  We are trying to come with great attitude, do what’s right, do our best, take care of each other.  If we are doing those things improvement will come as a team.  We are taking one step at a time, one challenge at a time.  We want to apply those four building blocks to what we are doing and if we are coming out on the positive end most of the time then I think things will take came of themselves.  The girls will gain confidence and our success will be built one step at a time,” said Schmitt.

 

Published 11/23/16

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Colts With Some Experience and Enthusiasm

  

          Clear Fork will return a number of players who saw significant time on the varsity roster a year ago and they hope that leads them to a solid season in their final year as a member of the Ohio Cardinal Conference.

          Coach Steven Bechtel says it has been a pretty good preseason for the Colts so far and he likes the progress he has seen with his kids here in November.  “We like what we see.  Obviously each scrimmage we have gotten better.  Every day in practice we are taking baby steps in certain areas and we are taking bigger strides in others and that is kind of expected right now,” he said.

          With the experience they have back and an influx of players from last year’s JV squad, Bechtel says the kids are working hard in hopes of earning some playing time come the regular season.  “I think all of our kids right now are all working hard and competing for playing time.  We are doing a few things a little different and the kids are going to have to just adjust to that,” said Bechtel.

          Clear Fork opens the season December 2 in a non-conference game with Mansfield Christian.  They play Ashland the next Friday in their first “OCC” game. 

          Bechtel says they must continue to work hard and be consistent in their effort and execution in both practice and games.  “I guess complacency and trying to be as consistent as possible that is always a concern of every coach,” he told Swankonsports.com after practice on Tuesday at Les Hauenstein Gym, “We have to get better every day.  We can’t afford to take steps back.  My biggest concern is trying to get better every day.”

          The coach had a big smile on his face when he talked to us and he says so far it has been a fun bunch to work with.  “We have a great group of kids.  We love our kids here and they come out and work every day.  That’s what we really like about them.  It is fun to be here with them,” he said.

 

Published 11/16/16

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Colts Finish With West Holmes

  

          Clear Fork, coming off a tough overtime loss last week, finishes its season at West Holmes in Ohio Cardinal Conference action, the schools last football game as a member of that league.

          Last week, they lost to Mt. Vernon (20-14) in triple overtime.  The Yellow Jackets broke a seven game losing streak with the win.  “We knew going in that Mt Vernon’s record was not a reflection of the type of team they are, very similar to us, because of the schedule they play with Hilliard Darby and Dublin Scioto and on down the list.  They had played all division one and two schools I believe, with the exception of maybe Lexington.  We thought it was the best offensive line as a whole that we had seen the entire season,” said Clear Fork coach Dave Carroll.

          Carroll explains the decisions he made it terms of not going for a field goal in the overtime period.  “Every Thursday night what we do is work on overtime procedures.  I said guys this game has overtime written all over it in my opinion and this could be one of those games and we have to be ready and by golly it was.  Coaches always look at the decisions you make in a game that is tight like that.  Looking back on it I told the kids I feel bad that I didn’t go for the field goal down there on fourth and one, but my instinct was that we were going in for the win and my instinct was that we hadn’t been real solid with our kicking throughout the year and our offense had more of a chance of getting the thing done,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It is fourth and inches, not even a yard.  If you look at the film the play that was called was there and I think would have been successful not only for a first down, but a touchdown, but we fumbled the snap and you obviously don’t count on that.  I know the rule of thumb is you kick the field goal at that time and win the game.  We did try a field goal earlier in overtime and it got blocked.  You know, hindsight in 20/20 and all of that.”

          Mt. Vernon was able to complete some trick plays, but Carroll thought the Colts defense did an outstanding job last week.  “Once again our kids went out there and just played their butts off and played hard.  I thought our defense did a great job.  They had a reverse for a long play.  They kind of tricked us with something we hadn’t seen out of them and our kids got themselves out of position.  Our defense played pretty darn good.  They put 36 up on Ashland I believe.  They had some big linemen and some good skilled kids.  We just had a hard time offensively pushing their defensive front.  The did a tremendous job making adjustments.  We weren’t able to finish some drives.  We had a bad, bad night passing.  We had some opportunities in the passing game and we just didn’t connect,” said Carroll.

          Carroll says he never questions his kids attitude and approach to the game.  “We have had a crazy amount of injuries to key players and the next guy fills in and does their job.  The character of these kids it is going to pay off.  Everybody looks at wins and losses, but we look beyond that with character issues and fight and toughness and that is what is going to carry them through their adult life.  These guys have set the table for the future as far as how you do things in the football program with you work ethic, your leadership, and your effort.  They are setting the table for when we are in a league with schools our own size,” he said.

          Clear Fork (3-6,1-4) plays at West Holmes (1-8,1-4) on Friday night.  Carroll says their goal is to win.  “We want to send these seniors out with a victory.  West Holmes is a very similar football team to Mt. Vernon from the fact that if you look at their record you say these guys are terrible and that’s not true.  They have played Wooster Triway, who is looking at possible playoffs, they played New Philadelphia, who is a division two or three team that is 8-1, they played Steubenville who is 8-1 and of course the “OCC” teams most of whom are bigger than them,” said Carroll.

          The Clear Fork coach says West Holmes’ personnel is kind of like the Colts.  “They have some big backs, 280 pound lineman, 240 pound lineman.  Defensively they are very much like us they are scrappy, not real big kids, but they play hard every week.  This is a rival, this goes back aways to the “MAC” and throughout the “OCC.”  It is going to be a tough hard fought game.  The team that doesn’t turn the ball over, makes the fewest mistakes, finishes the drives on offense, not give up easy touchdowns defensively, sound in the special teams is going to win it.  I look for it to be tight like last week,” he said.

 

Published 10/27/16

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Clear Fork Edges Edison for Sectional Title

  

          Kaylin Helinski’s penalty kick in the 66th minute was only scoring in Clear Fork’s (1-0) win over Edison in the division two sectional final played at the Colt Corral on Saturday.

          The Lady Colts dominated more than 80 percent of the possession and had more than 10 shots on goal, but could not connect during game action.

          Edison deployed a 4-5-1 bunker style defense with only one forward trying to limit the Lady Colts touches.  Coach Brittney Bechtel says they were able to set themselves up for some pretty good shots, but they couldn’t seem to find the right rhythm offensively.  “We were playing a team that kind of boxed it in.  It is really hard to get your opportunities against teams like that.  We had a lot of opportunities, over 20 some shots, some beautiful crosses, we just weren’t in there to connect or headers that just barely missed.  It just wasn’t our day for finishing (Saturday.)  I’m glad we got it out (Saturday) and hopefully moving forward and we have whatever issues we had out of our system,” said Bechtel.

          The goal was Helinski’s 18th of the season, which leads the team.

          As the second seed the district, Clear Fork (13-3-1) would have been favored in the match, but Bechtel says she told her players nothing is a given in soccer.  “We talked a lot about not taking things for granted.  That was one of quotes they got (Friday) at school and making every minute count.  We didn’t play bad we just didn’t finish what we had.  We totally dominated and had great possession.  Maybe almost too much focus on possession and not on the goal itself and what we needed to put in the back of the net,” she told Swankonsports.com after the match, “Sometimes that is the hard thing about playing a team who is packing things in and only putting one on top.  We had 10 in that surround box and finding shots outside of that just wasn’t happening.”

          The Clear Fork defense, which has pitched nine shutouts this season, blanking opponents in six of seven matches during a stretch of the regular season, was pretty good Saturday limiting the Lady Chargers (8-6-3) to one shot on goal for the afternoon.  Bechtel says they have to cautious that they are not too aggressive.  “We were pretty sound.  They got that one shot off of … I’m not really sure what the call was.  We gave them an extra shot on goal from a direct kick.  We killed ourselves against Ontario giving those direct kicks around our box.  Kaylee (Krausman) was there to save that.  We have to find a happy medium between aggressive and dirty.  They got that one opportunity from a foul we gave them,” said Bechtel.

          That direct kick came just over a minute after the Clear Fork goal.

          Clear Fork plays fellow “OCC” foe Lexington, a (4-0) winner over Vermilion Saturday, in the district semi-final at Lexington on Tuesday.

          The Lady Colts beat Lexington (10-5-2) 2-1 in Ohio Cardinal Conference at Lexington on September 26. 

          Bechtel says they will need to be better finishers on Tuesday.  “It is going to be a good game.  You flip a coin on that one.  Both teams I know are going to come with some fire.  Hopefully we can connect off things we weren’t (Saturday) and do some things right on Tuesday,” she said.

 

Published 10/22/16

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Clear Fork Plays Big Mt. Vernon Team

  

          Clear Fork travels to Mt. Vernon for a non-conference football game on Friday night.

          Last week, the Colts (3-5) played well again, but fell a little short in a (23-14) loss to the Ashland Arrows in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          Coach Dave Carroll was proud of his troops, especially considering all the injuries they had to deal with.  “They don’t give any trophies out for good efforts.  We definitely love what the kids are doing in preparation and how hard they are playing.  Last Friday night, if you go all of the way back to the beginning we had seven starters out, two of our leading tacklers on defense, our two inside linebackers, were out.  From a fan’s perspective maybe not I was really proud of our defense knowing our two top tacklers were out.  We held Ashland to their second lowest point total of the season.  Clyde held them to 21 and our kids held them to 23.  Their first touchdown it wasn’t like they beat us or anything like that it was a blown coverage.  One of our kids made a mistake.  It was a misread and it ended up being a big play.  They played pretty darn good defense,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We are getting great effort and the next kid is just stepping up.  We would like to pull some of those out that would be nice.  We have to be one of the best 3-5 teams in division five in the state.  We are playing bigger schools and playing tooth and nail with every single one of them.”

          On offense, Carroll says they just couldn’t punch it in when they had the chance to put more points on the board.  “We had the ball inside the 10 twice.  Once at the one at the beginning of the third quarter and didn’t score and before halftime in the second quarter.  If we could have got those two scores, but we didn’t, and you have to give all the credit in the world to Ashland’s goal line defense, they did a fantastic job, especially that second quarter play.  We ran an option reverse to our fastest kid.  It looked like he was going to walk in, it was wide open accept for one kid and he stretched it out and made a great tackle to stop us from getting in there,” he said.

          Mt. Vernon (1-7) absorbed a (35-7) loss to Dublin Scioto last week part of a seven game losing steak for the Yellow Jackets.

          Carroll says they believe this is still a pretty good football team they will be playing this week.  “We had scrimmaged them I think every other year that I have been here, so we do have some familiarity with them. We do some seven on seven stuff with them in the summer sometimes too.  I told our kids Monday in the scouting report that this is the best 1-7 team in the state.  If you look at who they have played it is pretty incredible.  They are playing all big schools.  If you look at their schedule it is all division one and two schools all down through.  They played Lexington, who is a division three school.  All big schools Dublin Scioto, Darby, on and on, it’s an undeliverable schedule.  They put 36 points on Ashland, they gave up 49.  So, their record is a very false indication of what type of team they have,” said Carroll.

         Carroll says Mt. Vernon is a big up front and will want to run the football as much as they can.  “We told our kids we think this is the best offensive line we have seen this year bar none.  They are physical, they move well and then they have two backs that are 200 pounders.  The one kid I am familiar with his blood line, the Hart kid.  His uncle played for me at Danville on the ’91 team.  The similarity is unbelievable in the way they run, their body types.  Their fullback is a big kid and they are fast.  They can pound it on you.  We have to be very strong up front.  We have to gang tackle and get after it.  Their quarterback is very efficient and can run a little bit.  They run some wildcat with their split end in the backfield and he is a good athlete.  We have our work cut out for us,” he said.

 

Published 10/20/16

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Clear Fork Has to Believe

  

          Clear Fork plays host to Ashland in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night at the Colt Corral.

          Ashland trails the “OCC” leaders, Lexington and Mansfield Senior by a game and must have a win.  The Colts still have an outside shot at a division five playoff berth.

          Last week, the Colts railed to beat Madison (31-28) by outscoring the Rams (19-7) in the second half of the game.

          Clear Fork coach Dave Carroll says they did a good job of cleaning some things up in the second half and earning their first conference win.  “It showed a lot of character from our kids being down.  We really were moving the ball pretty well.  The reason we went down was our quarterback threw an interception, it wasn’t a pick six, but it was close.  It wasn’t like we were getting crushed or anything.  We gave up a long run where we had a couple of kids out of position and their fast kid, Tyrell Asian, took it to the house.  Then we played a little more aggressively on defense in the second half and our kids did a tremendous job,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “If you look at the stats I think they had minus nine yards rushing in the second half and overall in the game we had 371 yards and I think 330 or 340 of them were rushing.  We were able to run the ball pretty well.  The score was close, but we thought we had pretty good control of the game.  We just made some mistakes that kept us out of the end zone their in the first half.  We got some things corrected and our kids did a tremendous job in the second half.  They did some things too.  They got the ball back and took it down and scored.  Then it comes down to an onside kick and Rick Thomas did a great job covering that thing.”

          Ashland (4-3,2-1) has scored at least 40 points in each of its last three game, including a (49-36) win over Mt. Vernon last week, but they have allowed at least 36 points in those games.

          Carroll says they are younger on defense, but they still have a lot of big play potential.  “They lost a lot of starters from their defense for last year.  I think it was seven or eight.  They are filling in with some new guys and if you get some injuries that makes things worse too.  Their offense will get after you.  They always make it a challenge with their empty spread offense throwing it all over the place.  They will do some things in the run game too to keep you honest in the box,” he said.

          Clear Fork (3-4,1-3) has been in every one of their games this year and Carroll believes that will be the case on Friday night too.  “They are extremely well coached.  They are always a challenge, but we feel we have a good chance of playing with these guys and possibly come out on top.  If we play a clean game, don’t make a lot of mistakes and turn the ball over, and not give up big plays.  Our offense has pretty much moved the ball on everybody we have played and we feel we have a decent defense and a pretty good plan against them.  So, who knows?,” he said.

          Ashland has been the most consistent force in the “OCC” over the years, with more titles than any other school.  However, Carroll says they are not playing those teams.  “They have lost three games.  A lot of times Ashland has an edge over people because of their mystique and they have earned their mystique because they have won a lot of “OCC” titles and they have won a lot of football games.  We try and tell our kids that you aren’t playing those teams, you are playing the 2016 team and that is all you need to worry about are the kids you are playing against right now not the kids they have had in the past.  We know they have had some cool looking teams and cool looking players, but we are playing the 2016 team.  We have to believe.  That is where it starts, you have to believe you have a shot.  You have to prepare first and go out and play and you never know what can happen,” said Carroll.

          He says beating the Arrows is not an impossible task for his team come Friday night.  “They are 4-3 and they squeaked out a win against Wooster.  I am not trying to down grade them at all, but we have seen the film a couple of different times and they were pretty fortunate to win that game.  Wooster had two punt returns called back.  They could just as easily be 3-4 as they are 4-3.  We are not playing an undefeated 7-0 Ashland team, top ranked in the state, and all of those types of things that in times in the past that we have had to face.  Our kids have to prepare the rest of the week, be ready to go, and believe they have a shot, anything can happen, it’s a home game,” said Carroll.

 

Published 10/12/16

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Colts Ready For Madison

  

          Somebody gets their first Ohio Cardinal Conference win of the season on Friday night as Clear Fork travels to Madison to play the Rams.

          The Colts put up a good fight in losing to talented Wooster (42-20) last Friday.  Clear Fork (2-5,0-3) scored the first two touchdowns of the game last week and then cut their deficit to (28-20) in the fourth quarter.

          Coach Dave Carroll says they gave it all they had.  “I am really, really proud of our kids.  We loose a young man that is a tremendous athlete like Thomas Staab.  He is not only a good athlete, but he is involved in everything we do in our offense.  He is a runner and a passer. So, we lose him and lose a heartbreaker by three to Senior, missing a field goal at the end of the game.  For our kids to come back with a sophomore quarterback and to play like we did against one of the top teams in the “OCC” that is just loaded with athletes I was really proud of them,” said Carroll.

          He says they were actually just a few plays short of making it a lot closer game.  “We were up 14 to zip and they scored and we took the ball down in there again on the 10 and we ran a speed option the end took out our pitch man and got a nice little gain and when he hit carpet the ball popped out.  I kind of thought he as down, but my opinion doesn’t really count, the officials didn’t.  If we go up 21-7, man I don’t know.  Our kids fought like crazy against a really good ball club and I can’t be more proud of them.  Close doesn’t count and it still sucks.  It is really tough on our kids.  They are fighting.  They are practicing and preparing and they are going out and performing,” said Carroll.

          Due to the season ending injury to Staab, sophomore Jared Schaefer is now the Colts starter at quarterback.  Carroll says he was outstanding versus Wooster.  “Jared (Schaefer) according our stats had 241 yards passing.  Not bad for a sophomore debut against one of the best teams in our league.  I would have to look back in our stats to see when one of our kids threw for 241 yards against anybody.  Kadin probably did it and some point and time, but I don’t remember that,” he said.

          Madison (2-5,0-3) has lost all three of its “OCC” games to Wooster (38-0,) West Holmes (48-24) and to Lexington (49-6) last week.  Carroll says those are good teams they have played.  “They have played some pretty darn good teams in Lexington and Wooster.  They ran into some trouble early last week against Lexington.  Right off the bat they fumbled and Lexington gets quick score and they had a couple of situations like that.  That is one of those games where to me it kind of snowballed on them and the momentum went totally the other way.  When you have turnovers in your own territory it is tough, especially against a team like Lexington with that great defense.  Wooster was on a roll.  They got up on them early and scored a bunch of points on them quickly.  It is tough when a team of that caliber gets up on you,” said Carroll.

          Carroll says the Rams have tremendous talent in the skilled positions.  He says they can make big plays.  “Madison has as good a skill as anybody.  Their quarterback, their running back is quick, I don’t know all of their names, Ajian is going to Kentucky and is a great athlete.  Blake Dinsmore, he used to be one of our guys, is a tremendous corner, is a tough kid, and plays some receiver for them.  They have some other kids that can do some pretty good things with a football,” he said.

          He says Madison’s record may not be real good, but they have the horses.  “We are not fooled by the record or by the last couple of weeks.  They could at anytime explode.  Last year they struggled a little bit early on and then they took off the second half of the year.  We know what they are capable of,” he said.

 

Published 10/06/16

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Colts Play Talented Wooster

  

          Clear Fork has another tough assignment this week as they travel to Wooster for the last time to face the Generals.

         Last week, they played more than half of the game without starting quarterback Thomas Staab, who had thrown four first half touchdowns passes, and lost to Mansfield Senior (42-39,) missing a field goal with about a minute to play that would have tied the game.

          Coach Dave Carroll was very proud of his team’s effort and performance.  “That was the first game that we played the entire game at a pretty high level.  It is not like we were playing the sisters of the poor.  We were playing a real good football team that had only lost to two big time powers in Canton McKinley and Toledo St. John’s.  They have a kid that has D-one offers and you have the Benson kid that is Mansfield’s all-time leading rusher, just a lot of big talented, fast kids.  I told the kids this is what it is all about.  It was one of the most fun games I have ever been a part of as a player or coach.  Let’s keep fighting and playing till the final whistle and my kids did.  When you lose your starting quarterback that is such a big part of your team and a tremendous athlete lots of times the heads are going to go down and the performance is going to go down, but our kid raised their performance up.  That is all you can ask of them.  Tommy was out and our starting corner Jake Lowe was unable to play in that game at all, our starting kicker, who is a soccer player, was injured in the soccer game the night before, so he wasn’t in there.  In spite of all of those things our kids darn near pulled that thing out.  I am proud of them.  I am even more proud of them this week because they came right back to work on Monday and let’s go beat Wooster.  We have had two really good practices so far and we are looking forward to the rest of the week.”

          Staab has a injured leg and likely is out for the season and Clear Fork will start Jared Schaefer at quarterback and Carroll has confidence in the sophomore.  “We tweak a little bit when you put a new guy at quarterback, but we do what we do, you can’t go wholesale change and confuse everybody.  You just kind of show the process down and play slower, not play as well, and make more mistakes.  We are going to run our offense and do what we do.  Jared (Schaefer) has been in our system the last two years.  He is a smart kid.  He is a competitor.  He does not bring the exact same skill set to the table that Thomas does.  He was our quarterback in our Utica scrimmage because Thomas had a little tweak and wasn’t able to play.  We scored seven touchdowns in that scrimmage with Jared at quarterback.  I know Utica is nor at the level of some of the teams we are playing now, but still the young kid went in there and did a great job and performed very well, so we have a lot of confidence in Jared.  Going in there at the spur of the moment against Mansfield Senior was a pretty daunting task for a sophomore and he passed with flying colors and did a great job,” said Carroll.

          Clear Fork (2-3,0-2) will play at Wooster (4-1,1-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, in an “OCC” game on Friday night.  The Generals lost their first game of the season to Ashland (43-36) in triple overtime last week.

          Carroll says they have very good players on both sides of the ball.  “We knew they would be one of the top teams in the league.  They were relatively young last year.  Their big tailback, the Blair kid, their quarterback, were sophomores and now they are year older.  They did well last year and they have done even better this year.  They are good football team.  They have a lot of speed and they show a lot of skill.  Defensively they are not overly big.  I think the biggest kid on the defensive line is 230, but they are all built well, you can tell they have been in the weight room and they are very, very quick and they are coached well.  We have our work cut out for us on both sides of the ball,” he said.

          With their athleticism, Carroll says Wooster can do a lot of things in the special teams to make big plays.  “What I am impressed with is when you have great skilled athletes and speed your special teams are pretty good.  They return kicks and punts on people like it is their job.  Then they have a kicker that can put it out of the end zone.  Sometimes they will pooch and have their fast athletes run down there and cover the football.  So, you never know where that ball is going on a kickoff.  In kicking situations they will line up in their offense, so you have to line up in your defense, so they do a nice job of not allowing you to return punts.  All phases of their game are very good.  We told our kids that it is not like we haven’t played some pretty good teams, especially the last three weeks and we played all of those teams very well.  There weren’t any blow outs or anything like that.  We had our chances in every one of those games to come away with a victory.  We still feel we are a good football team,” said Carroll.

          Carroll points out they are playing a much bigger school again.  “I want to remind people that we want to win that game, we want to win every game more than anything, but we are division five playing against division two, and that is the way it was last week and that is way it is again and that is tough,” he said.

 

Published 9/28/16

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Clear Fork Hosts Young, but Talented Tygers

  

          After a tough loss to rival Lexington last week, the Clear Fork Colts return to the Colt Corral to host the Mansfield Senior Tygers in Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Friday night.

          Lexington downed the Colts (21-0) last week in the conference opener.  Clear Fork coach Dave Carroll says he thought they drove the ball better than he thought they would against an outstanding defense, but they couldn’t punch it in.  “I was concerned they had been really good and well coached.  They are quick kids that play great assignment football and very disciplined.  We told our kids that is was a game where we had to be patient on offense that we were not going to get a whole lot of big plays.  They just don’t do that with the way they design their defense.  Four yards is good, four yards, four yards, four yards, that adds up to first downs.  I was proud of our guys we were getting five, six, seven, sometimes nine, sometimes a little bit more. We had some snafus where we had a negative play, but for the most part we moved the ball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “I can’t recall this happening, we were inside their 25 yard line five times and came up empty.  That is a tough one.  We had more first downs than they did, but we didn’t finish.  It is a testament to their defense and there were some mistakes made on some of those drives.  We moved the ball better than I thought we would against that defense, but we couldn’t finish and score.  With us getting the ball inside their 25 yard line five times it could go either way.  We just couldn’t capitalize on the drives we started.”

          It is tougher to move the ball in the red zone and Carroll says the Colts (2-2,0-1) just made big mistakes at the wrong time against Lex.  “The first drive we take it right down the field.  We had the ball on our hash and I believe it was third and four.  We have two downs to get four yards, so we call a play that was taken in by one of the players.  We had a bad communication and somebody in the huddle, the quarterback, should call time out, but we ran it and that was one of our negative plays and now it is fourth and seven.  It is just things like that that have plagued us.  Another one when we get down there and we run the roll out because we know they are going to blitz and we want to get Tommy out of the pocket.  A kid runs the wrong route, the ball gets tipped and picked off.  It’s just like that continues to happen,” said Carroll.

          Clear Fork’s offense has been inconsistent this year and Carroll says their passing game has to improve.  “Our passing game is not where it needs to be.  When you get in some situations and you get down there with a third and eight or a fourth and seven and a run is hard to come up with to come up with eight yards down in the red zone.  Part of it is the passing game must improve.  We are doing some things there with our quarterback, with out scheme and our personnel.  We have told our guys that the passing game in today’s world is born in the summer.  That is why we had seven on sevens.  It used to be you would run, run, run, and throw a tight end dump or something and now it is complex.  It would be nice to pound it down their throats and win, but that is not today’s football.  Being division five against these bigger schools you have to be able to chuck it once in a while.  We are not getting enough of our kids in the summer to commit,” said Carroll.

          Mansfield Senior (2-2,0-0) beat Delaware Hayes (35-21) last week in a non-conference game.  This will be the Tygers first “OCC” game.  Carroll says the Tygers have some tremendous young talent.  “I am really impressed.  They had 19 senior starters last year and they have reloaded.  They have some young kids playing, they have some freshmen playing.  They have a freshmen tight end that is 6’5’, 220, linemen that are 250, 260 that are freshmen, and I am like, wow!  We have a tough time coming up with seniors that weight 250 pounds.  They have a freshman corner that is really talented.  It is mind boggling to see these young kids with the size and athleticism,” he said.

          However, Carroll knows the team revolves around the play on both offense and defense of senior Brian Benson.  “You start with Benson.  I am so impressed with this young man.  We helped him start his career his freshman year.  It was that big shoot out where it was 60 some to 40 some.  Vickers was the starting running back and he hurt his ankle or something, so in comes Benson as a freshmen and he racked up 300 on us in his first game as a starter.  If he goes on to have a bright college future I would like to get some credit for that.  He is talented and quick and runs hard.  Then he goes over and plays inside linebacker on defense, I think that is where he was all-state last year if I’m not mistaken, and this kid never stops.  The ball is 20 yards down the field on the other side of the field and he is in on the tackle.  I told our kids this how you play football.  He runs the ball all of the time, he is the leading rusher in their history, and he is in all these tackles and covers on the pass.  He has just an amazing motor,” said Carroll.

          Benson is not all the Tygers have, according to Carroll, they have other big time players on offense.  “The have the Manns kids that has been offered division one scholarships at receiver.  He has been out the last couple of games, but I am sure he will play against us.  He is a big time threat.  Their quarterback has a nice arm on him.  They run much more than they throw, but he is solid.  He can run a little bit too.  He isn’t what I would call a running quarterback, but he can if he gets in trouble,” he said.

          Speed is the name of the game on defense too.  Carroll says Mansfield Senior is really aggressive.  “Their nose guard, 24, I don’t remember all of their names and he is just quicker than a cat.  They have speed everywhere.  They can do some things that sometimes aren’t technically sound, but then because of their quickness and aggressiveness they fly and get to the football.  They load the box up and wreak havoc with the offensive linemen.  There are a lot of plays in the backfield.  They play a lot of bump, tight man behind them because they can.  They have those quick kids back there that can cover,” he said.

 

Published 9/20/16

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Defense Name of the Game with Colts and Minutemen

  

          Clear Fork plays host to Lexington for perhaps the last time on the football field on Friday night at the Colt Corral and it promises to be a physical battle.

         The Colts leave the Ohio Cardinal Conference for the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference next year.

          Last week, the Colts (2-1) suffered their first loss (41-18) to Shelby, but coach Dave Carroll feels the game was actually closer than that and was proud of his team’s effort.  “We knew Shelby is a very good football team and we would have to play really well.  We did a lot of things well and that is what we have focused on.  Defensively, we gambled, we rolled the dice, and it bit us in the butt.  We played tight man coverage and we had the rest of the boys in the box, lost of times coming hard and when they broke through they were gone.  Hindsight is 20/20, but we might have done a couple different things.  Our defense in the first half played pretty darn well, take away a couple of plays.  We had a goal line stand on the one and that is pretty impressive against a team like Shelby.  We had another stand fourth and one in our territory.  Our special teams overall played pretty darn well.  Our statistician had us for 350 yards of offense, but I know just off the top of my head there were three 20 plus yard plays called back on penalties.  We had a long run by Lan McDanal, we had a nice run by Thomas Staab, and a pass to Sloan Bowman of 25 yards that were called back.  So, there is another 60 plus yards.  Our offense could have should have over 400 yards.  We moved the ball.  We had multiple opportunities.  If you look at the second half we had a double pass and the kid was wide open for a touchdown and we had a bad pass.  That would have made it an eight point game.  On the first drive our coaches made a great call from the box and we had a pass to our tight end and he dropped it.  If you were at the game you know it was a much closer ball game,” said Carroll.

          Carroll has been coaching football for 30 years and he questions Shelby’s last touchdown.  “Their last score we weren’t really pleased with.  I have been in the game a long time and when you have the ball under a minute inside the opponent’s five the game is over you take a knee.  Even people from Shelby I know said wow, but some coaches do that,” he said.

          Shelby is ranked #2 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division and Carroll believes they gave them a run for their money.  “That was one of the better teams on our schedule and we were in the ball game.  I thought our offensive line did a really good job against their defensive front.  We were able to run the ball and complete some passes and we did a pretty good job there.  We can’t give up big plays.  If we could have taken one of those away.  Here is how the game started, they have the ball and we stopped them on a three out and we have a 10 play drive, we are methodical and score and they get the ball one play and touchdown.  It takes your momentum when that happens.  They are a good football team, but we still think we are a good football team and we have a lot of football to play,” said Carroll.

          Lexington (1-2) lost to Norwalk last week (9-7) to drop their second in a row.

          Carroll points out the great job the Lexington coaching staff has done.  “Coach Gerhardt and his staff have done an unbelievable job of guiding them through the tough times they went through.  They were losing, their numbers were down and they kept these kids together.  We all know those are tough times when your kids are young.  When you play young kids and you are losing kids don’t want to play.  Then they pop out a 6-4 season last year,” and he adds they are very well schooled on defense, “I believe they have the best coached defense in the “OCC.”  They don’t have the best players, they have some darn good players, but how they teach those kids is excellent.  I have been in this game long enough to know good coaches and they do a great job.  They are very disciplined and just the way they run their defense.  With Norwalk I was a little surprised when I heard the score Friday night, but when I looked at the film Saturday morning and Norwalk is a tremendously improved team.  Their defensive front is tough and they did a great job of getting push against Lexington’s offensive line.”

          On offense, Carroll says Lexington is going to try and run the ball and they aren’t going to put their defense in bad position.  “They are going to run Biddle hard on the inside and the outside, the quarterback will keep it now and then, they will throw when they need to or just mix a little play action in.  They don’t take unnecessary risks offensively.  They try and move the sticks and rely on that defense.  They are a very good team.  I know they are probably disappointed with these last two outings, but we all have a lot of football to play,” he said.

          Carroll has been involved in a lot these games both as a player and coach and he looks for a real battle.  “I think this is going to be a slobber knocker.  Lexington and Clear Fork huge rivals in football and it should be fun.  I still believe our defense is really good also and you are going to see two defenses going at it,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “To me it is going to be who can get their offense going and block the other guys defense, who can not turn the ball over, and not commit stupid penalties that are drive killers.  The special teams become huge when you have two stout defenses like this.”

          The fact this is the last meeting, at least for a while, Carroll says will bring some added emotion to it.  “It doesn’t get any better than Lexington-Clear Fork game whether it is in football or basketball.  It’s just a blast and the emotions are running high.  To add a little bit more to it we aren’t playing after this year.  Hopefully we will at some point and time, but they are not on the schedule for next year.  This is the last one until who knows when,” he said.

 

Published 9/14/16

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Clear Fork Faces Tougher Opponent

  

          Clear Fork has played some excellent football in spots this year, but they are going to need 48 minutes of that on Friday night when they host the Shelby Whippets in non-conference play.

          The Colts (2-0), #5 in the first Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the small school division, played an outstanding first half last week and then hung on to beat Ontario (21-14) on week two.

          Coach Dave Carroll says they didn’t finish that well, but they were really good in the first two quarters.  “They always say a bad win is better than a good loss.  We played tremendous in the first half.  It was one of the best first halves of football that I can remember us having here at Clear Fork since I have been here.  We scored three touchdowns, had nice drives, were able to run the ball, we really didn’t have to throw it unless we wanted to.  We should have had a fourth touchdown there in the second quarter.  We had a double pass and the kid was wide open.  Our defense held them to negative nine yards of offense.  You can’t ask for much more than that,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Ontario did a tremendous job of making some adjustments and getting their kids excited to come out and play a great second half.  I don’t want to take anything always from my kids because that was one of the best halves of football since I have been coaching.  We did what it took to win the game and the last time I checked that was the objective.  It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done.  Obviously, you don’t want to attempt to win that way very often because a lot of times it isn’t going to turn out that way.”

          Shelby (2-0), #2 in our poll in the large school division, outlasted Lexington (17-14) last week.  Carroll says the Whippets have a lot of weapons and they have some solid play in the trenches.  “They are a tremendous team across the board.  This group has been together for the last three years.  They have skilled athletes everywhere you look.  Kids that can run, kids that can catch.  Armstrong can run and can throw.  They have a nice sized line on both sides of the ball.  A lot of those kids that are skilled athletes offensively are linebackers or db’s, so you have the same group of athletes on the other side of the ball.  They are very well coached.  It’s a big challenge for us.  They are a very good football team.  They won a huge game when they beat Lexington.  Their excitement and their confidence level is probably sky high,” said Carroll.

          Clear Fork has won all three of the meetings in this series, including (20-13) last year at Shelby and (20-19) the year before at the Corral.  However, Carroll says this is clearly the best Shelby team they have seen.  “Two years ago we won here on a bomb to a wide receiver that Kadin Christina threw.  Last year, of course, we were down and came back and got ahead of them and were able to hang on for that win.  That was one of those games that was kind of an ugly win.  We didn’t complete one pass.  I can’t every remember coaching a game win, lose or draw that we didn’t complete a pass.  To beat a team without completing a pass was pretty amazing, not that we will ever try that again.  Then again they are a very, very good football team.  I think they have improved vastly from last year.  It is a lot of the same kids with Armstrong and Devin Brooks and Carter Brooks.  They played those guys early.  Derrick Rose, their defensive end was their nose guard three years ago when we played them.  These kids have all just stayed in the program and worked hard and they have matured and they have a heck of a ball team.  It is going to be quite a challenge for us,” said Carroll.

 

Published 9/09/16

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Colts Need to Make Next Step

  

          Clear Fork took the first step to being a good football team last week against Fredericktown, but they will need to make an even bigger step to beat Ontario this week.

          The Colts scored the first three times they had the football last week and went on to punish the Freddies (42-7) in the season opener.

          Coach Dave Carroll liked most the smiles that he saw on the players faces.  “I was extremely pleased to see our kids have fun after a game.  After they shook hands they ran down and sang the fight song with the band.  Then they went and rang the victory bell.  They hugged each other in the locker room.  It was just awesome because these kids are good kids, they work hard,” he said.

          It was a good effort, said Carroll, but it was against a Fredericktown team that is rebuilding.  “They played petty well.  It wasn’t a perfect game by any means.  Defensively it was kind of close.  Offensively we made some mistakes.  Our kids realize that Fredericktown lost a lot of good players last year.  They are kind of starting over again and rebuilding things with a lot of new faces.  That is a situation we have been in the last couple of years.  It happens at a small school you recycle.  We were very happy to get that win, but we also know we have a lot of things to work on.  Each week the schedule gets better,” said Carroll.

          A step in the right direction for the Colts when compared to the last couple of years, but the coach says a lot of mistakes were made on offense that can’t happen this week.  “We turned the ball over two or three times.  If that happens against a good team you are going to lose.  We had some penalties that are kind of the inexcusable kind, two guys going in motion at the same time.  Then we made some reads in the passing game where we had guys wide open there before half.  People were asking why we weren’t in the hurry up.  Well, number one we were up quite a bit.  Number two, I had a plan,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We were going to run the jet sweep twice and they had never stopped it.  Then we were going to run the play action pass and score a touchdown.  We ran two pass plays and the kid was wide open and we chose to throw it to someone that wasn’t open and we missed an opportunity.  Those are the kind of things we have to clean up offensively.”

          Ontario lost their opener (24-6) to a very good Lexington team.  However, Carroll knows the Warriors are going to end up being a very good team too.  He says they are very strong up the middle on defense.  “Coach Hawkins is a veteran coach that has been around several schools and has been successful everywhere he has been.  He is a very good coach.  They play really solid defense.  They gave Lexington’s offense some problems for most of the game, especially on the interior, their nose guard and linebackers, tackles are pretty good football players and do a good job against the run, so our offensive line is going to have a challenge to block and open up some holes,” he said.

          And on offense they have some playmakers, especially quarterback Trey Jordan.  “Offensively their quarterback is a runner.  He is a read option player.  He scored on about a 50, 60 yarder against Lexington, out ran their defense.  He reminds me of a Ben Rothlesberger type quarterback, not the size, but the ability to scramble around and pull up and throw the ball down the field or he will run it on you.  Our defense has to start with him.  We can’t let him run lose and take it to the house.  They have a couple of good tailbacks.  They have a big offensive line.  They can throw the ball around a little bit.  They are a very formidable opponent.  Our defense will have to play very, very well,” said Carroll.

 

Published 9/01/16

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Clear Fork Must Limit Mistakes

  

          Clear Fork hosts Fredericktown in the annual Hall of Fame Classic at the Colt Corral on Friday night to open the high school football season.

          After two pretty good performances in scrimmages against Tinora and Utica, the Colts struggled against Marion Pleasant in their preview last Friday.

          Coach Dave Carroll says they have come out this week and practiced with a lot more focus in getting ready for the Freddies.  “I think we have a little more sense of urgency.  I think we were a little complacent after the first two scrimmages that we did really well in.  Now it’s game time and there are no more practice scrimmages.  Now everything counts and I think the kids have a good grasp of that.  They are pretty focused in.  They have given a great effort so far this week.  Now it is just getting prepared, understanding your assignments and getting that emotional build up as the week goes on and having that focus and getting ready to go,” said Carroll.

          The coach says they got some things on film they can learn from and go forward.  “Looking back on it now it’s never fun the night it happens and things don’t go your way.  The after effect isn’t all that bad.  Sometimes you have to get back to reality a little bit and look at the film.  We did learn a lesson and it grounded us a little bit,” he said.

          When it comes to the Freddies, Carroll says there are going to be any surprises in terms of what they are going to try and do.  “The Fredericktown staff does a great job.  They are always disciplined.  They give you everything they have got.  They play with great passion and heart and effort.  They don’t make mistakes.  They don’t turn the ball over.  They don’t commit very many penalties.  I am sure they have some stuff in the bag that they haven’t shown yet, but it is pretty much what they did last year and the previous years to that,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They are going to run power down your throat with an “I” formation, trap you, then they are going to get in the gun and roll out and pass.  They have a very controlled passing game and the quarterback can run at any time if he sees an opening.  They do some things out of the shotgun running the ball.  They run counters like crazy.  They run jet sweeps and quarterback sweeps.  It is stuff we are familiar with.”

          Like most games, Carroll says this one is going to boil down to execution and who makes the fewer mistakes on both sides of the ball.  “It is going to come down to execution.  Who makes the fewest mistakes.  Who has the less turnovers.  Who plays the most sound in special teams.  Last year I made a bad call.  We went for a fake punt and we didn’t get it and they scored on that drive.  Not to long after that we fumbled a punt inside our own 20.  I always tell kids that game one that everybody is not the greatest in special teams, but if get a punt blocked or fumble a punt it can cost you the ball game.  The last two years this game has been pretty impressive as far as competitiveness.  We know they are going to fight, they are going to play hard, they are going to play disciplined and have to do the same thing,” said Carroll.

 

Published 8/24/16

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Durham Thanks Clear Fork

 

          When Pat Durham started teaching in the Clear Fork Schools Lyndon Johnson was President, the Beatles were still together and landing on the moon was still a dream.

          50 years later he is being inducted Saturday into the Clear Fork Valley Athletic Hall of Fame.

          Durham says he really had no idea there would be such support for his inclusion.  “It came as a total surprise.  I was the varsity basketball coach there for five years, I was the varsity baseball coach for four years, the tennis coach for five years.  I was junior, freshmen, and assistant football coach for 13 years.  I taught and coached there for 21 years.  Whatever I did in those 21 years was always a learning experience.  I think I became a better coach and teacher as the years ran by, I hope I did,” he said.

          He graduated from Columbus Holy Family High School in 1961 and The Ohio State University in 1965.  After a year at Mt. Vernon St. Francis he was hired in the valley.  “People that I coached in the 60’s and early 70’s have grandchildren now who are playing.  It has been a long time.  I have never sat down and computed how many players I must have had over the 21 years.  A lot of kids that I coached did become coaches.  Hopefully I was a positive influence on most.  I know looking back there was any number of kids that I was a negative influence to, which I regret to this day.  Life goes on,” he said.

          Many individuals who have been coached by Durham say he made them perform at a higher level than they ever thought they could.  However, he says most of them had more of an influence on him.

          Including, Ed Smart, now a varsity football coach in Kentucky.  Smart played on Durham’s first varsity basketball team and then coached under him at South Central High School.  “I brag to teams that I coach today that we ran a 1-4 offense that he handled the ball 90 percent of the time and he only averaged one and half turnovers against a schedule made up of schools mostly larger than us.  He coached an 18-2 JV team at South Central and was a real architect with some of the success that followed with me after that.  Eddie is one my favorite all time people,” said Durham.

          Doug Ute, the Superintendent of Newark Schools, and former basketball coach at Clear Fork, Sarahsville Shenandoah, and Buckeye Central, never played basketball for Durham, but has consistently acknowledged his guidance.  “Doug Ute is probably still Clear Fork’s all time best basketball player in the sense that he made those around him a lot better.  He was one of the quickest kids I have ever seen on a basketball court.  An above average shooter, who preferred to pass first.  I would like to think I had some influence on him, but he has influenced me much more positively,” said Durham.

          He became Clear Fork’s varsity basketball coach in 1981 and coached there until 1986.  He says he remembers successes at every level. “My first varsity basketball team we beat Mansfield Senior twice by a total of three points.  We beat a state ranked Lodi Cloverleaf team, who was 18-0 when we played them and had not had a winning margin under 20 points all season.  We beat them rather handily at home after losing the night before to a really good Mansfield Malabar team.  There are many more down through the years,” he told Swankonsports.com, “I am very proud the teams I coached had a winning record against Lexington.  We were never swept by them in season.  I had some outstanding experiences at the junior high, freshmen and junior varsity level.  I was very competitive as a young coach and I think my teams were too no matter if it was seventh grade or varsity.  I put the same emotional input into each game regardless of the level I coached at.”

          Durham taught science and physical education in the Clear Fork Schools.  He says he loves hearing from former students, especially those that weren’t athletes.  “I take a little more joy when someone mentions something that may have occurred in biology or physical education class, that was maybe second nature to me or incidental, that really stuck with them through their life in a positive way.  I take more satisfaction in reminders from those people that I was a good teacher.  I know that I wasn’t always and I wish I had done a better job at times.  Again, you live and learn,” he said.

          Durham will be inducted, along with Travis Hissong, currently in the New York Yankees minor league system, Pat Luers Baron, one of Lady Colts first very good basketball players, Cole Kolikohn, former writer at the Bellville Star, who’s idea it was to have a Hall of Fame, Paul Yarman, a longtime weightlifting coach at Clear Fork, former Bellville High School football coach Fred Martinelli, and the 1966 Clear Fork football team, Saturday at 6 PM at Clear Fork High School.

 

Published 8/21/16

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Martinelli Believes in Chemistry

 

          Fred Martinelli began his football coaching career at Bellville High School in 1951 in an era when football was like moving piece on a chess board made up of men that were tough and would fight for each other to the very end.

          He liked it that way.

          He still does.

          He will be inducted into the Clear Fork Valley Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

          Martinelli coached the Blue Jays to an undefeated season in 1953.  He says he was lucky the community allowed him to grow as a coach.  “It was an unbelievable job.  I was my first job coaching job.  I was 22 years old.  At times you think that a coach waits for kids to grow up, but I think the kids at Bellville waited for me to grow up.  It was a great place to coach.  Great kids and great parents,” he said.

          The coach says they weren’t fancy in those days.  He says they concentrated on running the football and stopping the run.  “By the time I got to my third year I simplified things.  Basically we were a version of the spilt “T” offense and the inside belly offense.  We ran the ball all of the time.  We may have a game where we might throw five passes.  On defense we were a 5-2 or a 6-1.  We didn’t have many stunts that we used,” he told Swankonsports.com, “We just lined up and played from there.  The game has changed a lot.  In fact, there were two or three changes.”

          Football teams that are successful build a bond that never is broken.  It exists long after they aren’t on the gridiron, court of diamond.  Martinelli says his Blue Jays still have that bond.  “That group is unbelievable.  We meet every other year and we have been doing that for the last 20, 30 years.  I think that was part of the secret of their success they played together and they partied together.  They just got together all of the time.  At this point there are a lot of them that are not with us.  The one thing that I remember was the great comradely among the players of my era,” said Martinelli.

          He also coached basketball and baseball at Bellville from 1951through 1956.

          He knows how important the chemistry on a team can be and always worked to build it.  “That is extremely important.  I was fortunate to get into that and understand what was happening with my teams at Bellville, at Bryan and Ashland College.  I always made a big effort to try and build that chemistry.  It has been a major part in our program,” he said.

          Martinelli will serve as Clear Fork’s honorary captain when they host Fredericktown for Hall of Fame Classic game on Friday night.  He will speak to the team on Thursday night. 

          He will be inducted, along with Travis Hissong, currently in the New York Yankees minor league system, Pat Luers Baron, one of Lady Colts first very good basketball players, Cole Kolikohn, former writer at the Bellville Star, who’s idea it was to have a Hall of Fame, Paul Yarman, a longtime weightlifting coach at Clear Fork, former Clear Fork High School coach Pat Durham, and the 1966 Clear Fork football team, Saturday at 6 PM at Clear Fork High School.

 

Published 8/22/16

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Hissong Honored to be Inducted

 

          2010 Clear Fork High School graduate Travis Hissong will be inducted into the 2016 class of the Clear Fork Valley Athletic Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the high school next Saturday.

          Hissong was a member of a state champion baseball team and also some pretty good football teams as a quarterback.

          He pitches for the class “AA” Trenton Thunder in the New York Yankees organization and will not be able to attend the ceremony.  He says it is a great honor that he will cherish and a surprising one.  “I wasn’t expecting it, it’s an absolute honor.  Jerry Marshall called me and asked me for my address and a week or so later I got the paper in the mail that said I was going to be inducted.  Hopefully we are going to be hitting playoffs pretty hard and hopefully getting ring.  I think Jeremy Riddle, my high school coach, is going to be kind of my honorary person there.  I wish I could be there, but the playoffs are pretty important.  I would definitely be there if I could.  I can’t wait until I get back to Clear Fork in the off season and talk to some people then,” Hissong said.

          Hissong started the state semi final in 2010 and dominated Independence striking out 11 and allowing only one hit in going the distance  for the Colts in a (5-0) win.  “That whole state tourney run was pretty unforgettable.  It was a lot of fun.  Just being with your friends growing up.  That Independence game, the state semi final game.  I pitched a good game and our offense came out.  I think we won that game 5-0.  That last pitch of the state finals game was great.  It was a relief off of your shoulders.  We finally did it.  We were state champs.  You are on the mound and all you buddies come swarming in around you.  That is something I will keep with me forever,” said Hissong.

          Hissong pitched two and two thirds innings of shutout ball in the Colts (14-3) win Wheelersburg in the state championship game in June of 2010.

          He went from Clear Fork to pitch division one college baseball for Wright State, near Dayton, and then was signed by the Yankees and a non drafted free agent in June of 2014.

          He made his first appearance at the “AA” level a couple of months ago in Akron against the Rubber Ducks.  Hissong says it was kind of cool to be able to pitch, so close to home.  “I try to keep in touch with Jake, Joe, Brendan, we all played together in high school.  A lot of people, coaches, family all came out.  A lot of support came from Clear Fork.  I left almost 100 tickets at the game, so a lot of people were able to come.  It was nice because I haven’t seen a lot of those people in a long time.  In most games I have played in haven’t been anywhere near Ohio.  It was nice I got to throw my first game in “AA,” he said.

          Playing professional baseball takes great talent, patience, and determination.  Hissong says he was fortunate to be able to get some good advice.  “Sometimes you hop into pro ball not really knowing a lot, especially if you have not talked to many people who have played pro ball.  Fortunately I was able to talk to a few people that had played at Wright State or that I had met along the way.  They gave me a heads up of kind of what to expect.  Just like coming out of high school into division one college baseball you get tossed into the fire and learn as you go and develop along the way.  Before long you start figuring things out and you start helping younger guys,” said Hissong.

          He is (3-0) for the Thunder with a 2.84 ERA so far this year.  He has struck out 73 batters in only 62 innings of work, all out the bullpen.  He says he has the right approach to be a reliever.  “After I had Tommy John surgery I started coming out of the bullpen because after you have surgery you have shorter outings.  I really liked coming out of the bullpen, I really liked closing.  Since I have gotten into pro ball we have talked about possibly becoming a starter, but for now I am having a lot of success coming out of the pen.  I think it kind of fits my frame of mind too.  I like throwing often and I like coming into pressure situations and competing.  I feel like I have a little more of a bullpen mentality.  I would be willing to start too,” said Hissong.

          He will be inducted along with former Bellville High School football coach Dr. Fred Martinelli, volleyball and basketball player Patti Luers, the 1966 Clear Fork football team, the man who had the idea for the Hall of Fame, the late Cole Kolikohn, coach Paul Yarman and former basketball, baseball, tennis, and assistant football coach Pat Durham.

 

Published 8/15/16

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Clear Fork Building Playbook, Character

 

          Clear Fork is more than half way through the first week of the high school football preseason and the so far coach Dave Carroll is pretty happy with what he sees.

          The veteran coach thinks the first week of the preseason is the toughest.  “It is very hot for all of us, but our kids are doing a really nice job.  Our numbers are up a little bit, we are just under 60 kids and we are excited about that.  We told the kids this is basically the hardest week of the season. If you get through this week, next week you have two scrimmages, so it gets broken up.  We just came off a couple weeks of camp and then you go into two a days.  It gets a little bit more intense and you learn a little more.  Practices are longer and you get into the heat of the day more.  You get a little grumpier and more tired in those kinds of things.  If you make it through this week, and you stick together as a team, you pick each other up and you love each other and realize we are all in this thing together, its shows a lot about the character of your team,” said Carroll.

          If the Colts are going to be good this year they have to be tougher.  Carroll says they are going to find out quickly if that is the case.  “One of the biggest traits a football team has to have is toughness and that is one the things that two a days show us how mentally and physically tough you are going to be.  It is only day three, but for football coaches and football players with three days of two a days it seems like you have been in them for three weeks, but so far, so good,” he said.

          As far as the nuts and bolts of the offense and defense that the Colts will feature this year, Carroll says they have introduced most of that to the kids already and now it is about executing those plays and plans.  “We had an offensive camp for four days and a defensive camp for four days.  We tried to get 90 to 95 percent of our offense in during camp, introduce it to the kids.  Then we came back this week and we package it by types of run plays and blocking schemes and pass plays.  So, we started back with package one, package two, package three, and (Thursday) package four.  Basically everything was already introduced to them once and now you are going back and doing it again.  By the end of the week this week everything will be in,” he told Swankonsports.com in the locker room after practice on Wednesday, “You work on your passing game during seven on sevens, so everything is in with your passing game.  Defensively at this point and time you have done the pass defensive stuff with the seven on sevens and now you are introducing the blitzes and the line stuff and the linebacker play and the fundamentals of getting off blocks and reading blocks and understanding offenses.  Again by the end of the week we will have most things in.”

 

Published 8/04/16

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Clear Fork Not in Aye

  

          Clear Fork was just over .500 in the regular season, but they played a schedule which included many division one and two schools and they feel that has prepared them for the state semi finals.

          They meet Waynedale (25-4) in the division three state semi finals on Friday afternoon at Huntington Park in Columbus.  The winner plays for the state title on Saturday.

          Coach Rusty Staab says they have put in the hard work already, they might as well go to Columbus believing they can win.  "We were saying that in the third inning of the regional finals against Archbold.  We were down 3-0 and coach Hollar and I talked, and we were both kind of like if we don't do anything this inning, if we don't put anything on the board, these kids are going to be like, hey, it's nice to be here, we made a nice run.  They stuck it out and boom they scored four runs.  That is why we scrimmaged Newark Catholic.  We have to keep playing, business as usual, it just goes on another week.  It's a long season and there are 16 teams that are still playing throughout Ohio.  We are all going through the same thing.  We might as well continue with the mentality that we have had since district and that is play like it is game seven of the World Series," said Staab.

          The Colts (19-13) are made up of a lot of underclassmen, who might not understand what they are accomplishing.  Plus, Staab says many of the players have been seasoned through summer baseball.  "I don't know that we have the top GPA scores in Ohio, but I think that our kids like Jalen Sheriff coming in with the bases loaded and nobody out and just slamming the door and Jarrod Smith doing it in the district semis against Crestview.  A freshman pitching in the district final and the regional final.  I think that you really have to talk about and commend these kids for playing travel ball.  I know a lot of people have their own opinions about travel ball.  When you are on an elite team and you are doing this weekend after weekend in different states and different tournaments and you are playing against the top players in the Midwest some games you get beat and some games you win.  This is nothing but helping our program," said Staab.

          Clear Fork was (6-8) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play, but Staab says win or lose that top level competition has made them better as a team.  "We have played a gauntlet schedule this year with the "OCC."  We get a little momentum playing some division three schools that are our size and, boom, we have to play Wooster or Madison or Lexington.  Lexington comes in third in the "OCC" and they win the district in division two.  I have been saying this during this whole run that I think one of the keys to our success is the schedule that we play.  We got beat pretty good against Wooster both times.  We got beat by Wooster in the second game in the middle of this run and it was important that we play that.  Anybody that has a big head gets deflated and comes back down to reality.  My hat tips off to the "OCC," he said.

          When it comes to the Golden Bears, Staab says they are a team that can produce runs with small ball, pitches to contact, and does a lot of good things.  However, he says they are not a whole bunch better than what they have seen this year.  "Being as old as a I am I know a lot of people that have coached that have played against them, so we've got a good scouting report.  We have been very fortunate that we are playing the same type of team.  Galion maybe a little less hitting than the other teams.  They are small ball, they just hammer the strike zone, they throw hard, their defense, like anybody else at this stage, can be awesome or it can be bad," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "They scored 11 runs against Elyria Catholic in the reaginals and I think Elyria Catholic made seven errors and walked a lot of guys and they capitalized on it.  When you look at Archbold, and you say how in the world are we supposed to beat Archbold?  They throw their number two pitcher, who is their starting catcher, so now their back up has pressure on him, and two passed balls cost them two runs.  Waynedale, I don't know their whole schedule, I know they played Massillon Jackson, who beat Wooster in the district final, they are awesome, at one time they were number one in the state in division one.  They lost 6-0 or 8-0, other than that they played division three schools.  Once again I think we have the advantage schedule wise over them because we are used to playing bigger teams and getting beat, but competing.  That is helping us down this road and hopefully it continues."

 

Published 6/01/16

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Colts Headed to Columbus

  

          The Clear fork High School baseball team has advanced to the state final four for the second time in school history.

          The other time they won the state title in 2010.

          They rallied to beat Archbold (4-3) in the division three regional final on Friday at Sandy Park at Elida Middle School.

          Clear Fork head coach Rusty Staab smiled when he said he expected his team to be in the state.  "Of course I did.  It has just been a Cinderella year.  I can not believe the things.  We were down 3-0, making errors, looking like, well we are happy the season is over.  Coach Hollar said we have to make something happen now and we score four in the big inning.  Jalen Sheriff finally got to show what he has got," said Staab.

          Archbold (22-9) scored two runs in the top of the first inning on two Clear Fork errors and an RBI double.  They added a third in the top of the third when a third Clear fork error plated another run.  But, that is all they would get. 

          The Colts responded with a four spot in their half of the third.  Mitch Dulin led off the inning with a walk, Mason Cox reached when the Archbold infield botched a force at second.  Leadoff hitter Thomas Staab laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line and beat it out for a hit.  That loaded the bases and that's when the real action began.  Caleb Merendino executed a suicide squeeze to score Dulin.  Cox and Stabb would score on wild pitches.  Then enter shortstop Hunter Boyer, who promptly lined a single to right to score Luke Clark, who had been intentionally walked.

          Staab says they took advantage of opportunities.  "It has been like that all year.  Kind of like the Atlanta Braves of the 90's good pitching, usually good defense, and timely hitting, but that was a big inning.  That was huge," he said.

          Dulin, a freshman, who won Monday's district final over Galion (4-1) struggled a bit with his command and the Blue Streaks loaded the bases with nobody out in the fifth.  Enter sophomore Jalen Sheriff.  He gets two pop ups and a force play to get out of the inning with no damage.  Then strikes out the side in the sixth.  Allows leadoff single in the seventh and then gets the next three guys for the save.  "He has had such a rough year.  He had to sit 13 games.  The last week before he was able to come back he was cooking fries and burned his throwing hand.  Obviously never saw "Bull Durham," Staab joked after the game, "Grab the pan with your opposite hand, not your throwing hand.  He as just able to throw like two weeks ago.  This is like early April for him."

          There were a couple of key plays in that seventh inning.  With one out Bryce Williams lined the ball down the first base line and the 6'6" Dulin speared the ball that appeared headed down the right field line to tie the game.  Staab had moved Dulin to first base after replacing him on the mound.  "It was a kind of a no brainer.  Shane (Klenk) has done a great job at first this year, but Mitch is just more athletic and obviously he is 6'6'".  If Shane Klenk is in the game at first base they probably tie it up and who knows what happens after that," he said.

          The last out was recorded when Clark bounced off the fence, but still caught a foul ball.

          Clear Fork (19-13) will play Wayne County Athletic League co-champ Waynedale in the state semis next Friday at Huntington Park in Columbus.

          Staab says a lot of his players are too young to understand what they are accomplishing.  "We have a lot of kids on the team that aren't that smart.  I don't think they realize there is pressure.  They are too young.  They are still in diapers.  We were fortunate they were hard swingers and with that wind blowing in not too many balls were hit over people's heads," he said.

 

Published 5/28/16

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Colts Cook up Win over Eastwood in Regional

  

          Clear Fork got what they expected and what they didn't on Thursday and they beat Pemberville Eastwood (9-1) in the division three regional semi finals at Sandy Park at Elida Middle School.

          They will return Friday to play Archbold for a ticket to next week's state tournament.

          The Colts collected seven hits from five different players and for one of the first times all year they hit throughout the lineup.  Coach Rusty Staab knows why.  "It's in the sauce.  The last time we had spaghetti dinner over at our house my wife made some red sauce and we beat Newark Catholic (10-0) and (Wednesday) night we had her red sauce and everybody is saying that it's in the sauce now," he said.

          They need to find a way to get a little more of that sauce before Friday at 5 PM.

          The Colts got on the board in the first inning when leadoff hitter Thomas Staab singled, stole second, and scored on Luke Clark's triple over the rightfielders head.

          Staab had two hits, scored two runs, and stole two bases on the day.  Clark had two hits and three RBI.  "They kind of set the tone.  Thomas has kind of been bothered by that knee once he rounded first in the district finals against Galion.  So, it was nice to see him have speed and be able to steal a couple of bases and get in scoring position.  Luke, of course, with his two big hits.  It trickled down and that is what we have been waiting for all year," said coach Staab.

          The fourth inning was key for Clear Fork.  After Eastwood tied the game with third, the Colts got five in the fourth.  With runners on second and third, ninth place hitter Mason Cox singled to left to drive in both runners and give the Colts a lead they would never relinquish.  "We debated and debated.  We talked (Wednesday) night at dinner and Ricky (Bartrum) feels a lot more conformable when he is not swinging.  What is more important than anything for Ricky is playing second base.  Nothing gets by him," Staab told Swankonsports.com after the game, "When we have been "DHing" for him he has been playing a great second base.  So, we thought you know we need some speed, we need some defense in the outfield and Mason Cox just made me look pretty smart."

          Another run scored on a based loaded walk and Clark capped off the inning with a two run single.

          Jarrod Smith pitched four and a third innings of shutout relief, allowing just two hits.  Smith had been used primarily in a mop up role or in non-conference games this year, but Staab says he was huge on Thursday.  "Last year against Ashland he did the same thing.  He threw five innings.  He threw strikes, he got pop outs, ground outs, some occasional hits, but kept us in the game.  He made our pitching safe for (Friday.)  We could save Jalen Sheriff for relief of Mitch (Dulin,)" he said.

          Clear Fork (18-13) will face Archbold (22-8,) a (4-0) winner over Elmwood on Thursday,  in the regional final.  Staab says it will be tremendous test for them.  "They are awesome.  They are a great team.  So, we are definitely going to be the underdogs.  We are going to have to play even better than we did (Thursday,) he said.

 

Published 5/27/16

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Clear Fork Hasn't Peaked

  

          We are 30 games into the high school baseball season and Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab believes his kids are nowhere close to as good as they can be.

          They face Pemberville Eastwood in the division three regional Semi-finals on Thursday evening in Elida.

          Staab says their pitching has been solid, and their defense, but offensively they have to be a lot better on Thursday.  "I think we are playing good.  Our offense is still, I have been saying it for the almost the last three months now, in hibernation, ready to wake up.  We are not scoring enough runs.  We are not having that inning where we can get some back to back to back hits.  We are relying on the other teams making mistakes and we can't do that in the regionals.  We were very fortunate against Galion.  Galion made a big error in the first inning and we got a nice cushion for Mitch.  When you get to the "Sweet 16" you can't rely on the other team making errors.  We are both going to be nervous.  We basically still have a young team.  We are hoping that our offense can click.  We got a nice scouting report on the Eastwood team.  They like to run, they play small ball.  They have as stud catcher.  We have to make plays.  They put the ball in play.  They are not power hitters, but they put the ball in play, they like to hit and run, they like to bunt.  They like to do the things that we do," said Staab.

          Clear Fork won the state title in 2010 and played their regional at Elida.  They have broken out the black jerseys worn by that team, but Staab says that were the similarities end.  "We play in Elida and we are wearing their jerseys.  I would love to think this would be the team that could compare to 2010, but we are not there.  Not to say that we can't get there, but those guys knew from day one that they were going to be playing in the state championship game in Huntington Park and they had studs at every position, plus a great bench.  We're not there.  We are in the regionals and we have solid pitching that can throw strikes and if our defense can play and we can capitalize on opportunities that Eastwood might give us and if we can get some key, two out hits to keep a rally going we might have a chance," he said.

          The Colts (17-13) are pretty young and there probably weren't a lot of people thinking they would be in the regional.  However, Staab says they are not satisfied just being here.  "When the final game is over and if we do get beat we can always say that this was icing on the cake, that is a great thing to say, nobody thought we could do that, but as a coach, a veteran coach, we don't want to be satisfied with that.  We have yet to reach our potential offensively.  I think that if we ever do reach our potential offensively then we can make a run.  We could possibly get through the first game and possibly handle the winner of Elmwood and Archbold, and they are both great teams," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "I could see those two teams, whoever wins, could go to state and win.  With the same token I think if our offense shows up, one through nine, I not just talking two or three people.  When you look back at the 2010 team, that is exactly what it was.  It was one through nine.  We don't have that right now.  We did have it a couple of games.  We had it against Ashland and we had it against Newark Catholic.  We have to hope that the kids don't put some much pressure on themselves and go up and have some fun.  Hit the ball, if it is there hit it, and if it is a ball take the pitch."

          Fellow "OCC" member Lexington plays in the division two regional on Thursday and they have been talking about little ball.  Staab says Eastwood is not Lexington.  He compares them to Galion, who they beat (4-1) Monday in the district final.  "I don't think they have the power that Lexington has.  I think they are identical to Galion.  Galion puts the ball in play.  Galion doesn't run like Eastwood will.  Their leadoff hitter and their number nine hitter like to run.  We like to run, but Eastwood has a stud catcher, so they will have to throw us out a couple of times before we stop running.  We have a great catcher too.  Luke Clark, hopefully, is going to slam the door down with the running game, like he is capable of.  There are going to be a lot of challenges," he said.

 

Published 5/26/16

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Dulin Leads Clear Fork Past Galion

  

          Freshman Mitchell Dulin scatted six hits an allowed just one unearned run in a complete game effort in leading the Clear fork Colts to a (4-1) win over Galion Monday afternoon in the division three district final at Mansfield Madison High School.

          They play Pemberville Eastwood in the regional semi finals on Thursday at Elida High School.  Archbold and Elmwood form the other half of the bracket.  This may be a good sign for the Colts.  The last time they won a regional title, and went on to win the state championship, in 2010, their regional was at Elida and they beat Elmwood to win that regional.

          Dulin struck out six, including the last out of the game, and coach Rusty Staab says he made a key adjustment with his curveball.  "In the first inning he was throwing his curveball a little bit too hard.  It was kind of same speed as his fastball and I told him after the first inning to take something off of it," he told Swankonsports.com on the field after the win, "From the second inning on it had a little bit of a dip to it and we kind of caught them.  The big inning they had was all on an error.  Taking nothing away from Galion, but a couple here and there and they got a run, but he did, he pitched great."

          This is Clear Fork's sixth district title in the last 20 years and their third since 2009.  They have been part of the Ohio Cardinal Conference since 2004 and Staab believes that really prepares them well for the postseason.  Clear Fork will be leaving the "OCC" after next year.

          The Colts (17-12) scored two runs in the first inning when Galion botched a force play at second.  The tallied another in the fourth to go up (3-0) when the Tigers made two errors and Hunter Auck drilled an RBI single.  "Like I said all year our offense is in hibernation and we are waiting for it to come out.  We had some key two out hits and this and that, but we just haven't broken open a game with our offense and it's been all year.  God forbid who we play when we do break out," said Staab.

          Galion (17-10) only got one hit the first time through the order.  Their run came in the fifth on a bunt, but they stranded two runners.  "Mitch Dulin did a great job keeping us off balance.  He didn't fool us a heck of lot.  He threw quality pitches and we just didn't barrel anything up.  A couple there late.  What really got us was the miscues there early and then not getting a bunt down that ended a really that we got going.  We didn't do the little things and we have been doing them consistently the last bunch of games.  I'm disappointed for the kids, but it wasn't because of a lack of trying," said Galion coach Phil Jackson.

          After Galion scored the Colts added an insurance run in the sixth when Auck singled and stole a base and scored on a single by Dulin.  Staab thought it was big to get another run.  "That was key and leaving guy on base the last half inning in the fifth, it was like we got out of it.  It's nice to get that insurance run and put that run back up on the board," he said.
          Clear Fork recorded six ground ball outs and Staab singled out the efforts of second baseman Ricky Bartrum.  "We had that one inning and they are still young.  That is the best game that Ricky (Bartrum) has played since our first Galion game when he turned two double plays unassisted.  He has some range.  I think, maybe, he is a little bit more relaxed now that he doesn't have to bat because he has struggled with the bat. Since I have been "DHing" for him he has played a phenomenal second base," said Staab.

          Clear Fork plays an "OCC" game at Wooster on Tuesday.  The Generals need that one to earn an outright "OCC" baseball title.  Staab says it's cool to be playing meaningful games on the last week of May.  "It makes that drive to Wooster (Tuesday) a little more pleasant because if we would have gotten beat that would have been a nasty trip," he said.

 

Published 5/24/16

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Clear Fork Gets Past Crestview

 

          Clear Fork rallied in the sixth inning to take one (4-3) over Crestview in the division three district semis at Madison on Thursday evening.

          They will play Galion for a district title on Saturday at 1 PM at Madison.

          Coach Rusty Staab says his Colts did some good things and some bad things and were fortunate enough to survive.  "Conner Hickey pitched a great game.  He is a great kid.  He is the heart and soul of Crestview.  I was fortunate enough to coach him on our JABC team last year.  I knew he was going to battle.  He came into the game with an 0.92 ERA. We were hoping he would kind of get wild.  We pulled the Indians theory let's get his pitch could up and see what we can do," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday night, "I think that might have worked.  Luke Clark got a big hit to tie it up and Gavin Bailey got a big hit to give us the lead in the bottom of the sixth.  Shane Klenk pitched a great game.  He gave up a couple of hits and we made a couple of errors that put them back in the game.  Jarrod Smith came in threw three pitches and struck out a batter.  When you are in the tournament it is survive and move on."

          Staab says they wanted to run and create some havoc on the bases, and they were able to do a little of that, but he says he wishes their offense could come alive.  "Our lead off hitter struggled a little bit (Thursday.)  We thought we could steal off the catcher.  We thought if we could find a way to get on first we could get to second.  That happened a couple of times and we kind of had some bonehead plays and took ourselves out of a couple of rallies.  Luke Clark, God love him, I have been coaching him since he was ten in travel ball, had a huge hit that split the outfielders and tied up the game.  I still think that our offense is hibernating, but Shane of great, Jarrod Smith came in and got us out of a big inning and Jalen Sheriff closed it out and we got the "W," he said.

          Clear Fork and Galion have some recent tournament history.  Galion won a sectional game last year (3-2) over the Colts.  Clear Fork beat the Tigers (4-0) in a regular season game in March.  Staab says freshman Mitch Dulin beat Galion in first varsity start and they hope he can do it again.  "Phil (Jackson) is a great guy.  I am going to text him (Friday) and wager a bet.  It's a story, he knows that.  I am assuming we are going to see Garret Kuns.  He is a really good pitcher.  He started the game against last year in the sectionals and we only got two runs off of him.  We thought that was good enough and they scored three runs in the top of the seventh last year and they beat us 3-2.  We were fortunate enough to beat him 4-0 this year with Mitch.  Mitch (Dulin) is going to pitch Saturday.  It's going to be whoever shows up.  If our defense shows up, if our offense shows up, and Mitch throws strikes I think we have a good chance of winning.  Some bad things happened for seven innings (Thursday) and we survived, but we hope Saturday all three things click," said Staab.

 

Published 5/20/16

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Clyde Beats Clear Fork in the Districts

 

          Clyde scored a run in the first inning and never trailed in beating Clear Fork (7-3) in a division two district semi final on Wednesday at Seneca East High School.

          The Lady Colts (22-6) got only two hits in the first five innings and coach Jeff Gottfried says the softball gods just weren't with them.  "Our offensive bats were asleep.  It's funny about the fifth inning I walk in the dugout and kicked all of the bats over and all of the girls though I was mad.  I wasn't mad at all.  What's he doing?  I was waking these bats up because they are asleep," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "The girls are clueless and I love them being clueless.  They didn't realize what they ran into (Wednesday) night.  They ran into buzz saw.  Clyde was very good, very solid.  We just didn't hit.  They out hit us and that's the bottom line."

          Adriana Sanchez stuck out three in getting the win for Clyde.

          Clear Fork scored in the sixth when Montana Walker singled, stole two bases, an scored on a hit by Taylor Cook.  Macy Wade hit a two run homer in the eighth.

          Gottfried says the last game of the season is always tough.  "That's what I told the girls in the circle.  I said you know what there are four teams here today and after Friday only one of them is going to be happy.  The other three are going to go home upset and that is the way it goes in a single elimination tournament.  On that given day sometimes you aren't the best team on that given day and that's what happened," he said.

          Clear Fork won the outright Ohio Cardinal Conference title this year and Gottfried says there is no doubt it was a great season.  "I told the girls if you told me at the beginning of the year we were going to win 22 games, win the conference outright, and have as much fun as we did.  I said sign me up.  I said I will coach this team every single year if we go through it every single year like that," he said.

        Clyde will play Bellevue Friday for the district title.  The Lady Red beat Upper Sandusky (3-1) in the other district semi.

 

Published 5/19/16

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Clear Fork Wins in Extra Innings

 

          Having already secured the outright Ohio Cardinal Conference title, the Clear Fork Lady Colts needed extra innings to down conference rival Wooster (5-4) on Wednesday evening.

          They scored on an error in the bottom of the eighth inning to get the win.

          Darian Gottfried singled to open the frame, was bunted to second, advanced to third on an infield single by Taylor Cook, Haylie Miller was intentionally walked, and Caitlyn Hilverding's ground ball to short was booted and Gottfried scored the winning run.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says his girls know how to win and they don't get nervous when the game is on the line.  "It was tight the whole way.  We hadn't played for six days and I am not making any excuses, but we weren't really sharp and we weren't really good.  It is good to be in this kind of competition.  In fact, I was a conversation with the umpire between innings and we were discussing some other teams and things like that and he said they one thing with your program is your kids know how to win.  I said it is kind of ingrained in them.  They get in those tight ballgames and they are petty much relaxed.  (Wednesday) night it as nice to be the home team and get the last at bats," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "When the pressure was on and it was tied up in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth inning I told our kids what is worse that can happen?  We play another inning.  If you make an out, okay, so what.  The pressure is all on them to keep us from scoring because if we score, we win.  On down the road you are going to be in some tight ballgames and your kids can look back at the experiences throughout the season.  (Wednesday) was one of those games that we hope pays dividends later in the season."

          They don't have down years at Clear Fork, they have a program that seems to reload.  Gottfried says they play with a certain confidence.  "People say, how do you get your kids to win?  If there was a magic potion that you could tap into tell me about it because I would love to know.  The biggest thing in those experiences and having that success in those situations and come through.  Basically it is one word, it is confidence.  The kids feel like we have been here, we have done that and we know exactly what we need to do to come through.  We are not thinking those negative thoughts, we are thinking positive thoughts all of the time and that is what you rely on.  Our kids can roll with that when it happens," he said.

          Clear Fork (20-5,12-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, #1 in our new Twitter fan poll, plays at home against Ontario (9-8) in a division two sectional final on Friday.

          The Lady Colts won a regular season game against Ontario (12-3,) but Gottfried says that is meaningless now.  "It's a brand new ball game and our kids know that.  We have seen them before, so we know some of their players, but it is 0-0 when you start.  I guarantee in a one and done scenario they are going to be coming down here to the valley fired up and our kids are too.  It is nice to be able to play at home and hopefully get some decent weather and not having to be worrying about is it raining and are we going to have to take the tarp on or off.  At this stage of the game it is survive and advance.  No matter how it happens as long as we have one more run at the end of the game that is all we are looking for," said Gottfried.

 

Published 5/12/16

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Clear Fork Subdues Mansfield Senior

  

          Clear Fork scored a combined seven runs in the fifth and sixth innings and they beat Mansfield Senior (10-0) in six innings in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Tuesday at American Legion Field.

          Dylan Wade started and went five innings allowing just one hit to get the win for the Colts.  "Dylan is just doing so well.  The thing about when Dylan Wade pitches is he is throwing strikes, which makes our defense play just that much better because they don't set back on their heels," he said.

          Wade got seven ground ball outs and four pop ups to the infield and Staab thought he did an excellent job of throwing strikes and keeping the game moving.  "He reminds you a lot of Maddox because Maddox would throw nine innings and throw 95 pitches, well he threw five innings and threw 57 pitches," he told Swankonsports.com after the win over the Tygers, "That is the way you are suppose to do it.  You are supposed to throw strikes, your defense plays, you score a couple of runs, and they game is over in an hour and a half."

          Clear Fork scored twice in the first on passed balls and added another in the third on a wild pitch, but they were only able to reach Tygers starter Collin Henley for one hit, a single by Mitch Dulin in the fourth, over the first four innings.  "Collin played on our JABC team back when he was 11 and we knew he had so much potential.  He has a cannon for an arm.  I thought he pitched really well.  The catcher kind of struggled a little bit, which gave us two runs.  Other than that he kind slammed the door on some of our good hitters.  Collin kind of ran out of gas a little bit.  Hats off to him, he did a fine job," said Staab.

          .The Colts (12-11,5-6) got to Henley in the fifth, scoring thee times, including RBI singles by Galvin Bailey and Dulin.  They added four more in the sixth to close it out, punctuated by RBI doubles by Luke Clark and Dulin.  Staab hopes that is a sign their bats are coming alive.  "We have been struggling for runs.  We scored 11 Saturday against Newark Catholic and then we get shut out against Fredericktown and (Tuesday) we score 10.  Hopefully, our next game we don't get shut out," he said.

 

Published 5/04/16

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Clear Fork Starting to Roll

 

          Clear Fork put together its fifth straight win on Monday with a (6-3) win over a solid Fredericktown team on the road in non-conference play.

          They have the opportunity to clinch no less than a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference title with wins over Mansfield Senior on Tuesday and Wednesday.

          Clear Fork took an early (3-0) over Fredericktown and coach Jeff Gottfried says his team was able to get the early momentum.  "I told the girls in the circle afterwards we did what we needed to do in the first inning.  We came out and got in the board.  We could have had a second run and just could get that run across.  Then to score two in the second we were able to jump ahead of them and that is what you have to do on the road and set the tone.  We were pretty solid on defense.  When you can get outstanding pitching, timely hitting, and good defense you are going to win some ballgames.  Definitely a good team in Fredericktown (Monday) night and our kids were really excited after the game," he said.

          It seems more runs than ever before are being scored in softball and Gottfried says he have to take advantage of your opportunities.  "I think especially because there is more scoring if you aren't answering when you have an opportunity or when you know the other team is going to put up some runs if you aren't doing what you need to be doing you are going to find yourself in a hole and then you start pressing and as every inning passes by and you have fewer and fewer outs to work with.  I think that is our motto to be very aggressive and do what we can do to score runs." he told Swankonsports.com after the win over Fredericktown, "We are not going to have a lot of innings were we score crooked numbers, as I like to call them, but if we can get a run every inning that just keeps the pressure on the opposition every single time and if they don't answer they are going to find themselves behind late in the game."

          Gottfried has made some changes in his defensive lineup this year as the season has progressed and right now he thinks things are in place and they are doing a good job fielding the ball.  "I don't think there is any doubt that we are getting better defensively.  It kind of took us awhile to find the right kids to play the right spots.  It seemed for a while there the ball was flying to the wrong people in the wrong spots.  You can't hide anyone out on the softball diamond of the baseball field, so we tried to mix things up and certainly the ball has been going to the right kids lately.  I just think the confidence has been there to make the right plays.  They know if they mess up Darian (Gottfried) is going to be there to bail them out in the circle and vice versa if she gives up a couple of hits somebody is going to make a big play defensively for us.  Like anything else once that confidence starts to grow it make you a lot stronger as a team," said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork (16-5,9-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, and #1 in our new Twitter fan poll, plays last place Mansfield Senior on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Gottfried says the focus will be on how well they play.  "They know what it is about.  It is an opportunity to get at least a share of the conference title with a couple of wins.  They certainly don't want to put themselves in a position where it comes down to that final week with absolute must wins.  We want to be in position to win it outright come that next week.  We are certainly going to be focused.  We are going to be playing at our place and our kids don't want to lose at our place no matter who we are playing.  The number one goal of our team this year is winning the "OCC" and when we are playing "OCC" games it doesn't matter the opposition we have to take care of Clear Fork," said Gottfried.

 

Published 5/03/16

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Miller's Shot Gives Lady Colts the Win

 

          Haylie Miller smacked a walk off, solo homer, in the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday, to give the Clear Fork Lady Colts a (2-1) win over West Holmes in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          Miller is a freshman and has been in the starting line up all season for Clear Fork.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says she was able to make the needed adjustments at the plate and made a good swing on the pitch.  "When you watch a game it does come down to one swing when it is that tight.  We tried to make some adjustments throughout the game.  The pitcher had her number the first two at bats.  She struck out looking the first time at bat and the second time she hit a weak ground ball to third.  So, we talked to her about making a few adjustments at the plate," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "She makes us coaches look pretty smart.  She is the one that has to hit the ball.  She certainly didn't miss it.  It was a nice 3-1 pitch that she drove out of the ball park."

          Clear Fork's other run cane when Montana Walker singled, stole second, and then scored on a wild throw. 

          Darian Gottfried was sound on the mound, permitting just one unearned run in the game.

          Coach Gottfried says they made a costly error in the game, but they were able to overcome it.  "We talk about that the whole game, every game, pitching and defense are going to win the ballgame for you.  We probably win the game 1-0 if we play defense.  The one run they did get was a ground ball and we made an error on it.  We were fortunate to get out of the inning only giving up one that run.  You are going to see everybody's best.  Our kids battled and hung with it as long as possible.  Thank goodness we were at home and had the last swings," said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork (13-5,8-1), # 4 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, #1 in the new Twitter fan poll, leads the "OCC" standings by two games over Mansfield Madison.  Gottfried says he rather be in first place than any other, but they know there is still a lot to do.  "If you look at the standings, yeah, we have one loss, but everybody else has three and four.  That is because everybody is as good as everybody else and they are beating each other up.  We fortunately have survived a few games.  We certainly aren't resting there is too far to go within the conference.  We like where we stand," he said.

          Clear Fork play at West Holmes (5-7,4-4) on Wednesday.  Then they finish up with Mansfield Senior and Wooster.

 

Published 4/27/16

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Colts Hold Off Ontario

  

          Clear Fort scored nine runs in the first two innings and then hung on for dear life to beat Ontario (11-10) in a non conference baseball game at American Legion Field on Monday.

          Luke Clark and Gavin Bailey both had RBI doubles in a four run first inning for the Colts.  They then batted around in the second, keyed by Shane Klenk's two run double to take a (9-0) run lead.

          However, the next five innings featured four walks, three hit batters, four errors and countless other miscues for Colts.  It may have been exciting for the fans, but Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab, fresh off a three game suspension due to comments deemed inappropriate by the school administration, says it nearly gave the coaches a heart attack.  "We almost had the deliberators out there between me and (Ontario coach) Dan (Gorbett.)  We decided to go for two to make it an 11-10 game, it was like a football score.  When we got up nine runs and you would think all we have to do if throw strikes, but it is just the opposite," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "They did nothing but throw balls and bean batters.  Our defense feel apart, but we won.  I'll take winning ugly as opposed to losing awesomely every single day."

          Ontario battled back to score twice in the third and five more times in the fourth to cut it to (9-7) and the game was on.  Luke Gorbett's two run double helped to fuel that five run fourth.  He ended up with four hits and four RBI on the day.

          Ontario coach Dan Gorbett was proud of his kid's resiliency.  "We were down 9-0 and we battle back and it was 9-7.  Hayden Schaffer and Nolan Hatfield did a nice job in relief.  The kids did a nice job of hitting the ball and putting it in play and getting some runs in.  Just a little bit short," he said.

          Clear Fork scored twice in their half of the fourth.  The final run coming on a sacrifice fly by centerfielder Thomas Staab, who had to come out in the top of the fifth due to a leg injury.  Ontario (7-4) had the tying run thrown out at the plate in their half of the sixth.

          The Colts (10-8,4-4) used three pitchers on Monday in Klenk, Lane Belcher and Mitch Dulin and are scheduled to host West Holmes (5-9,4-3) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Tuesday.  Staab joked he hoping for divine intervention.   "Let's hope it rains.  Chris Spencer is throwing (Tuesday) and we will figure it out from there.  If I have to bring up JV players I will bring up JV," he said.

          With a nine run lead, Staab was hoping to save some pitching.  "You think let Shane go about 45 pitches and maybe Lane for an inning and maybe I can get Jarrod Smith and some other guys in.  It just didn't work out that way," he said.

 

Published 4/26/16

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Lady Colts Get Back on Track

  

          Clear Fork broke a four game losing streak by beating Ontario (12-3) in a non-conference girls softball game on Monday evening.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says it was good to get back home and get back into the win column.  "That's what I told the girls afterward.  We kind of took some lumps with four in a row going the wrong direction.  A couple of them we didn't play so well on, a couple of them we did.  It is nice to get back home.  We have been on the road in eight of the last nine ballgames and it is nice to get back to the friendly confines of the valley.  Other than the top of the first inning we played like that.  We played very comfortable, very lose and it was nice to get the "W," said Gottfried.

          Darian Gottfried gave up two runs in the first inning, but the Clear Fork offense responded with three of their own and the route was on.

          Montana Walker had three hits and an RBI and Micaela Fidler had two hits and two RBI.

          Clear Fork lost last Wednesday to rival Lexington (9-7,) then to Wayne County Athletic League contender West Salem Northwestern (4-2) and then two Saturday in the Wendy's Spring Classic to North Union (7-6) and Elyria (4-1,) but that is nothing to be ashamed of.  Gottfried told the girls to keep their heads up.  "That is what we told them on Saturday.  You lose to North Union number one in the state in D-3.  Elyria everybody knows that name in softball.  Played in the state championship game four years in a row and win the fourth one.  We ran into tough competition, that's what we told them on Saturday don't doubt what you are capable of doing we just ran into some tough opponents," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday after the win, "The biggest goal we have on our slate is to win the conference.  We had to get a good start (Monday) to put us in position for (Tuesday.)"

          Clear Fork (12-5,7-1), #4 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, and #1 in the new Swankonsports.com Twitter fan poll, plays at home against West Holmes (4-8,4-3) on Tuesday.

          Gottfried says they better bet ready.  "Everybody is gunning for the top.  So far we are in the lead, but we still have six games to go in the conference.  Coach Martin will have her girls ready to play.  There is nothing she would want more than to knock us off.  We have to be ready, we absolutely have to be ready," he said.

 

Published 4/26/16

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Clear Fork Strikes for Five in the 4th; Beats Lady Lex

  

          Clear Fork erupted for five runs in the fourth inning and they went on to beat Lexington (6-1) to remain unbeaten and in first place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference softball standings.

          Lexington's Kailynn Conn laced a solo home run off Clear Fork started Darian Gottfried in the first inning, but that is all they would get as the junior settled down striking out six.

          Her dad, Clear Fork coach Jeff Gottfried, says they didn't get rattled, they kept their focus, and were able to respond.  "Our girls know our next door neighbors have been our big rivals and that has been the case for a number of years.  It's always a good competitive ballgame when we play them and the records don't mean anything when we play them.  Our kids know that," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "I said before the game that is going to be a battle to the very end.  We unfortunately got behind be a run.  It was just a  missed location was all it was.  Our pitcher just sort of shrugged her shoulders and said, oops I messed up.  I said, we will get you some runs and fortunately we got enough to get us a win.

          Montana Walker led off the fourth with a triple and scored to tie the game on a hit by Caitlyn Hilverding.  Macy Wade then gave the Lady Colts the lead with a two-run double.  Micaela Fidler and Becca Conn also had RBI hits in the big inning.

          Gottfried says they were able to make some good swings and the ball started to find some green.  "In high school sports you see that a lot.  You name the sport and momentum is a big, big thing in high school.  Our kids were putting the bat on the ball and the second time through the order we started seeing it, just like the first time through, and the balls started finding the holes and we were able to have a crooked number in an inning," he said.

          Lexington made at least three spectacular defensive plays in the first three innings, but Gottfried says they didn't lose their confidence at the plate.  "That is what we told the girls in the dugout.  Don't change a thing, our approach is good.  They made some good plays, and hats off to them for making those plays.  If they make those plays the whole game then they deserve to win, but I had a feeling that we were eventually going to find some holes.  We had a couple of good two out hits.  Adding another run in the next inning kind of burst their balloon.  It was good to come out on top," said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork (11-1,7-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, plays at Lexington on Wednesday.  Gottfried says they understand that nothing is won yet.  "There is a long way to go.  It is a long, long season in the "OCC."  Yeah, we are off to a good start, but if you go up there of you happen to stub your toe then this one doesn't mean a whole lot.  We are going to enjoy it (Tuesday) night and come to school (Wednesday) and be relaxed with smiles on our faces and let's go play another ballgame," he said.

 

Published 4/20/16

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Lexington Uses Big Inning to Down Colts

  

          Cory Swartzmiller's three run double keyed a nine run fourth inning and Lexington outscored Clear Fork (12-7) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game at American Legion Field at Clear Fork on Tuesday.

          Lexington coach Kevin Morrow says anytime you can get an inning like that it boosts your confidence.  "Whenever you can have a big inning it just give you momentum, some confidence, and it make you feel somewhat comfortable.  Those are things on defense that you obviously try to stop and try to limit them to one or two runs," he said.

          Clear Fork (8-6,4-3) didn't help itself in the fourth with two errors, they had six on the night, two walks, and a hit batter. 

          An upset Colts coach Rusty Staab believes his team lacked focus, leadership, and desire on Tuesday.  "We just had a talk after the game our seniors need to step up or they are going to be pulling pines out of their back britches.  There was no intensity, no effort.  We had a senior pitcher and I told him this is the last time you are ever going to pitch against Lexington, and you are pitching at home, what a great feeling to have.  That inning he gets upset and he can't pick up a bunt.  Austin (Eifrid) pitched a great game and you just can't afford to give up runs.  We throw a 1-2 change up in the wheelhouse of a guy can do nothing but hit home runs and we don't deserve to win," said Staab.

          Lexington (8-3,4-3), #3 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, has played well over the last week, with wins over West Holmes, Bellevue and Clyde.

          Morrow says they are finally starting to get some big hits.  "That was the big thing coming into the year, could we replace the big bats that were in the middle of the lineup?  W e are starting to see that," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "Matt Frazier is starting to see the ball and we have activated a kid that has been waiting for a chance to play in Jacob Reichie and he has come through the last three or four games and is just hitting nice RBI hits.  Cory Swartzmiller started to hit the ball really hard (Tuesday,) so that is a good feeling.  The weather is probably helping.  Hopefully we keep it going."

          Frazier had a solo home run off Clear Fork starter Lane Belcher in third inning and stared the nine run uprising with an RBI hit.  Reichie had two hits and an RBI.

          Lexington starter Austin Eifrid worked into the seventh inning for the Minutemen and Morrow was pleased they could finally get him some runs.  "He is definitely a quality pitcher.  We have just been struggling to play quality defense behind him and give him some run support.  We got good enough defense (Tuesday) night and definitely got the run support to get him a win," he said.

          Clear Fork made it a game be scoring three times in their half of the fourth on an RBI double by Jarrod Smith and two RBI ground outs.  Hunter Auck and Luke Clark had RBI hits in a three run seventh for the Colts.

 

Published 4/20/16

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Clear Fork Wins Battle of Co-Champs

 

          Clear Fork and Orrville shared the Ohio Cardinal Conference softball title last season and it was the Lady Colts that struck the first blow this spring with a (14-10) win over the Lady Red Riders Wednesday in the valley.

          Senior Montana Walker and freshman Haylie Miller each had three hits and Clear Fork totaled 16 safeties for the day.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says they were able to do what they had to do to win.  "We were able to hit the ball.  I think we were up 4-0 at one time, the next thing you know it was 7-4, the next thing it was 11-7.  It was just one of those games back and fourth.  There is a reason they were co-defending champs and so are we.  Neither team is going to back down," he said.

          They had given up more than three runs only once this year, but Gottfried says Wednesday was a day they had to score runs and they were up to the challenge.  "When I think it was 12-7 or something like that and we gave up two and it was 12-9 going into the sixth I said we still don't have enough and we have to keep scoring," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "We were able to score two more runs in the bottom of the sixth and that put us up five.  We gave up one in the top of the seventh, which didn't mean anything.  They responded, the kids, they battled.  They didn't hang their heads.  Yeah, we gave up more runs than we normally do, but we definitely swung the bats."

          Darian Gottfried got the win in the circle for Clear Fork (7-0,5-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, despite giving up 11 hits.

          Offensively, coach Gottfried believes his team in rounding into shape.  "I think it is coming around.  When you put up 14 against the defending co-champs in the league I would like to think so.  I think the kids are developing some confidence.  We rang up some doubles (Wednesday.)  We hit the ball hard, hit some line drives.  The more at bats we get the more it is going to come around," he said.

          Clear Fork and Orrville play again Thursday in the re-match, this time on Orrville's diamond.

 

Published 4/14/16

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Klenk Leads Clear Fork Past Orrville

 

          Shane Klenk allowed only one unearned run on two hits over six innings and had Clear Fork's only RBI of the day in the Colts (2-1) Ohio Cardinal Conference win over Orrville on Wednesday afternoon.

          Klenk allowed no hits and nobody to get past second base through the first four innings.  Coach Rusty Staab says he did an outstanding job.  "Shane pitched a great game.  He had a no-hitter through four and two-thirds.  He kept them off balance and got a lot of pop ups and ground outs.  Our defense kind of faltered there a little bit and they got their run.  It was close there when Lane (Belcher) came in.  It is just one of those things were we are waiting for our offense to break open.  I just told the guys that I pity the team that we play when our offense finally figures out how to score runs," said Staab.

          Belcher came in to pitch the seventh for the Colts and got the save.  He allowed a leadoff single and hit a batter, but second baseman Ricky Bartrum caught a line drive off the bat of Chris Shoup and doubled up a runner off second base to end the game.

          Clear Fork scored twice in the third inning when Thomas Staab scored on a wild pitch and Klenk delivered a two out single to drive in Caleb Mereindino.

          However, the Colts did strand nine runners on the day and Staab says they haven't been able to get the big hit.  "It is like our players are going up without a purpose.  They are trying to not strikeout or they are trying to not look bad," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "We had first and second and Thomas (Staab) had a great 2-0 at bat.  Yeah, it is an outside strike, but that is not what you want to hit on a 2-0 pitch.  He swings at it and bloops a ball out to centerfield.  I'm, like, this is a pitch you have to rip and if it is not there take it for strike one that is why we have three."

          Clear Fork (5-4,3-2) plays at Orrville (2-4-,1-4) on Thursday in the second game of the series.  They need a win as they trail Madison, who beat them twice last week, by two games in the standings.

          Staab says they need to show more discipline at the place.  "Their lefty, (Austin) Doner, that threw first, threw gas.  His curve ball was so slow that if you are sitting on a fastball you can still react to that slow pitch, so sit on a fastball.  Our guys where just complaining it wasn't a strike, well if the ump calls it a strike, it's a strike.  I guess the word I want to use is discipline.  We aren't disciplined at the plate.  When that happens I think maybe our offensive slump will finally go away," said Staab.

 

Published 4/14/16

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Penny Leads Madison Past Clear Fork

  

          Michael Penny scattered five hits and struck out 10 in going the distance as Mansfield Madison downed Clear Fork (5-1) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Tuesday in the valley.

          Penny stuck out the side in the bottom of the first and coach Doug Rickert says he had a good breaking pitch to go with his fastball on Tuesday.  "He has been a kid really all of his life that has been able to throw the curveball at anytime.  We feel confident in it.  I think he threw it three times on 3-2 counts and got outs every time.  I think early in the game he was a little pumped up and his ball was up.  I felt coach Harris did a good job of going out there and calming him down a little bit to get him to work the ball down," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "I think we get a lot out of our catcher.  Our catcher is underrated.  Trenton Mortimer does a great job behind the plate of handling our pitchers really well.  He gets down low.  He keeps that ball down low and does a nice job blocking pitches."

          The Colts (4-3,2-1) only run came in the third when Penny misplayed a ball hit back to him allowing Ricky Bartrum to score. 

          Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab says they weren't really very patient at the plate.  "Michael pitched a great game.  We knew he was one of the top pitchers, if not the top pitcher in the league.  He showed it (Tuesday.)  We didn't show a lot of  discipline though.  We made him look really good.  He's a good pitcher, but we made him look really good," he said.

          Madison (2-3,1-0) took a (3-0) lead in the top of the third off Clear Fork starter Shane Klenk.  After the Rams loaded the bases Curtis French produced an RBI single, a second run scored on a force play, and then DH Doug Shenbeger drove in the third with a single.

          After the third, no more runners crossed home plate until Shenberger second bases loaded single of the day in the seventh off of reliever Mitch Dulin.  The final run came when Dulin hit Mortimer with pitch.

          Rickert says it took a while for them to adjust, but they got some key hits.  "We have been hitting the ball a lot better, but this is a big contrast to what we saw in Tennessee.  We were seeing a lot of 85, 86 MPH fastballs.  We see a kid that was throwing 70 and I knew it was going to be an adjustment period for us for a while.  I though Doug Shenberger got a big hit for us a couple of times.  He was up twice in a situation where he got a big hit.  That is big for him.  It is the first time he DHed for us.  It was his first varsity experience.  There were some big plays.  Logan Daniels comes off the bench and gets a big hit for us.  We are getting there.  We are a pretty good defensive team I think and if we continue to throw strikes we will be alright," said Rickert.

          It was Madison's first game in Ohio this year and Rickert says it was a big win against a pretty good Clear Fork team.  "Anytime you play these guys and get a win on the road it is a big deal.  Rusty always does a good job with his kids.  His kids are going to fight, they are going to claw.  They have a real deep pitching staff this year and they have some really good sticks in the lineup.  Luckily we were able to keep (Thomas) Staab off the bases for the most part.  We hit him once and he had a single.  Thank God Clark hit a couple of major league pop ups.  That was big for us because he is a heck of a baseball player," said Rickert.

 

Published 4/06/16

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Lady Colts Survive; Beat Madison

  

          After giving up the lead in the top of the seventh, Clear Fork responded with a run in their half of the seventh to upend Madison (3-2) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference softball game in the valley on Tuesday.

          Madison scored twice to tie the game, but Clear fork kept their poise.

          After a walk to start the bottom of the seventh, the Lady Colts scored on a throwing error to secure the victory.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says it was a bonus to be on their field for the game.  "It's nice to be the home team in that situation.  We didn't give up the lead, they tied it up, and at worse we were going to go extra innings.  We got the leadoff runner on on a walk.  Walks always hurts you in that situation," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "We were able to take advantage and do some little ball stuff.  We definitely got our bunts down (Tuesday) night and advanced.  They made a mistake and we took advantage of it."

          Clear Fork (5-0,3-0) is defending league champion and Madison (1-1,0-1) is one of the real contenders this spring.  Gottfried says they didn't play real well, but it was a good win over a good team.  "We told the girls it was a good win for us.  It was ugly, but an ugly win is better then a pretty loss.  We will take it and move forward.  They know we go on the road (Wednesday) to their place and it will be tough battle up there as well.  Hopefully we are ready to play and play a little better," he said.

          If the rain stays away, the two teams play again on Wednesday at Madison and Gottfried says it is key for them to complete the sweep of the series.  "You have to defend home turf and we did that, but as I told the girls it doesn't mean anything if you don't get one on the road.  It's just a split and they would be equal with us in the league with one loss.  Hopefully we play a little better.  We didn't hit really well.  We have some things we need to be better at (Wednesday.)  Hopefully, we will bounce back and play Lady Colt softball," said Gottfried.

 

Published 4/06/16

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Clear Fork Rallies to beat Ashland

  

          Montana Walker had a triple and a home run and five RBI to lead her Clear Fork Lady Colts to a (7-2) win over Ashland on Tuesday afternoon in the Ohio Cardinal Conference opener for both squads.

          Ashland (1-2,0-1) scored twice in the top half of the third to take the lead, by Lady Colts tied it on Walker's triple and then took a (3-2) lead on a sacrifice fly by Caitlyn Hilverding.  Coach Jeff Gottfried says they didn't panic.  "I think that is experience.  We have a lot of juniors, a lot of seniors that has been there and done that.  They didn't panic, it was the third inning.  Even in scrimmages I don't know if anyone has scored a couple of runs in an inning on us like that.  We kept composure and just kind of chipped away at it," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "I think the biggest response was the bottom half of the inning to put a three spot on the board.  We had the right people up at the right time and they came through for us."

          Walker, headed to University of Findlay to play softball next year, delivered her next time up, this time with a three run homer over the left field wall and onto the baseball field in the fifth.  "I think she proved (Tuesday) night why she is there and why she has been there for three years.  You expect big players to play big in big situations.  She relished that opportunity.  She probably looked back at (Monday) night when she had the opportunity with the bases loaded and two out and didn't come through.  So, I am sure she thought about that for about 24 hours.  It is a new day and she came through for us," said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork (2-0,1-0) plays Ashland again on Wednesday, this time on the road.  Gottfried says they are still working on getting better and finding out who should play where on their infield.  "We made a couple of mistakes (Tuesday) night, but I am going to take the blame for that.  I didn't have them in the right spots at the right times and just different situations.  We still haven't decided what we are going to do there.  The kids we have on the field I will take them all.  They have done a really, really good job of staying focused.  We made some mistakes, but we were able to overcome them," he said.

 

Published 3/30/16

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Colts Edge Ashland in "OCC" Game

  

          The only run scored on a suicide squeeze, but Clear Fork senior Shane Klenk made it stand up as he threw a three hit shutout to lead the Colts to a (1-0) win over Ashland in their first "OCC" game of the season on Tuesday at Legion Field.

          Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab says Klenk was outstanding and he was able to throw all three of his pitches for strikes and again they played some pretty good defense.  "I fell like we are the Cincinnati Reds of '90 with that great pitching staff or any of teams that have just had guys go out and throw strikes.  We talked about it at the beginning of the year.  Shane throws 78 pitches (Tuesday.)   Mitch threw 67 (Monday.)  Both had compete game shutouts.  I feel like I should go out and play the lottery or look for an eclipse," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "I was telling them in our meeting after the game when a pitcher knows he can throw all three pitches and if he makes a mistake and it is hit hard it is still going to be played.  They got three hits and there was some and there was a little bit of a possible rally going and boom we get out of it with a fly ball and we get out of it with a ground ball.  So, hats off to our defense and Shane pitched a great game."

          Ashland pitcher Logan Brewer was the hard luck loser.  He also gave up only three hits and struck out six.  Brewer also had one the hits, a ringing single in the third.  Clear Fork left fielder Mason Cox ran down a Brewer drive that appeared to be destined for the leftfield corner to start the sixth.

          Arrows coach Rob Lavengood says both pitchers were at the top of their game.  "You have to give their kid a lot of credit.  He kept us off balance.  He threw a lot of breaking balls.  We were out on our front foot.  Our guy pitched well.  It was just a good, well pitched game.  I mean the game only lasted about an hour and 20 minutes.  We ended before the softball game, which doesn't happy very often.  You have to give the pitchers a lot of credit.  I though Logan pitched really well for us.  Unfortunately we weren't able to score a run.  Maybe we can get the bats going here pretty soon and put some runs on the board," said Lavengood.

          The only run of the game came in the home half of the third when Luke Clark and Klenk led off the inning with back to back singles and were advanced to second and third on a bunt by Ricky Bartrum.  Lane Belcher then laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt between the mound and third base to allow Clark to score.

          The Colts threatened again in the fourth and sixth, but couldn't score.  Ashland second baseman Ricky Moffett somehow was able to keep a Clark smash if front of him an defuse a Clear Fork rally in the sixth.  "Ashland made some good plays too.  That ball that ate up their second baseman, he at least kept it on the field and we able to throw Luke out.  I thought if that gets by then we have first and third and then maybe we can sneak a run in.  Our only run was a suicide, so we are struggling a little bit offensively, but we are still getting a "W" and that is way more important than anything else," said Staab.

          The two teams meet again Wednesday at Ashland and Staab says the plan for them will be the same.  "I told Lane (Belcher) no pressure, but there were back to back shut outs and you get the ball (Wednesday.)  He laughed, but we will see what happens.  It is supposed to be warmer.  I'll tell you what Brewer pitched a heck of a game.  His slider was really working an it was really baffling our hitters.  For him to lose that kind of game that kind of stinks, but we were very fortunate," he said.

 

Published 3/30/16

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Clear Fork Freshman Shuts Out Galion

  

          Clear Fork freshmen right hander Mitch Dulin scattered eight hits in a complete game shutout as the Colts blanked Galion (4-0) in a non-conference baseball game on Monday afternoon at Legion Field.

          Dulin was not overpowering for the Colts, but he didn't walk a batter and he was consistently able to get out of trouble.  "He threw strikes.  The biggest thing this year that we tell the pitchers is let's not start innings with walks and he didn't have a walk (Monday.)  He pitched a complete game shutout.  Our defense played phenomenal.  Ricky (Bartrum) had a couple of unassisted double plays.  They had the bases loaded a couple of times and we got out of it with just simple ground balls and we got out of it and that's what we have to do," said coach Rusty Staab.

          His biggest "Houdini" act came in fifth inning when Galion's seventh, eighth, and ninth hitters all got singles in Will Donahue, Micthell Dyer and Josh Eckert, but Dulin would strikeout leadoff hitter Tyler Castline and Clear Fork second baseman Ricky Bartrum recorded the first of is unassisted double plays to end the inning. 

          The Colts took a (1-0) lead in the first when leadoff hitter Caleb Merendino was hit by a pitch, stole second, went to third on a ground ball, and scored on a fly ball by Thomas Staab.

          Staab says they certainly left some runs out there.  "Our offense is kind of sputtering right now.  He scored four and we probably should have had at least another four, but when you have a great catcher and someone tries to take advantage he is going to throw people out and called a great game and did a great job, let's hope he continues it," he said.

          Galion (0-1) grounded into two double plays, left seven on base, and had a man thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on a single.  Coach Phil Jackson says Clear Fork made the big plays.  "When they needed a key hit they got it.  When our infield was pulled in they would bloop it over and we didn't get that.  That's baseball.  I not too disappointed about the way we put the ball in play.  I thought we tagged a few of them and they made the double plays when they need too," he said.

          Clear Fork extended their lead to (3-0) on RBI hits by Luke Clark and Shane Klenk in the third inning.  Staab says they were able to do a lot of the little things. "We thought we could get a good jump on the catcher and we did have a few stolen bases and we had a few nice bunts and that kind of started things.  Thomas (Staab) got us a fly ball to get us our first run and then it just seemed like it was exactly the way we lost to Harding we had so many opportunities and it didn't happen and I thought here we go again, but a little itty bitty hit to left field got us a couple of runs.  We'll take it," he said after the win, "That's my biggest concern right now is our offense.  We have Ashland coming up and hopefully it warms up a little more and the offense can wake up too."

          Clear Fork (2-1,0-0) is at home Tuesday for Ashland (0-0,0-0,) who had a game with Shelby suspended due to darkness Monday with the game tied at 1-1.  Staab says this will be another good Ashland team.  "Ashland lost quite a few players, but they still have (Logan) Brewer and a couple of other good players.  They always have depth and I think they are going to be a huge challenge throughout the year for everybody in the "OCC," he said.

 

Published 3/29/16

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Clear Fork Shuts Out Triway

  

          Darian Gottfried twirled a shut out Monday as Clear Fork downed Wooster Triway (8-0) in a non-conference girls' softball game in the valley.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says they did a lot of good things on Monday, most notably with the gloves.  "Anytime you can get a shutout in your first game, no matter who the opponent is, it is always a good thing.  We played really solid defense.  We told the girls before the game if they don't score they can't win.  That is our focus every game, but we certainly held that side up (Monday) night," said Gottfried.

          Plus, the veteran Clear Fork coach says they got some timely hitting, in some cases from some surprising sources, as they were able to play their kind of game.  "The game was a lot closer probably than what it ended up.  We got a couple of good two out hits," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "Even when it was 6-0 we had a senior get an at bat that usually doesn't get a lot of at bats and Lexi Snavely comes through with a two out hit there in the sixth inning.  We just kind of chipped away.  We got one in the first and two in the third and we just kept tacking it on and keeping the pressure on the opposition."

          Clear Fork can be a really good team again this year, but Gottfried says they are not going to bludgeon a lot of teams, but they are going to force opponents to make plays to beat them.  "We don't have a whole lot of power.  We didn't have a whole lot of power a year ago.  We just figure out what works best for our team and do what we can," he said.

          Clear Fork (1-0,) the defending Ohio Cardinal Conference champion, plays host to Ashland (1-1) in their conference opener at home on Tuesday.  The Lady Arrows may be a little inexperienced this year, but they are always going to be good.

          One can not visit the Clear Fork softball field without noticing the number "15" on the left field fence.  This is in honor of former player and coach Teresa Ruhl, who passed away last year after a battle with cancer.  Assistant coach Kerri Gottfried says it is their plan to never issue number 15 to a player again.

 

Published 3/29/16

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Clear Fork Baseball With Some Growing Pains

 

          Wednesday, Clear Fork had their first full squad workout outside on the baseball diamond and things didn't go well. 

          Coach Rusty Staab says right now the only way they can go is up.  "The weather has been very rainy, but it is better than snow.  (Wednesday) was our first day on the infield and the outfield together and we looked horrible.  I have look at like we can't get any worse.  The wind was awesome for prop ups and fly balls so we could look pretty stupid.  We have a bunch of seniors, but they are kind of rookie seniors and I think they have to go back to playbook because it one thing to go through the motions in the gym and we talk about it.  When we get out there and they have done it a couple of times and they are still screwing up.  Anytime you can get on the field, a good or bad play, it is still good to be in the field.  We play Wynford in a scrimmage (Thursday,) so hopefully we have got all of our stupid stuff out," said Staab.

          Coach Staab's son Thomas, a sophomore, and the team's leadoff hitter and centerfielder as a freshman, will be out the first couple of weeks after off season knee surgery.  The coach says they are going to have to have other players step up.   "It is more important that he get that taken care of over the winter and he is probably going to miss the first two weeks, but that is better than missing the summer because he is playing for a good summer team, so he needs to be out there.  He is our leadoff hitter and roams centerfield, so we are going to miss him, but it is time for other kids to step up.  We have witnessed in all kinds of sports that injuries happen and you just have you step up.  It is going to give some of the seniors a good opportunity. Mason Todd, who is a sophomore, has been doing really good defensively, is probably going to get some innings out there too.  We just have to deal with it.  We have a couple of sophomores than transferred in from Fredericktown, so they will have to set out the first 13 games.  If we can hold on until the Calvary shows up we should be okay," said Staab.

          When looking at his roster, Staab thinks that pitching will be one the Colts strengths.  However, he says that has to be proven on the field.  "That is probably going to one of our strengths.  We have a of guys that throw strikes.  Of course, that is in the gym.  We looked pretty good on defense in the gym too, but we didn't look very good (Wednesday) we will know more (Thursday.)  We want them to throw strikes, we want them to get back to basics," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "I told the kids there is going to be a big poster up in the locker room.  It says if we can throw strikes like the New York Mets, who had the least amount of walks in the major leagues last year, if we can field the ball like the Dodgers, who made the least amount of errors, both in the playoffs, and the Mets in the World Series, and if we can make contact and cut our strikeouts down like the Royals, the Royals had the least amount of strikeouts in the majors last year, and they won the World Series.  So, if we can just keep it simple and hit the ball field the ball and throw strikes.  of course, everybody is trying to do that, so we will see.  We have a bunch of good kids, so hopefully they buy into it."

 

Published 3/17/16

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Clear Fork Ready to go

 

          Clear Fork softball doesn't rebuild, it reloads and the defending Ohio Cardinal Conference champions expect to have another solid season.

          With the Lady Colts when they don't win a conference championship and at least advance to the district level it is an odd season.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says they return a lot of talent, but they will be missing some key elements from last spring.  "Personnel wise we have everybody back with the exception of Erika Farst and Morgan Arnett.  The unfortunate thing is they were very key spots.  Morgan was a four year starter on the mound for us.  Erika was a middle infielder that played everywhere and also played four years for us and was very, very solid.  Both were excellent leaders in different ways.  We are going to miss that as much as anything else," he told Swankonsports.com, "Every year is a new year and even though you have good kids coming in you had relied on the ones from the year before.  Everything is different with different personnel people might have to move to different positions.  It is always a work in progress when you get ready for the new season."

          Some players might have to find new positions and Gottfried says it would be a plus if they could get out and get some innings in scrimmage play this year, unlike last.  "Hopefully you don't have to make too many major changes with kids coming back they are comfortable at certain spots.  They also understand that we are team first.  Some kids need to make a move and if you recall from a couple of years ago we flip flopped our infield from one year to the next and it was all the same kids.  It's just a matter how things mesh.  Hopefully the good thing is we are going to get some scrimmages.  I know last year we didn't hardly scrimmage at all, in fact I don't think we did going into that first week.  Hopefully, the weather cooperates these next two weeks and we can get to see some innings," said Gottfried.

          When it comes to the weather and practice time, Gottfried says they can do a lot of things inside.  "It makes it a lot easier when you want to get a field ready.  As far as our preparation not a whole lot is different.  We are pretty sound in our fundamentals as far as the way we approach things and all of that work can be done inside the gymnasium.  You control the environment.  You can set up bases and do all kinds of things.  Once you get outside it is hard the get the kids back inside.  We try as much as possible to keep the kids in.  We do send our outfielders out.  It is nice to look outside and not see the dome and gloom of winter," he said.

          A valuable thing this year is it appears that the Lady Colts have pretty good chemistry and Gottfried says that is something you must have at the high school level, especially with girls.  "With girls it can be very hard to get that chemistry going the way it needs too.  That was one of my main concerns going into the season.  In our preseason meetings with the team we sat down and said this is a concern that we have and we have to make sure we attack that and I think our kids have that at the top of their list," he said.

 

Published 3/15/16

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Clear Fork Has to Handle it

  

          If they are going to have much of a chance of advancing in the tournament, the Clear Fork Colts have to be able to handle the ball without a bunch of turnovers.

          That has been the case all season long and more times than not they haven't been able to do that.

          They play Margaretta (7-13) in a first round tournament game in division three on Wednesday night at Shelby High School.

          The Colts (4-18) lost a tough one to West Holmes (58-57) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Saturday.  Coach Steven Bechtel says they had a chance to get the win, but just couldn't make the play.  "It was definitely a game we could have won.  We put ourselves in a situation to win, but unfortunately we came up on the short end.  Hopefully that is a learning experience for our kids that every possession counts and down the stretch we didn't handle the basketball when we needed to," said Bechtel.

          Margaretta finished in sixth place is the seven team Sandusky Bay Conference.  Bechtel thinks the teams are similar in their make up.  "I think they are very similar to us.  They rely to certain guys to really step up and do their scoring for them.  Their youth shows at times, just like ours does.  They keep coming at you just like we do.  I think it is kind of looking at the mirror at each other.  Both teams are going to have to come out an execute at both ends of the floor.  I am pretty sure which ever team does the best at that is going to come out on top," said Bechtel.

          For them, Bechtel says the have to handle the basketball better than they have been and they have to compete on the glass if they are gong to win this one.  "Obviously we have to take care of the basketball.  That is the number one thing.  I have felt all year when we have taken care of the basketball we have gotten great looks, we just haven't done a good job of that," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "And rebounding the basketball, limiting them to one shot on their offensive end.  If we do those two things I think we will put ourselves in position to win the game."

 

Published 2/24/16

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Defense Must Improve for the Colts

 

          Clear Fork takes a four game losing skid into their final game of the regular season at home Saturday night against the West Holmes Knights in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          The game was originally scheduled for Friday night, but West Holmes plays New Philadelphia in a division two tournament game on Friday, so this game had to me moved.

          Clear Fork was drilled by Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference blue division champion Centerburg (84-49) on Tuesday night.  Coach Steven Bechtel says they were not able to find a way to stop the Trojans from scoring.  "They came out and they executed really, really well offensively.  Whatever we threw at them they handled it.  The were hitting open shots, they were scoring inside.  We just had no answer for them defensively," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "I thought offensively we handled the ball really well.  We only had six turnovers.  We shot the ball well.  We couldn't make very many open jumpers and that was our downfall.  We could score on them, just not enough.  We need to get more stops and that is what we have been working on the last couple of days, getting lots of stops."

          Clear Fork (4-17,1-12) just lost to West Holmes (54-49) on Saturday night.  Bechtel says the Knights (2-18,1-12) will likely use the same strategy, so they must do a better job.  He says they have to give effort for four quarters.  "I think they are going to do the same thing they did the last time against us.  They were successful.  We talked to our kids after that game we went on a spell where they took a 13 point lead and we weren't playing as sharp as we could.  We have to make sure, especially at this time of year, that we play 32 minutes.  We only have one more game after West Holmes that is guaranteed, the one against Margaretta, we aren't guaranteed another one, so we have to go out there and make sure we play Clear Fork basketball," said Bechtel.

          The Colts play Margaretta in a division three tournament game next week at Shelby High School and Bechtel says starting Saturday night against West Holmes they must play better situational basketball.  "I think every game is important.  We just have to continue to get better and finding a way to get those stops.  In end of quarter situations come away with points in just crucial parts of the game that can help you in the tournament.  Hopefully on Saturday we will be successful in those situations," he said.

 

Published 2/19/16

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Clear Fork Seventh Grade Finishes Unbeaten

  

          It is very difficult for any team at any level to finish a season unbeaten, it's that simple.

          Last time it happened in the NFL?  1972 Miami Dolphins, I was seven years old, that was over 40 years ago.  Last time an NCCA men's basketball team did it?  1976 Indiana Hooisers of Bobby Knight.  Well, the Clear Fork Colts seventh grade boys' basketball team just turned the trick last week with an overtime win over Wooster in the Ohio Cardinal Conference tournament.

          Coach John Parrott says he knew there was some talent there, but he really never imagined they would go undefeated.  "At the start of the season with try outs and things I knew we had some good ball players and some talented kids.  I thought we could be pretty good, but never dreamed we could be like this, especially with the competition in the league that we play.  I knew I had some really good guards and ball handlers.  I was concerned about our post play, but those kids came on as the year progressed.  It turned out to be a pretty special season," said Parrott.

          There were some close games in the regular season and the tournament too.  Parrott says they had kids that could handle it pretty well under pressure.  "We averaged about 46 points a game and gave up 28, pretty good there.  We did have a couple of games where we were down at halftime during the season and came back and played a good second half.  We knew we would have a tough time against Wooster on their floor there in that final game.  We watched them beat Senior High in the semi-final.  They were playing great ball, but our kids just sucked it up and got it into overtime, kept their cool, and had an amazing finish," said Parrott.

          They say high school basketball is won from the guard position and Parrott says that's the case in junior high too.  "I've told a lot of people that we have great guard play for the seventh grad level.  If you have kids that can handle the ball and do some special things with the ball you are going to be pretty successful and we certainly had that this year," he said.

          Parrott has been preparing kids at the lower levels at Clear Fork for many years.  I was an equipment manager for his eight grade team during the 1978-79 season.  He says this is clearly one of the better teams he has coached.  "They rank right up there.  Back in the early 90's we went three years in a row where we won the Madison tournament," he told Swankonsports.com, "The '92 group went undefeated with Palmer and Hamilton and that group an then group after then lost one, they had gone undefeated as seventh graders, and lost one as eighth graders, that was a pretty good group with Lance Dill and Scotty Sellers.  These guys rank right up there, the top two or three probably."

         Seventh grade team members include:  Brandon Baughman, Ben Blubaugh, Merritt Burgholder, Shad Creamer, Foster Gerhardt, Kyle Glasener, Josh Hotz, Logan Hursh, Luke Labaki, Drew Lind, Braden Montgomery, Jacob Merindo, Luke Popa, Brady Tedrow, and Bruce Swainhart.

 

Published 2/11/06

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Clear Fork Facing Some up Tempo Teams

 

          Clear Fork plays five games over the final two weeks of the regular season and three of them are this week.

          They play at Northmor, of the "MOAC" blue division, on Tuesday in a non-conference game, and then they are at Wooster, and home for West Holmes, in a pair of Ohio Cardinal Conference games on Friday and Saturday.

          Last Friday, the Colts lost an "OCC" game (66-55) at Orrville.  Coach Steven Bechtel says they did a lot of good things, they just didn't make enough shots.  "I thought we played really well.  The first half we kind of got in a hole.  We weren't making shots.  We were executing what we were supposed to do, we were getting open shots, we just weren't knocking them in.  We got off to a slow start, but then in the third quarter we rebounded well.  We cut it to four late, but we had to start fouling and they made free throws," said Bechtel.

          Northmor (6-11) has some athletic talent with point guard Meechie Johnson, who made a game winner last year against Clear Fork, and Bechtel says they do a variety of things on defense.  "Their point guard is extremely quick.  He can get to the basket pretty much anytime he wants.  They like to push the ball in transition.  The are long, obviously, with the Kegley kid inside.  They do a lot of different things with spread and motion and in their zone.  There are a lot of different things we have to prepare for.  I think the kids are going to be ready to go," he said.

          On Friday night, they have to find a way to slow down the Wooster Generals (12-6,9-3), #5 in the Swankonsports.com basketball coaches poll in the large school division.  Wooster drilled them (94-39) on January 15 and Bechtel says they have to limit their turnovers.  "I think the biggest thing is we have to handle their pressure a lot better than we did the first time.  They want to speed you up.  They want to play a game in the 80's or 90's and obviously we don't have the horses to do that this year," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "We have to do a great job in the full court and then in the half court because they like to press and trap there as well.  We have to find a way to handle the pressure, get some easy baskets, and hopefully we can find a way to slow the down in their transition game."

          The Colts (4-13,1-10) host West Holmes (1-17,1-11) on Saturday night on a game rescheduled from January 12.  Bechtel says the Knights are another team that wants to get down the floor.  "They like to push the basketball too.  They don't have a lot of size, they have the Goudy kid that is 6'5".  Other than that they are pretty small, they are scrappy, and they get after it.  Our kids we have to make sure we continue to work all week and have enough in the tank on Saturday night as well," he said.

 

Published 2/09/16

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Clear Fork Looking for Another Win over Orrville

  

          Clear Fork is looking to make it two straight wins as they travel to Orrville for an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.

          Tuesday night, they played one of their better games of the season in downing Fredericktown (53-39) in non conference play.  Coach Steven Bechtel thought it was an outstanding effort on defense.  "I thought we did a great job.  Chase (Endiott) and Chance (Barnett) did a great job on Kirk Manns, he is a heck of an individual player.  I thought everybody did a great job.  When they had the ball everybody was aware and really helped them out coming off screens or when he had the ball.  I just thought is was a great effort defensively.  Offensively we found open guys and we attacked inside where we had an advantage," said Bechtel.

          Defense is something the Colts have to play well in order to be successful.  Bechtel says they haven't always done that, but overall they have been pretty good.  "It has been hit and miss.  Obviously in certain games we didn't match up really well with what our weakness are versus their strengths.  Obviously that is an area that we always have to work on is guarding the basketball," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "I think overall we have rebounded well with most teams.  There are have been certain spells in games where maybe we don't play as well as we need too.  Overall I think the defense has been pretty good."

          Clear Fork (4-12,1-9) is at Orrville (3-13,2-9) for an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.  Even though their record isn't too good, Bechtel says the Riders can stretch a defense.  "The Smith kid and the Conway kid are obviously are the two that get most of the attention because of what they can do with the basketball, but they have other guys.  Their point guard Robinson has the ability to take guys off the dribble.  Benjamin and can shoot the three really well.  If they have a big night, with the other two, they are a tough match for us," said Bechtel.

          The Colts beat Orrville (56-55) at their place on January 8 when Chance Barnett laid it in at the horn.  Bechtel says they are probably going to have to play better this time if they are going to sweep the series.  "We like our chances going over there, but they are going to play a heck of a lot better at home.  They probably aren't feeling too good about getting beat at the buzzer by us the first time.  I think the kids are focused and hopefully we can build on the Fredericktown win and go over there and play a good brand of basketball," said Bechtel.

 

Published 2/05/16

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Colts Bury Freddies

  

          Clear Fork was able to get the ball inside of some easy opportunities for much of the night and they went on to route the Fredericktown Freedies (53-39) in a non conference game at Les Hauenstein Gym on Tuesday night.

          Christian Beer scored eight of his game high 23 point in the first quarter as the Colts took a (14-3) lead.  Beer and his teammates were able to attempt many shots from point blank range.  "They started out in a zone.  We weren't sure if they were going to come out in man or zone, so we had sets set up for either one.  I thought our kids did a great job, besides the first possession, they did a great job of executing against the zone," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "We got them out of the zone and then we went into our offense.  We wanted to attack them inside, we thought we had an advantage there."

          Fredericktown (4-10) is a team that wants to slow the pace down and limit the possessions.  Bechtel thought Tuesday night they did an excellent job of controlling the tempo.  "We knew they were going to be patient and obliviously on our board in there we want to control the tempo.  We actually want to push it (Tuesday) night.  A lot of the times this year we wanted to show it down, that type of thing.  I thought the kids did a great job of adjusting to their pace and handling the Manns kid as well as we did," said Bechtel.

          The Colts cashed in on 63 percent of their field goals (25 of 40) on the night and made three of eight from behind the three point line.  Bechtel says they were able to find the open guy and then make those shots.  "I thought after the first half they collapsed on Christian a little bit and he found the open guy and Chance hit some open shots.  Guys stepped up where we needed them too," he said.

          Chance Barnett added 21 for the Colts.  Kirk Manns led Fredericktown with 17.

          Ball handling has been an area where the Colts need to get better and Bechtel says they did a pretty good job Tuesday night.  "I think we had seven turnovers in the first half and we ended with eight.  That's good.  Obviously in the second half we really took care of the basketball.  That is a huge key for us in getting open shots and that kind of thing," he said.

 

Published 2/03/16

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Powerful Orrville Beats Clear Fork

 

          Trinniti Hall scored 21 points and gobbled up 15 rebounds to lead Orrville past Clear Fork (58-28) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference girls' basketball game at Les Hauenstein Gym on Thursday night.

          Hall is a tremendous player with a lot of athleticism and quickness who plays her best close to the basket.  Thursday night Orrville was able to make two threes in the first minute of the game and three in the first quarter.  Coach Mark Alberts Sr. says that opens things up for Hall.  "I said on the bench when we hit those threes, when we hit shots like that it opens up the floor for Trinity and there is no question if we are going to be successful against the better teams on our schedule we have to do that.  I'll tell you this Heidi (Roush) has done a tremendous job, they have improved so much since we played them on December 22.  They are much better.  It's a tribute to her and her girls.  When our girls shoot like that we are hard to guard.  We have the inside game and if we can make as few threes out there we can hold them off a little bit and (Thursday) night we did that," said Alberts.

          Orrville beat Clear Fork (63-19) at their place.

          Macy Wade led Clear Fork with 13 points Thursday night.  Trailing (31-11) at the half, Lady Colts coach Heidi Roush feels her team competed better in the second half.  "I told them the first half they looked real scared.  They were running their offense from far, far away and nobody really wanted the ball.  The second half we just challenged them to play harder.  It doesn't matter your outcome, if you lose by 10 or you lose by 40 it is still a loss.  You need to give it all you've got and I felt like the kids did that," she said.

          Orrville forced 18 turnovers and Alberts says to be successful they have to get some offense from their defense.  "We shoot it okay and at times we shoot it better than others, but we feel we have to get some easy baskets and one of the ways we try to do that is through the press.  Even if we don't steel it what we do is try to create some problems for the other team and make them speed up and be a little faster than they want to play.  Now it gets up and down the floor and that suits us a lot better than that grind it our slowdown style that some teams play.  I think if you are playing us that is the way you want to play.  If we can run, get out and go, get enough possessions, I think we are going to score some points," he said.

          Orrville (16-2,10-2), #1 in the Swankonsports.com girls' basketball coaches poll in the small school division, is second in the "OCC" and their only losses are to conference leader West Holmes.  Alberts pronounces them ready for the tournament, which begins in three weeks.  "We had the bump in the road down at West Holmes, but we played pretty good and West Holmes is good and I thought we got the low end of the officiating down there.  If you are going to beat West Holmes, especially on their floor, you have to get it called closely and they let them do some things to us that some refs wouldn't.  Yes, that is an excuse.  We had one girl that didn't play against West Holmes, Celesta Walters, she had been our sixth girl off the bench.  So, we are used to playing without her, she still hasn't come back yet.  So, we are ready to go, we are ready for the tournament to start and we are looking forward to it," said Alberts.

          Alberts goes for his 600th win as a varsity coach, boys' at Fredericktown, Danville, and Wooster, and girls' at Orrville, when the Lady Red Riders play Smithville on Saturday.

 

Published 1/29/16

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Clear Fork Working on Ball Handling

 

          Clear Fork is going through a tough part of their schedule with Lexington and Ashland last week and Mansfield Madison and Mansfield Senior this week.

          Lexington, the "OCC" leader, bounced the Colts (60-36) last Friday and then Clear Fork lost a home game to Ashland (57-41) on Saturday night in league play.

          Despite the losses, head coach Steven Bechtel likes the way his team responded last weekend.  "On Friday night, we knew going in that Lexington was a really good basketball team.  They kind of got us really good there in the first half, but I was really happy with the way our kids responded in the second half.  They came out and did some things really well in the second half.  We focused on few things in particular.  On Saturday, we cut it to three late in the game and then just didn't have enough down the stretch.  Ashland just made some plays down the stretch," said Bechtel.

          Clear Fork has an inexperienced team this year and Bechtel says ball handling is still and issue with them.  "We definitely have to get better with our ball handling.  Obviously in our conference, and our non-conference games, they are going to be bring a lot of pressure.  We have to value the basketball.  Maybe not making that pass that they think might get there and making the pass that they know is going to get there.  That is really what we have been reping in practice," he said.

          Madison (9-7,6-3) will be at Les Hauenstein Gym on Friday night to battle the Colts (3-10,1-7) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.  The Rams won at their place (55-33) very early in the season.  Bechtel says the Rams are hard to score against.  "They have two all league players in Ajian and Buckley and they have a lot of other guys that play their role extremely well.  If they are out there hitting shots that makes them really, really hard to guard.  Defensively they can lock it in," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday  "I think they are one of the best defensive teams probably in the area just in the way that they get after the basketball.  They are physical with your posts too."

          It is a visit to Pete Henry to play Mansfield Senior Tygers (8-5,6-3) on Saturday night.  This has not been the most consistent season for Senior High, but Bechtel says they still do the things well that they always to do well.  "Their athleticism and their pressure, those are the two big things and they rebound the ball extremely well.  Those are three areas that we have to make sure we are solid on Saturday night.  As spuratic as they have been they can score in bunches real quick if you are not careful.  We have our hands full this weekend," he said.

 

Published 1/28/16

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Lady Colts Find the Basket

 

          Clear Fork did two things Monday night that they have been struggling with all season.  They made some shots and they limited turnovers and that led to a win.

          The Lady Colts downed Fredericktown (45-34) in a non-conference girls basketball game at Fredericktown on Monday night.

          They are shooting only 29 percent of the season and coach Heidi Roush has been saying they need to find a way to be less nervous when they shoot the ball and have the confidence that it will go in.  That happened on Monday as they made 18 of 41 field goals (44%) against the Lady Freddies.  They actually shot 50% from inside the three point line. 

          Clear Fork had three players in double figures led by 12 from Macy Wade, 10 from senior Montana Walker, and a career high 10 from Hannah McCartney.

          They had to rally to win the game.  Trailing (21-20) at the intermission, the Lady Colts outscored Fredericktown (25-13) in the second half.

          Another key stat was turnovers.  Clear Fork had more assists, 12, than turnovers, 11, in the game.  They are averaging 19 giveaways a game this season.

          Things get much tougher for the Lady Colts (5-14,3-9) as they host Orrville (14-2,9-2) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Thursday night at Les Hauenstein Gym.

 

Published 1/26/16

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Colts Face Another Tough Weekend

 

          When you play the kind of schedule that Clear Fork does there aren't any "off" weekends and they play two more tough games in the Ohio Cardinal Conference on Friday and Saturday.  At Lexington and at home with Ashland.

          Last week, they were punished by Wooster (94-39) in a league game and then fell to Mansfield St. Peter's (63-49) in non conference play on Saturday.  Coach Steven Bechtel says pleased with how they responded on Saturday night.  "Obviously Friday night was a pretty brutal night for us, but I was really happy with how the kids responded on Saturday night.  We didn't win, but we came away with a lot of positives in that game.  We battled back and had our chances, we cut it to 10 late in the game.  We just weren't able to get over the hump.  I was proud of how the kids responded after the loss to Wooster on Saturday night," said Bechtel.

          The Colts have put together some better performances lately, but Bechtel says they still have to be better at handling the ball.  "We are getting better and we are doing a lot of things well.  There is one thing we haven't done very well and that is take care of the basketball.  That is something we stress in practice and hopefully in games we are going to come away without having too many turnovers," he said.

          Clear Fork (3-8,1-5) will have a very tough challenge on Friday night as they play at "OCC" leader Lexington (14-1,6-1), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division.  Bechtel says the Minutemen can beat you in so many ways.  "I think they are balanced in the fact that they can play many different styles and that is because of the quality of their players.  They can play a really up tempo game.  I think they can run well enough to do that," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "They can play a slow it down game because they can put it inside.  They are a very good basketball team based on their record.  We are going to have our hands full."

          Lexington won the first match-up between the teams (85-52) on December 4.  Bechtel says the game can't be that high scoring if they are going to win.  "Controlling tempo obviously has to be one of our goals.  They are going to do the things that they do really, really well.  We just have to make them play as much defense as possible.  We still want to push the basketball and get into some situations where we can score on three on two and those type of things, but we really have to control the tempo," said Bechtel.

          Ashland (6-7,4-3) coming off a (68-50) win over Wooster last Saturday comes calling on Saturday night.  Bechtel says the Arrows are healthy and have put things together.  "They are playing really, really well.  Jason (Hess) has then going.  They are kind of getting in stride.  The Denbow kid is back.  He is at full strength now.  They are a quality basketball team and it is another one where we have to control tempo and we have to keep them off the glass as much as possible," he said.

 

Published 1/21/16

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Shelby Beats Clear Fork

  

          Shelby led (32-13) at halftime and went on to down the Clear Fork Lady Colts (50-27) in a non-conference girls basketball game played on Tuesday night at Les Hauenstein Gym.

          The Lady Whippets scored twice in the first minute on goals by Maddi Fidler in the post, but coach Natalie Lantz says they didn't stay consistent enough through out the game, especially the second half.  "I think we came out and attacked really well from the start.  We were very focused.  We were intense on defense.  We pounded the ball inside and the post players were scoring.  We were getting the fouls, which is what we needed to do and then we lost focus," she told Swankonsports.com after the game, "We show spurts of greatness and then we back down.  Then show spurts and we back down.  We have got to become more consistent on our play, more focused.  When we put it together this is a pretty good team, but it has got be for 32 minutes and not three minutes here and five minutes there."

          It was a reoccurring theme for the Lady Colts (3-13.)  They just can't make shots.  They made 10 of 40 (25%) against Shelby and are shooting (27%) for the season.  "We had some great looks in the first half and I was very, very excited by those.  There were five or six that went in and out.  I feel like if we made those we could have put a little pressure on them.  We have got to find a way to relax and put the ball in the basket because they are getting the shots, they just have to believe they are going in," said Clear Fork coach Heidi Roush.

          The Shelby (11-4) pressure hurt Clear Fork too resulting in 25 turnovers.  However, Lantz is still looking for more consistency there too.   "We were trying to make some adjustments.  We have been trying to switch things around and try to find the right combination and the right kids to rotate to the right spot.  I think we are starting to get there it is just every team runs the press breaker different.  We have to know that against a 2-2-1 they are going to try and break it middle.  One player has to be thinking and cutting that pass off.  We also forced some long passes out of bounds.  We told them its is not all about steals.  If you force a turnover that is an extra possession," said Lantz.

          Fidler lead Shelby with 13 points.  Paige Johnson had five, all from the line, to pace the Lady Colts. 

          Shelby lost to Willard (48-42) on Saturday and they trail Norwalk and Bellevue by two games in the Northern Ohio League race.  Lantz knows they are going to need some help to get a piece of the title.  "We put ourselves in a position where we need to win the rest of the games, but we also need some upsets from some other teams.  That is very doable, honestly, by several teams.  It is going to be an interesting round two.  We are hoping it comes out to our advantage towards the end," she said.

          Norwalk beat Willard (70-69) in overtime on Tuesday night.  Bellevue beat Sandusky (37-33) in league action.

 

Published 1/19/16

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Clear Fork to Face very good Teams

 

          After losing their first four games, the Clear Fork Colts have won three of their last five, including their first Ohio Cardinal Conference game Over Orrville (56-55) last Friday.

          Chance Barnett scored on a rebound basket as the buzzer sounded on Friday night for the win.  On Saturday night, Ontario belted the Colts (69-41) in a non-conference game. 

          Coach Steven Bechtel says his team is starting to play with more confidence in games.  "We like the consistency that we are getting from the guys.  Some nights are awesome and Friday night was a great win for us.  Saturday night wasn't the greatest at Ontario, we didn't handle their pressure very well.  I think in the second half we rebounded well and that shows that maybe they are baby steps, but we are getting better," said Bechtel.

          With the young Colts ball handing seems to still be the biggest issue and Bechtel says they are going to have to be a lot better handling the ball this coming weekend.  "This weekend we are going to have a huge test.  Wooster and Mansfield St. Peter's both pressure with man-to-man and are really physical that way.  It's a little different than Ontario, which is a zone press," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We are really going to have to step up and make sure we are getting to our spots and making good decisions with the basketball, so we have a opportunity to score and not give them so many easy baskets."

          Wooster (7-3,4-1) will be at Clear Fork (3-6,1-4) in an "OCC" game on Friday night.  Bechtel says they are very good athletically and they are playing with confidence.  "They are athletic at pretty much every position.  It is going to be a huge challenge for us.  They are playing really, really well right now.  They are getting great leadership from the Bennington kid.  They have a lot of guys that capable of putting points on the board.  We are going to have our hands full on Friday night," said Bechtel.

          The Generals, who edged previously unbeaten Lexington (69-66) on Friday night, have scored a bunch of points games, even some of their losses.  Bechtel says they can't allow them to get too many easy ones.  "The biggest thing is not giving them the easy baskets where they only have to go 20 feet to score.  If they are going to score it is going to be against our five guys, against our set defense.  Their surges it is going to come down to whether we handle their pressure or not.  That is an area of the game where they are really, really good, so it is going to be a challenge for us,' said Bechtel.

          Clear Fork is at Mansfield St. Peter's (9-2), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the small school division, Saturday night.  Bechtel says this is another team that will try and force the tempo of the game.  "They are a very talented basketball team.  They have some guys that can shoot it, score inside.  They are another team that likes to press and get the game going up and down the floor. We have kind of gone back and forth with them over the years.  They got us last year at our place.  It is one of those things were hopefully we have enough energy Saturday night to beat a good St. Pete's team," he said.

 

Published 1/1/316

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Ontario Dumps Clear Fork

  

          Amanda Nething scored nine of her game high 17 points in the third quarter as Ontario downed Clear Fork (52-32) in a non-conference girls' basketball game on Monday night.

          Clear Fork cut the Ontario lead to (25-22) on Darian Gottfried free throw with 6:38 left in the third quarter, but the Lady Colts would score only four points for the rest of the quarter and trailed (41-26) after three quarters.

          Ontario forced 25 turnovers on the night, 15 in the first half, and coach Sarah Kirchbaum thinks they were affective with their press.  "That is kind of one of our strengths, our speed and our press, so that is what we really looked to do on (Monday) night.  I thought we could get out and pressure them and cause some turnovers.  I thought we did a pretty good job of staying consistent with it.  I thought we did a good job of rotating well out of it, especially through the middle.  I was very pleased with that and their effort," said Kirchbaum.

          They knew what to expect when it comes to the Ontario press, but Clear Fork coach Heidi Roush says they didn't always execute very well.  "We knew it was coming and we practiced for it and I think the girls know what to do they just have lapses.  There were times we moved the ball exactly they way we talked about," she told Swankonsports.com after the game, "We moved the ball with the pass it was very affective and we just had other moments when we just decided we weren't going to do that and we paid the price."

         Ontario plays in the tough Northern Ohio League, which includes the likes of Willard, Bellevue, Shelby and Norwalk, all with more than nine wins on the season.  Kirchbaum feels they can stay with those teams.  "I think we have been a lot more competitive this year.  We still have a pretty young squad.  We are playing with a bit more confidence this year.  I really look forward to the second half of the "NOL."  I think we will be able to surprise ourselves the most just continuing to play hard," she said.

          Gottfried paced Clear Fork with 10 points. 

          Emily Yeager, a transfer from Mansfield St. Peter's, had 16 points in her first game for Ontario on Monday night and Kirchbaum says she can make a difference for them in the second half of the season.  "She is definitely going to help us.  Her and Hanna Holmes, she is going to be able to gives more depth in the post.  They are nice additions for us on the court," she said.

 

Published 1/12/16

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Clear Fork is Finding What it Takes

 

          Clear Fork has now won two of its last three games heading into a weekend that includes an Ohio Cardinal Conference game at home against Orrville on Friday night and a visit to Ontario for a non-league game on Saturday night.

          The Colts rallied in the second half last Saturday to knock off Lucas (46-44) in a non-league game.  Coach Steven Bechtel says proud of the effort and intestinal fortitude that his players showed in that game.  "Real pleased, obviously, coming away with a win, and happy with how we did it.  We had to battle back in the third quarter and the fourth.  We were fortunate to come out on top in a very close basketball game.  Hopefully, that is a sign we are growing as a group and coming together and are able to get that one stop at the end of the game," said Bechtel.

          They have a team made up mostly of underclassmen and Bechtel says they are finding what it takes to win varsity games.  "It just finding a way, figuring it out, being out of our contort zone.  Being on the road in a different environment and having the kids really step up is a huge sign for us.  Hopefully, we are turning that page and this will help us develop down the rest of the year," he said.

          Clear Fork (2-5,0-4) hosts Orrville (2-5,1-3) in an "OCC" game at Les Hauenstein Gym on Friday night.  Bechtel says this us a team that knows who it is and will be tough to deal with.  "They are a very talented basketball team.  The remind me of the Colts from last year," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "They have two really good, standout players in Conway and Smith, and they have a lot of great guys just around them that do what they do very, very well.  They take care of the basketball.  They hit open shots.  It is going to be a huge challenge for Clear Fork."

          A trip to Ontario (7-3), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, is on tap for Saturday night.  Bechtel says the Warriors have a number of ways they can beat you.  "They are quite exceptional.  They have had some hiccups there as the year has gone on.  Joe (Balogh) obviously does a great job over there.  They can play in different ways and beat you in different ways.  We are really going to have to have our heads on straight so we can have a great night Friday night and hopefully follow that up with a good effort Saturday as well," said Bechtel.

 

Publlished 1/07/16

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St. Peter's Downs Clear Fork

  

          Makenzie Henderickson scored nine of her game high 14 points during a (9-0) St. Peter's third quarter run and the Lady Spartans downed Clear Fork (38-26) in a non-conference girls basketball game at Les Hauenstein Gym on Wednesday night.

          St. Peter's (3-5) led (15-14) at halftime and coach Shani Rush says they turned the screws up on their defense during the third quarter and that was the difference.  "We ended up moving our defense up a little bit to pressure so we could cause more turnovers.  The game was kind of slow paced and we wanted to speed it up a little bit because our quickness is one of our better aspects of our game.  It seems to work there in the third quarter.  We got a lot of turnovers, a lot of quick points on the fast break," said Rush.

          Clear Fork (2-8) has had trouble scoring points this year, having only scored more than 40 once this season.  Lady Colts coach Heidi Roush was disappointed her was their lack of effort on the glass.  "I think initially we were getting great shots and we weren't converting and then we started to tighten up a little bit.  If you miss a shot fine, but you have got to get in there and rebound and there were times (Wednesday) night we only had one or two kids going hard for the rebound and everybody else was content to watch and you aren't going to win games playing like that," she told Swankonsports.com after the game.

          Sarah Swank led Clear Fork scorers with eight, including two first half three pointers.

          Rush says she wasn't always pleased with their offensive execution, but they did a lot of things well.  "Our offense, still I wasn't very happy with.  In the first quarter, I thought we were running our sets well and then at the end we were just trying to run some clock off and get some layups.  Overall I thought they did a really good job," she said.

 

Published 12/31/15

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Clear Fork Hosts Mansfield Senior

 

          Clear Fork picked up a win in non-conference game play last week against Loudonville and now they return to the wars of the Ohio Cardinal Conference when they host Mansfield Senior on Tuesday night at Les Hauenstein Gym.

          The Colts put four players in double figures and they hammered Loudonville (76-57) last Wednesday and coach Steven Bechtel says they players have continued to work hard in practice.  "It has been about the same that it has been.  I would like to say there was a change, but before we won the kids were staying positive and working hard we were just coming up short," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "Fortunately against Loudonville everything was clicking for us and we were able to come away with a victory.  Everybody is still positive, everybody is still enthusiastic and we are just working toward winning some more games."

          Clear Fork's slow start to the season in terms of wins and losses has never been a question of effort, according to Bechtel.  "The effort has always been there.  On certain nights maybe we haven't had the right match-ups size wise or athletically or that kind of thing.  Their effort, their work ethic and energy they have brought to games has been there," he said.

          Mansfield Senior (3-3,3-0,) the "OCC" co-leader will be at Clear Fork (1-4,0-3) on Tuesday night for a league game.  Bechtel says they must keep the Tygers out of the lane and off the boards.  "They are always difficult to play against just because of their athleticism.  They have a few guys that can shoot it a little bit, but they really like to attack the basket and go after that rebound.  Those are two areas where we really have to focus on and we have been concentrating on those the last two days in practice," said Bechtel.

          Offensive rebounding has always been a key to the Tygers game.  They can get you our of position and they can just out jump their opponent.  Bechtel says for them they have to be force the Tygers into taking contested shots.  "You just have to make them earn every basket.  They have going to get some offensive rebounds just because they are athletic enough and good enough to get some.  We just have to be able to limit them as much as possible with every basket they get is a contested shot and maybe take the clock get a little longer into it, that kind of thing, to shorten the game for us that way," said Bechtel.

 

Published 12/29/15

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Clear Fork Belts Loudonville For First Win

 

          Clear Fork spotted Loudonville the first basket and then went on a (10-1) run and went on to blast the Redbirds (76-57) in a non-conference game on Wednesday night at Les Hauenstein Gym.

          Chance Barnett and Justice Rebman both scored 15 points to lead the Colts.  It was Barnett's lay in with 3:45 in the first quarter that gave the Colts a (10-3) lead.

          It was Clear Fork's first win of the season and coach Steven Bechtel says their hard work paid off.  "I thought we did a great job from beginning to end.  That was one of our keys to get off to a good start.  I thought we did a great job of really executing what we have been working on the last couple of weeks and the kids went out and they executed well," he said.

          Loudonville (4-4) made just three of 20 three pointers on the night, while Clear Fork cashed in on 55 percent (34 of 62) of their field goals and five of 17 threes

          Redbirds coach Kelly Seboe says sometimes they weren't in good position defensively and other times the Colts just made shots when they were.  "Our defense was pretty much non existent.  We commented at halftime we had given up 38, which was six less than they had been getting per game, 44.  It is one of those things were sometimes you get your butt kicked.  I thought we had our chances there in the first quarter to answer.  I think sometimes it was our fault because sometimes we gave up some looks to people that we have talked about that you can't give those looks up," he told Swankonspots.com after the game, "However, sometimes they hit some looks when we were there with a hand up.  I think their enthusiasm became contagious and the other guys started to hit and then they started to drive the ball.  Then our lack of shooting and offense became contagious and everything kind of fell apart."

          Nine players scored for Clear Fork and Bechtel says they got some good contributions from everybody that played in the game.  "That is obviously a help.  We got into a little foul trouble like they did.  We had to call on a couple of kids that hadn't played at all for us.  Jared Linn hit a big shot and played some minutes for us.  Same thing with Tanner Winand," he said.

          Chase Endicott added 13 points for Clear Fork and Christian Beer had 12, including a dunk on a break away with less than 90 seconds to play in the game, and Chris Spencer had 11.

          The Colts out rebounded the Redbirds in the game and Bechtel thought they did some good things in the paint.  "That was one advantage that we had going in.  I thought we had the advantage in the post.  Our post guys running our post offense and getting those second chance points.  I thought our kids did a great job with that," he said.

          The Colts were aggressive and Seboe says they were always a step behind.  "I think the best way to say it was we were a step slow.  We were a thought slow, everything just a step behind what they were doing.  I think we got caught in the perfect storm where they hadn't won, they are home, they hit some shots, confidence, they were physical, they went after it, so it was a tough one," said Seboe.

          Hunter Martin led Loudonville with 16.

          Clear Fork returns to Ohio Cardinal Conference play next week with a game against co-leader Mansfield Senior and Bechtel says they are have to take the momentum earned Wednesday into that game.  "It feels really good to get a win obviously.  Happy for the kids, that type of thing, not we just need to build from here," he said.

 

Published 12/24/15

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Clear Fork Hoping Time Off Helps

  

          Clear Fork has had nearly two weeks to work out the kinks since its last game and the hope they can play a lot more consistently as they host Loudonville in a non-conference game on Wednesday night.

          The colts have not played since dropping a (65-44) decision to Ashland on December 11.  Coach Steven Bechtel says they have been working on a lot of things, but especially handling the ball.  "Obviously we won't know until (Wednesday) night and the next few weeks how much this helped us or it really didn't help us.  Looking at us in practice and being able to explain to guys how much and how important it is to execute and take care of the basketball.  I think they are understanding that and hopefully it will pay off for us," said Bechtel.

          For stretches in all four of their games this year the Colts have shown the team they can be, but they have not been able to do it for four quarters.  Bechtel says that is something they have to learn.  "I think we mature by getting back in there and practice, but also in games and understanding what it takes for 32 minutes.  I know everybody says that, but it really does.  You have to have 32 minutes of quality basketball at both ends of the floor.  That is what we are kind of struggling with and trying to work through to find our exactly what it takes to come away with a "W," said Bechtel.

          Loudonville (4-3) will be at Clear Fork (0-4) Wednesday night.  Bechtel says this is a Loudonville team that can score points.  "I have talked to (coach) Kelly (Seboe) quite a bit here this year.  They are looking to push the ball more this year.  He knows exactly where I am coming from with this youth because this squad that he has was in this same position three years ago," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "He has a nice veteran squad and the kids are playing hard for him.  Obviously it is a big rivalry game between the two schools.  It will be a big battle (Wednesday) night in the valley."

          Loudonville beat defending Mid-Buckeye Conference champion Mansfield St. Peter's a couple of weeks ago (68-64) and Bechtel says they can have a number of quality perimeter shooters.  "They can shoot it well from the perimeter, they can get out in the open floor.  They can use their athleticism to really cause some problems for us.  We are really going to have to do a great job to make sure we locate those shooters and try an keep them in front of us as much as possible and make them play against our set defense," he said.

 

Published 12/23/15

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Mt. Vernon Belts Lady Colts

 

          Mt. Vernon shot 80 percent from the field in the first quarter and raced to a (20-4) lead and never looked back in beating up Clear Fork (62-25) in a non-conference girls basketball game on Tuesday night at Les Hauenstein Gym.

          Taylor Gregory scored eight of her game high 20 points in that first quarter for Mt. Vernon.

          Clear Fork coach Heidi Roush says they really gave the Lady Yellow Jackets too many open looks.  "They really shot the ball extremely well in the first half.  I think part of it is because they are good shooters and part of that was our not great job of finding shooters.  We didn't rotate well in our zone and just gave them too many open looks," said Roush.

          The closest the Lady Colts could get in the second half was a 13 points deficit (35-13) after a Sarah Swank three pointer with (6:58) to play in the third quarter.

          Roush says they must become better individual defenders.  "We talked at halftime about taking ownership of your defensive effort.  You have to be able to contain your girl because we can't always be scrambling to try and help out.  If we could just become a better all around defensive team I really think it could translate to offense for us," she said.

          Clear Fork (2-3,1-2) plays at Mansfield Senior (3-3,1-2) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Thursday night.

          Swank led Clear Fork scorers with 11, including three three pointers.

 

Published 12/16/15

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Clear Fork Trying to Find 32 Minutes

 

          There have been flashes of brilliance this year for the Clear Fork Colts, just not enough of them, and they are working on finding more of them.

          Some of those flashes came Tuesday night when sophomore Chance Barnett scored 13 of their 15 points in the first quarter and Clear Fork trailed by only one point, but they couldn't maintain that and they lost (62-49) in a non-conference game to Mansfield Christian.

          Coach Steven Bechtel says they just had too many gaps when they didn't score and they are working to become a team that is a more consistent one.  "Consistency is a battle we are going to fight all year long.  Last Friday we did some things really well against Lexington and we did some things poorly.  (Tuesday) night against Mansfield Christian we did some things that we didn't do last Friday we did better," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "It is just we have to continue to grow and hopefully as the year goes on we will continue to get more consistent and things will come together for us."

          There is a lot of youth with Clear Fork this year and Bechtel says they are trying to figure out what works for them.  "The three teams that we have played have returned a lot of guys.  They seemed like they were in mid-season form while we were still trying to figure out the right rotation, the right match-up.  They are working hard.  We are having a great time with them.  They come out and practice hard. We know it is going to be a challenge on certain nights.  Finding that consistency and just getting better every day is a goal for us," said Bechtel.

         Clear Fork (0-3,0-2) plays at Ashland (0-3,0-1,) the defending "OCC" champ, on Friday night.  There is a different lineup for the Arrows, but Bechtel says it is still a pretty good one.  "I know they lost a ton of players from last year, but they do have three of four guys that got considerable minutes last year maybe in different roles.  Coach Hess has done a good job over there they have been in those games.  I think they are just trying to figure their way too.  Obviously they have had a challenging start too," he said.

          Jason Hess, a former assistant, is now the Ashland head coach.  Bechtel says they are trying to get the ball inside a little more than they did a season ago.  "I think there are a lot of similarities to last year's team.  I think there is a little more emphasis there to score inside.  The Brewer kid, he is a tough match-up for anybody because he has the ability to step out beyond the arch as well as go inside.  He has shown he is pretty good both places.  I think a lot of it is the same, (Hess) is going to add his little twists to it.  It is going to be a great challenge for us," said Bechtel.

 

Published 12/10/15

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Third Quarter Run Propels Flames Past Colts

 

          Brandon Mount scored six of his team high 19 points in a 9-0 Mansfield Christian run and the Flames went on to beat Clear Fork (62-49) in a non-conference boys' basketball game Tuesday night at Les Hauenstein Gymnasium.

          Clear Fork cut the Flames lead to (34-30) on a Christian Beer lay in with 5:29 to play in the third quarter, but over the next three minutes Mansfield Christian took a (43-30) lead.

          Colts coach Steven Bechtel says they had five straight turnovers.  "We just got done talking about it and telling the guys it is a long year and obviously that is an area that we really, really have to focus on.  We put it on the board.  We talk in practice.  Just taking care the basketball has to be a point of emphasis with the Colts," he said.

          Flames coach John Kurtz says he thought his team was more physical than Clear Fork and he says that was at the top of their scouting report.  "We really emphasized that coming in and we thought coming into this game that they would try to be more physical than us.  So, we really talked about trying to match that and play tough inside and overall I thought we did that," he said.

          It was (32-25) Flames at halftime and Bechtel says he thought they held their own in terms of physicality.  He says Flames were better able to handle the pace of the varsity game.  "I felt it was fairly balanced that way.  I thought both teams really came out and were battling really well there in the first half.  I thought they showed their veteran leadership there in the second half," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "They turned us over there five times in a row and the took fool advantage of it and just continued too push and we just couldn't get those shots going down the stretch."

          Clear Fork was paced in the scoring column by sophomore Chance Barnett with 22 points, 13 in the first quarter.  He was the only Colt in double figures.

          Mansfield Christian (1-1) didn't shoot it very well in a loss to Crestview (70-58) to open the season and Kurtz says Tuesday night they wanted to get it to the rim.  "That was by design.  We have really spent a lot time working on that.  We did not do that against Crestview and that was a problem.  We really talked to Jared (McPeek) and Kyle (Kurtz) those two about taking the ball to the rim harder.  Overall I think we did that pretty well," he said.

          They ended up with a two rebound advantage in the game (27-25,) but Kurtz felt they did a good job early keep Clear Fork off the offensive glass.  "I would say we spent the last three days working on rebounding.  Spending a good portion of time rebounding the ball and talking about rebounding the ball.  That was a big key (Tuesday) night and we are bigger this year, so I think that helps," said Kurtz.

          Mansfield Christian opens Mid-Buckeye Conference play at Lucas on Friday night.  It will be the Cubs first game after a long run in the football playoffs.  Clear Fork (0-3,0-2) visits Ashland (0-3,0-1) Friday.

 

Published 12/08/15

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Lexington Edges Clear Fork

 

          Lexington outscored Clear Fork (12-4) in the third quarter and beat the Lady Colts (38-31) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference girls' game at Lexington on Thursday night.

          Courtney Gouge led Lady Lex with 10 points.

          "My team is extremely scrappy.  We have worked all year long in making sure they are aggressive.  They wanted it a lot.  We tell then to bring your own heart to every game," said Lexington coach Brian Thompson.

          Clear Fork took a brief (20-18) lead on Sarah Swank's field goal with 5:33 left in the third quarter, but Lexington (1-0,1-0) outscored them 12-0 for the remainder of the quarter.  "We talk about rocking the boat and not jumping off, but stabilizing it and I thought they did that very well," said Thompson.

          Clear Fork (1-1,0-1) shot just 24 percent from the field and Lady Colts coach Heidi Roush says it's hard to win when you are doing that.  "We tried to tell them that it would turn our way in the second half and we would start making some shots and the momentum would turn.  We had moments where I thought that was going to happen, but we just missed too many easy ones and too many free throws," said Roush.

          Clear Fork was 6 of 13 from the charity stripe.

          They were led in scoring by Swank with eight points.

 

Published 12/04/15

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Rams Beat Colts in "OCC" Play

 

          Tyrell Ajian scored seven his game high 18 points in the first quarter as Madison took an (18-8) lead and went on to beat the Clear Fork Colts (53-33) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game at Madison on Tuesday night.

          The Colts shot just over 30 percent for the game and Madison coach Tim Mergel thought they did a solid job of forcing Clear Fork to take some tough shots.  "That is usually what we try to hang our hats on defensive pressure and forcing teams into some uncomfortable situations.  We were unable to do that Friday night against Shelby because we just turned the ball over too much.  (Tuesday) night we were able to get them into a half court and we were able to push their offense out a little bit and force them into some tougher, contested shots," said Mergel.

          Clear Fork has just one senior and three juniors on their roster, the rest are sophomores and talented point guard A.J. Blubaugh is just a freshman.  Clear Fork coach Steven Bechtel was concerned a little by jitters, but with 5:19 left in the first quarter the game was tied at seven after a three from the right corner by Blubaugh.  However, the Colts would score only one point over the next eight minutes.  "I thought we got out there and we handled their pressure right away, their full court press.  We got some easy baskets.  I think they ended the quarter on like a 9-0 run and that kind of set us back a little bit.  But, I thought in the second quarter we still kind of just hung around.  The kids did a great job with that," said Bechtel.

          Madison shot well from the outside, making six three pointers on the night, two each from Austin Hallabrin, Deion Miller and Kyle Jackson.  Mergel thought they were able to get their feet under them.  "With the scrimmage schedule we play, the athletic teams we play, I'm talking the Sanduskys and the Perrysburgs and then you open up with a team like Shelby, it's nothing against Clear Fork, but it is just a totally different style of play.  We were used to playing fast, fast, fast, fast, and then here we kind of got slowed down and it looked like it.  Our shots we got our feet underneath us and we got squared up.  Fortunate for us we were able to knock some in," he said.

          Miller chipped with 13 and Nick Smith added nine for the Rams.  Sophomore Chance Barnett led Clear Fork with 10.

          With their youth, Clear Fork is probably going to see a lot of full and half court pressure and Bechtel thought they did a pretty decent job handling the ball against the Rams.  "I thought we handled the ball fairly well.  With a young team we are going to have some of those mistakes that everybody kind of groans about, but we have to remember freshman, sophomore, and we are going to have those times.  We have been really patient, we have been really positive with them," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "We were pleased about how we came out defensively as well.  Obviously with Tyrell they have a great player there and some of their other guys really stepped up and hit some shots for them."

          Madison (1-1,1-0) plays defending "OCC" champion Ashland on Friday night and Mergel says going into that game they need to play better defense and get on the boards.  "Our on the ball defense we have go to get that cleaned up.  We had too many ticky tack hand check fouls.  For being undersized we don't rebound the ball nearly as well as we should or could.  Rebounding has to catch up with us, especially as we get longer into the "OCC," he said.

          Clear Fork (0-1,0-1) returns home to host Lexington is league action

 

Published 12/01/15

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Clear Fork's first game is at Madison

 

          Clear Fork, with a lot youth on its roster this season, tips off its 2015-2016 season on road in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Tuesday night at Madison.

          Colts coach Steven Bechtel says his players are ready to be tested after not playing on the opening weekend.  "I think overall with the scrimmages.  Each scrimmage we had we came out better.  Are we where we need to be?  I guess we find out (Tuesday) night.  I think overall though, I think the kids are ready to play a game to see where they are at," he said.

          Losing their top four scorers and more than 80 percent of their scoring from last year other are going to have to step up.  Those kids were also their ball handlers and Bechtel believes they are going to see a lot of pressure from opponents.  "The biggest thing is I think we have to value the basketball.  We have to make sure we take care of the basketball.  We are pretty young and pretty inexperienced and I think we are going to see a lot of pressure.  We have to make sure we handle that pressure night in and night out," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "We just have to be solid.  I know every coach is going to say being consistent, but that is what we have to have.  We have to have a consistent effort every single night."

          Madison (0-1,0-0) lost their opener last Friday to Shelby (63-39,) but played without last year's second leading scorer Billy Buckley.  Tyrell Aijian paced them with 18 points.  Bechtel says he is an outstanding player.  "He is obviously an exceptional player.  He is going to be the best athlete, the best player, on the floor, most nights he steps on the floor, and it will be no different on (Tuesday) night.  They have a lot of experience around him too.  They have some solid players that do some things, really, really well.  They put Tyrell in good position to make shots.  He is very unselfish as well and finds the open guy.  We are going to have our hands full with the Rams," said Bechtel.

          On opening night there will be some jitters and maybe more so for a younger team.  Bechtel says it would be great to get off to a strong start, but he knows that's what Madison is thinking too.  "It would be really great to come out and be clicking on all cylinders and hit some shots early and hit some easy baskets, but I think Madison will want to do the same.  They had a little rough go there with Shelby.  I think they will be ready to play and we will be ready to play.  Hopefully, both of us can get off to a great start and have a great game together," said Bechtel.

 

Published 12/01/15

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Last Second Shot Gives Clear Fork a Win

 

          Montana Walker dropped in a 17 footer from the right baseline to give Clear Fork a (46-44) win over Loudonville in a girls' basketball non-conference game at Les Hauenstein Gymnasium on Tuesday night.

          Walker had left the game with 2:43 left in the contest with a cramp in her right leg after making a driving layup, but returned to the game for the final moments.

          Junior Darian Gottfried had a career high 19 points, including seven in the pivotal fourth quarter.

          It was a see saw battle all night and Loudonville tied the score on a layup with 30 seconds to go.

          Clear Fork coach Heidi Roush says her kids didn't panic and they did a good job of setting up the final shot.  "We had time.  We called a time out to tried and settle the girls and explain the situation to them.  I have a lot of kids kind new to the varsity experience.  We called a time out and told them to run their "Kentucky."  It had worked all night and we had found some easy shots and some little bunnies out of that.  The girls were really, really patient.  Loudonville did a good job of plugging up the middle, so we couldn't do exactly what we wanted to, but Montana was aware of the clock and just stepped up like a senior should and hit a big one," said Roush.

          The Lady Colts held as much as a eight point lead in the second quarter (19-11) and led (23-16) at the break.  However, Roush says they had to back off on some of their pressure defense due to foul trouble.  "We kind of toned down our defensive effort. which I hated to do, but we had to protect some of our kids from picking up some cheap ones.  I do think that allowed Loudonville to get their foot in the door there and cut the lead.  I thought as a whole they maintained their composure considering the fact that we had so many kids in foul trouble and we had some pretty funky lineups in there.  The girls just rolled with it and did what they had to do," she said.

          A Gottfried FG with 6:48 left in the contest game the Lady Colts a (36-31) lead, but Loudonville never quit and took a brief (39-38) lead on a Sarah Wickline three pointer with 3:58 left in the game.  However, on the next possession Meredith Bennett's twisting one hander in the lane gave Clear Fork a lead (40-39) that would never relinquish.

          Defensively, Roush thought her kids showed some good things, but there is work left to do.  "I felt like we had some good efforts.  Megan Robinson did really well inside and got us some big rebounds.  I had some kids really step up.  Darian Gottfried took one of their better players. Meredith Bennett did a nice job on one of their better players.  I thought my guards, Macy and Montana, did a great job.  As a whole I think our defensive effort just needs to get a little bit better," she told Swankonsports.com after the game, "For a first game out it was okay, but we are definitely going to be working on our help side rotations and stop allowing so much dribble penetration into the middle.  That is going to kill us."

          Gottfried, in her first varsity start, made some crucial shots for Clear Fork, including a lay in that gave Clear Fork a (44-41) lead with 1:57 to play in the contest.   "She did a great job.  Darian is definitely a competitor.  She works hard and finds herself in some good spots and she hit some big ones when we needed her too.  I thought she did a great job of being aggressive and taking the ball to the hole and just being and just being confident in herself, which is what we need," said Roush.

          Clear Fork (1-0) returns to action in their Ohio Cardinal Conference opener at rival Lexington on December 3.

 

Published 11/24/15

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Colts Looking for Something

 

          Most teams will play at least one game, maybe two, this weekend, right after Thanksgiving, but Clear Fork is one of the few boys' basketball teams that doesn't play until next week.

          They open the season next Tuesday, December 1, at Mansfield Madison in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.

          Coach Steven Bechtel says that gives them a little more time, plus it doesn't force them to deal with Thanksgiving.  "I don't feel rushed if we had to start then.  It's just Thanksgiving and trying to balance their schedules with Thanksgiving and going to see family and then putting a game in there it kind of puts some pressure on the kids and what their priorities are that way.  For us it doesn't have to affect us that way and I think we are very fortunate," said Bechtel.

           The Clear Fork coach feels his team, young and inexperienced at some of the positions, has progressed the way he would like to see them at this early stage.  "We are getting better, obviously we are not where we need to be," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "Even after game one and probably the first couple of weeks we are not going to be where we need to be, but we are getting better in the areas that we have to improve on.  That is the biggest key right now, just trying to find some consistency and continue to improve in those weakness areas."

          They are being forced to replace most of their scoring from last year, including their top four scorers lost to graduation, and Bechtel says that has affected their approach to the game in terms of strategy.  "We have had to change a little bit.  It's just trying to find the guys, the right fit, for who we have out there on the floor.  I think we have found what we are going to be good at doing.  We just have to do it really, really well each night," he said.

 

Published 11/25/15

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Clear Fork Remaking itself

 

          Clear Fork lost almost all its scoring from last year and is in the process of putting together almost a brand new team as they get ready for the 2015-16 boys' basketball season.

          The regular season actually starts a week before it normally does due to the fact that there is an early Easter.  Clear Fork coach Steven Bechtel says it has been a race to get in everything they need in terms of offense and defense.  "We are kind of fortunate we don't start right after Thanksgiving, our first game isn't until December 1.  It just seems like we are going through scrimmages and you don't have this in, you don't have this in, you don't have this in," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday evening, "You are trying to get everything in before you get to scrimmages, so you can be competitive and give each team a good look and find our where you are at it makes it really tough."

          Clear Fork begins its season with an Ohio Cardinal Conference game at Mansfield Madison on December 1.

          One of the things that Clear Fork is working on finding some scorers because Bechtel says their leading scorers from last year were lost to graduation.  "Obviously with Kadin and Griffin and we also lost Matt South and Lee Snyder.  I think they were our top four leading scorers.  We lost a lot of scoring.  We get a couple guys back, really one guy that has any experience.  We are just trying to find a good fit for all of our young guys," he said.

          The Colts scrimmaged both Shelby and Hillsdale on Tuesday and Bechtel says they learned where they have to get better before the season starts.  "It was a good scrimmage.  Shelby does some things a little bit differently than Hillsdale, so going back and forth between the two teams we had some positives and some negatives.  We know we have to go out and handle the pressure a little bit better.  Recognize the defense that the other teams are in.  We'll get back in practice (Wednesday) and start working on some of those things," said Bechtel.

 

Published 11/18/15

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Lady Colts will have to be Different

 

          Clear Fork graduated a large portion of their scoring, rebounding, and ball handling last June and this season they will be charged with getting things in different ways in order to get wins.

          A number of players have been promoted from last year's junior varsity and coach Heidi Roush says you will see them doing some different things on offense and defense this year.  "We lost six seniors that saw a lot of our playing time, a lot of our scoring.  They had been in our system for years.  Last year, we were doing a lot of fine tuning because we knew what we wanted to do and we knew our identity.  This year we only have two varsity players back from last year.  We are a different team and we have really been finding a lot of different things on the offensive end to get us going.  As far as defense goes we are trying to develop some of those skills that they learned at the JV level.  Now that they are on varsity they are going to have to improve that much more," said Roush.

          Clear Fork begins its season next Tuesday at home against Loudonville in non-conference play.  Their first Ohio Cardinal Conference game is December 3 at Lexington.

          One thing that the new varsity players will have to adapt to is the speed of the game.  Roush believes this team will show great improvement from the beginning of the season to the end.  "That was something Rick Beans told we I think way back when I played was the speed increase from the JV to varsity level.  The kids that were good JV players are going to go out there and have that first varsity experience it is just amazing how quick everybody else is and how more quickly everybody else is thinking," she told Swankonsports.com, "I think there are going to be some moments when they think holy cow what just happened?  We have scrimmaged a couple of times.  I am really just looking for improvement each and every week with this group of kids and I think they are very capable of that."

          One thing that has really impressed Roush so far in the pre season is how hard the players are working at the game.  "I definitely think we might take our lumps, but I also think the ability is there and we can surprise some people.  I've got some good leadership with my seniors.  I had good numbers during the summer.  There are kids I saw more this summer than any other year.  I have been really pleased with the work ethic during practice.  I would love to have some wins for the girls because they absolutely deserve it and they are very capable," she said.

          In scrimmage play, the Lady Colts have shown they can be pretty good rebounders.  Roush says they aren't going to have the athleticism they have had and that means they are going to have to be a very fundamental team to be successful.  "It is funny how different groups have different strengths.  Last year's team was very, very athletic, but I think they would be the first to tell you they weren't the most disciplined about boxing out.  This group of kids went to Northmor on Tuesday and I don't think I have ever been so pleased with a group's effort boxing out and getting some rebounds.  That is going to be part of our agenda.  We are just going to have to work on the little things and kind of grind out some victories our way.  It might be a new way, but it is our way," said Roush.

 

Published 11/16/15

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Colts Must Decide if They want to Execute

 

          Clear Fork didn't execute very week and it cost them the game against Orrville and if they don't do a better job this Friday they are unlikely to beat West Holmes.

          Orrville held on to beat the Colts (33-27) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play last week and coach Dave Carroll says it was not a situation where they were overmatched.  "In previous weeks we have talked about playing bigger schools, with more kids, and more resources and we were looking forward to playing a school more our size with the same caliber of athlete and the same circumstance.  Against some of the bigger schools we talked about the great effort that our kids showed and tried to keep things positive.  We didn't yell and scream, we just told the kids that, we watched film for a long time, we watched every down.  There was just a lot of bad football being played," he said.

         The bottom line was on defense they made too many mistakes and they didn't tackle very well, according to Carroll.  "We made some mistakes defensively.  You could see when we got it right the plays went nowhere.  When one or two kids just didn't do it the way it has been taught then bad things happened.  I was very, very disappointed in our tackling.  We haven't been excited all year about our tackling, but we saw improvement as the season went on with more and more drills.  There was just some poor tackling and we didn't feel we played very physical," he told Swankonsports.com, "The big thing about it was there was just a lack of self discipline on certain plays and Orrville took advantage of it.  They retuned a punt for a touchdown and we had three kids out of their lane and guess what that is where he ran the football.  At this point and time in the season there is no excuse for that.  You do the same thing every week."

          Carroll says to win games they have to be able to execute play after play and they have not done that this year.  "We tried to show the kids that at some point and time you have to make up your mind that you are going to do things right ort attempt to do things right every play.  You have to understand that every play makes a difference.  We knew it was going to be a four quarter game and here it comes down to six points.  We had our opportunities and if would have done the things we are supposed to do consistently we wouldn't have been in that situation to begin with," said Carroll.

          The coach singles out quarterback Thomas Staab as a kid with the right attitude that they can build a program around.  "Thomas Staab eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark as a rusher.  He played with a partially separated left shoulder and then in that last play of the game where he almost got across the goal line he got the right shoulder dinged up.  The kid is still fighting and is just an unbelievable competitor.  It is nice to know we have him back for two more years," he said.

          On most plays, and it most situations, Carroll says this is not about effort, but instead execution.  "It is almost never a lack of effort.  It is just a lack of doing things correctly.  A mental breakdown, a mental relaxation and bam they hit a play.  We have told them you might be unmotivated at home doing your chores or at school and you might be able to get away with it, but on the football field you can't," he said.

          Clear Fork (2-7,0-6) plays at home against West Holmes (1-8,0-6) in a game for seventh place in the "OCC" on Friday night.  Carroll says again it will boil down to execution.  "They are two divisions bigger than us, but these are two very similar communities.  They are bigger than us size wise, everyone is bigger than us, but athleticism and speed, we are very similar.  And they are relatively young.  It is going to be another game like Orrville that is somewhat evenly matched and whoever makes the fewest mistakes, the most focused and doesn't make those silly mistakes.  Of course, the big mistakes, the turnovers, that is in almost every game.  The group that wants it the most is going to be the most focused and is going to make the fewest mistakes," said Carroll.

          To be successful, Carroll says they have to be able to execute at the line of scrimmage and tackle better.  "We are concerned from the standpoint that they have a big offensive line and they pound it down your throat and we haven't been very good at defending that kind of stuff.  We are smaller and we don't tackle very well," he said.

          If the Colts play like they are capable, Carroll says this is a game they can win.  "This is going to be another four quarter football game, but this is going to be smash mouth.  We aren't a very good throwing football team, everybody knows it, we are going to run the football and obviously that's what West Holmes always does and even more so this year.  They have that fullback back from last year that is 210 pounds and is pretty quick.  They are going to shoot him up the middle off that trap and they are going to run off tackle.  We will see if our kids will play football like they are capable of," said Carroll.

 

Published 10/30/15

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Lady Colts Get by Norwalk; Prepare for Ontario

 

          Clear Fork will play in its fifth straight division two district final on Saturday afternoon when they meet rival Ontario, the only school to beat the Lady Colts in a district final in the last half decade, in the final in Ashland.

          Tuesday night, at Community Stadium, Clear Fork downed Norwalk (3-1) in semi-final play.

          Clear Fork took a (1-0) lead on an arching goal form about five yards outside the 18 yard line by freshman Kaylin Helinski in the 12th minute and that was a score at halftime.

          They increased their lead to (2-0) on a penalty kick by Taylor Cook in the 50th minute.  However, Norwalk's Kaelyn Harkness got behind the Clear Fork defense and put a nice touch on the ball and found the back of the net in 56th minute to cut the lead (2-1) with more than 20 minutes to play.

          The clincher came late when sophomore Aly Wend knocked in a rebound in the 77th minute of the contest.  "Now 3-1 earlier in the game wouldn't have been a buffer goal, but coming with about three minute left that took a little pressure and stress off.  It was a battle and it wasn't secure until the end for sure," said Clear Fork coach Brittany Bechtel after the win.

          Bechtel believes that possession is the key to their success, and with the wind and rain Tuesday night, she says that is an area where they must continue to improve.  "I kind of saw that coming with a turf field, not something we have played a lot on, hardly at all this year, a little in the summer, the rainy conditions.  That on top of just still learning to feed the ball a little bit better in that area and working the ball better," she told Swankonsports.com, "The weather conditions, the field, and we have to get better in that area in general.  We focus on and work on that every single day."

          Freshman keeper Kaylee Krausman made seven saves on the night and Bechtel thought they gave Norwalk a lot of good looks, especially in the first half.  "The second half it became more of the defense I am used too.  In the first half, I was a little on edge.  There were some players within our defense that had a lot more to give and a lot more to show.  Even though you are up you always have that fear because they aren't playing near their potential.  In the second half, I definitely feel they stepped up, did their role, and played to their potential," said Bechtel.

          Clear Fork beat Ontario (5-1) for the district title last season and Bechtel says the two sides are certainly familiar with each other.  "Two teams from the area that seem to meet a lot in this district game.  It is definitely going to be a battle.  We will be working everyday to get better until we meet again on Saturday.  It should be fun.  It should be a good game," she said.

          They played almost two months ago, on September 1, with Clear Fork coming from down (2-0) to win (3-2), but that was before a season ending knee injury to their leading scorer Jordyne Helinski.  Bechtel says to win again they are going to have to pick up their play in a number of areas.  "The level of intensity has to better.  We have to bring that out.  We definitely have to bring that intensity level up.  Our possession has to be better, the negative play from the offense, just a lot of different things.  Our little quote this year, doing the little things just a little better, that's what we have to do Saturday," she said.

 

Published 10/27/15

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Clear Fork Meets Norwalk in Districts

 

          Clear Fork, the defending division two district champion, plays Norwalk in the girls' soccer district semi final on Tuesday night at Ashland High School.

          They beat Lexington (2-0,) on goals by Twany Hetsler and Macy Wade, in the sectional final last Thursday to advance. 

          The Lady Colts (14-2) have been playing the last several weeks without leading scorer Jordyne Helinski.  Coach Brittany Bechtel says the timing of the injury gave them the needed time to get ready for the post season tournament.  "It was kind about timing.  If we would have lost Jordyne right now the timing just would not have been good at all, but the timing as it was gave this team time to develop and change the way we were working the ball and how things were being done.  The day after we lost Jordyne we played one of the best teams in the state (Granville) and we weren't ready.  I have a feeling that if it would have hit during tournament time we wouldn't have been ready either," she told Swankonsports.com, "They can rise to the occasion and win these games, they can win from behind, they don't give up, they have tenacity.  It is nice to have something like that coming into the tournament knowing no matter what happens you are going to have a team that is going to finish strong."

          Clear Fork won at Norwalk (2-1) in a regular season match on October 3 behind goals by Meshia Curry and Taylor Cook.  Bechtel says these are different teams now.  "We are aware of some of their players that we have to watch up tight and the formation that that they run.  It is important to know that the Norwalk team we saw, and hopefully the Clear Fork team, will not be the same ones that show up on Tuesday.  We know things about them and they know things about us.  If we play to our potential it is a winable game.  It is just showing up and doing what we do well and focusing each day about getting better and bringing everything we've got," she said.

          Clear Fork has won three of the last four district titles and they have some quality tournament experience, but Bechtel says they have a lot young kids that this tournament thing is new to.  "We have 10 seniors and a couple that went through the process last year, but we also have five freshmen coming up and have never had the tournament experience.  Two that play in our midfield and one up top, so there are parts of our field that have never had that experience.  Thankfully in that "OCC" tournament they kind of got a picture of that feeling.  We have had 34 players over the last three years that have worn a jersey at the varsity level.  It is nice to have some young players coming up and getting that experience," she said.

          The Lady Colts have developed quite a rivalry with Ontario, who plays Tiffin Columbian in Tuesday's other semi, but Bechtel doesn't believe they will look past the Norwalk match.  "When I look back and we only won 2-1 against Norwalk it was almost a blessing in disguise to have a game like that where it wasn't like we handily took care of them.  It can be difficult to explain to the girls about the season being over if we don't win.  We are dealing with a different team in all aspects and everybody has to understand that.  The Norwalk game was a close game.  I am not as worried about that as I was about the Lexington game that we had beaten earlier in the season and that Lexington was going to come with fire because it's Lexington and it's tournament time.  Thankfully I don't think I have to worry about that," said Bechtel.

 

Published 10/26/15

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Colts Looking for Good Game Versus Orrville

 

          Clear Fork plays host to Orrville in Ohio Cardinal Conference action on Friday night at the Corral.

          Veteran coach Dave Carroll says he is very proud of the effort he saw last week against Ashland and all season.  "I am extremely proud of our kids. We have played Mansfield, and Wooster, and Madison, and Ashland, schools that are quite a bit bigger than us.  A point I made to my kids, most of you are playing both ways, so you are playing a full game.  Most of their kids are playing essentially a half and it really is not a fair fight.  It is what it is.  The only thing we can do is play our butts off for four quarters," he said.

          The Colts took a (12-0) lead last week at Ashland, but ended up losing (44-12) and Carroll says injuries were a big part of the story.  "We were down to our back up quarterback, a kid that had played a lot on special teams, and our long snapper.  All of things that you hope wouldn't happen in that situation did.  First of all our backup long snapper had an errant snap on the first extra point and we had a snap way over our punters head and they got the ball on the two, which led to a touchdown.  Then Thomas (Staab) injured his shoulder and so our back-up quarterback is now a freshman, so we had to play the second half with a freshman quarterback.  I have to give Jerrod Shafer a lot of credit because there aren't too many kids that could handle that kind of pressure situation against a good school like Ashland," said Carroll.

          Clear Fork has lost five straight game, all against bigger schools, and Carroll says he wonders if people really understand what they are up against.  "All of our kids fought and they played hard and that was evident by the way our kids came out.  Our kids were prepared and ready to go and got two scores and held them.  We were very excited and pleased with their effort, but there does come a point and time where effort, there aren't any trophies given out for effort and trying hard, and their is a point in time when the players get frustrated and we get frustrated," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "I hope people understand, I compare it to why didn't Mohammed Ali fight Roberto Duran?  Some people that have never played the game of football can't quite understand the physicalness of it with schools that big with that many kids when their kids are only playing half the game, while our kids and playing the full game.  It makes a big difference.  You can do that once in a while and beat somebody like we have in our past.  When you see that every single week, week after week, and our kids deserve more credit than what they are getting because they bust their butt in practice very day and they go out there and fight like crazy.  This week we are playing someone our size that looks like us.  This is more of an even match up and we are all pretty pumped about it."

          Orrville (2-6,1-4) plays at Clear Fork (2-6,0-5) on Friday night.  Carroll says these are similar teams in their make up.  "They remind us a lot of ourselves with the type of athlete and the number of kids they are just like we are.  They fight, just like we do, our kids fight, against these D2 and D3 schools, eventually they just wear you down and that is what has happened to them.  Their offense they have scored some points.  They throw the ball quite a bit, but they can also run it.  They have a couple of running backs that are quick.  The quarterback is back.  It seemed like he had like 600 yards against us himself last year in that shootout.  It was the game when we had some kids suspended and we went over there with a bunch of young kids and beat them in a (56-48) game," said Carroll.

          He believes this is a game that is going to come down to the end again this year.  "We have told our kids that this is going to be a four quarter game with both of us playing four quarters.  We are all going to be playing all of the snaps.  It is going to come down to who has their bodies and minds ready to go.  We have talked about it all week.  We have to be rested and hydrated.  The is it going to be who makes the fewest mistakes.  It will probably be like last year when comes down to a touchdown.  A good football game to watch," he said.

 

Published 10/22/15

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Clear Fork Wins "OCC" Tournament Title on PK's

 

          Clear Fork rescued victory from the jaws of defeat on Thursday night and beat Madison on penalty kicks to secure the Ohio Cardinal Conference girls' soccer tournament title.

          The Lady Colts, also regular season champs, led for most of the night after sophomore Aly Wend scored in 25th minute.  Madison tied it in 38th minute on a goal by Haley Washington.  Clear Fork would retake the advantage on a penalty kick by Taylor Cook in the 48th minute of the game.  Madison looked like they were going to take the title on the bus and go home when they scored twice in a three minute period on a goal and a PK by freshman Caitlyn Zeigler, but that's when things got interesting.

          With seemingly nothing going on, Clear Fork began it's final run with less than 30 seconds on the clock on a play that began with a throw in deep in the own end and ended when freshman Kaylin Helinski beat the Madison keeper 30 yards from the goal and then scored with only six seconds remaining in regulation to tie the match. 

          Clear Fork coach Brittany Bechtel says her kids never gave up.  "I guess when there is a will there is a way.  These girls have found themselves behind 2-0 to Ontario and behind with only seconds left in an "OCC" final, but you can only achieve when you believe.  It's something between their hearts and their minds they play to the end and they learned what happens when you do something like that.  The to be behind 2-0 on PK's and also come from behind.  We have taken a roller coaster ride for sure," she said.

          Bechtel made a bold move when she inserted Meshina Curry into goal, replacing Kaylee Krausman, for the penalty kids.  She says it was a tough decision.  "I always thought if I got myself in this position your keeper in regulation is not always your best keeper in PK's," she told Swankonsports.com after the win, "That was something I always battled with having a person like Deijah (Swihart) and Mo (Bailey), a four year starting keeper.  Even up to the end I was never sure if we got in PK's if I would put Mo or I would put Deijah because all you have to do is get a deflection you don't have to catch it.  A couple of years ago when Meshina played for Lexington we found ourselves going against her in the net and it is an intimating factor that she brings.  She will just fly her body anywhere to save things.  It is also trying to figure it out now rather than later is it a good call.  You just walk in and do what your heart is telling you to do.  In the process you can hurt some people and you try as much as you can to not break their heart and let them know that it has nothing to do with their ability.  It's just figuring our what is bets for the team in that situation."

          Madison would take a 2-0 lead in PK's, but the Lady Colts converted their last three kicks to tie the match again at 3-3 after the first round of kicks.  In sudden death, Madison would miss their kick, but Clear Fork freshman MacKenzie Thorne knocked hers into the right corner giving the Lady Colts the win. 

          Bechtel says their confidence never wavered.  "They didn't give up, we came too far, too many minutes to play to give up.  They taught me a few things tonight about relentless play.  Just completely relentless and resilient.  That never giving up nature this team has something special in that.  We have been proving people wrong.  There has been a lot said of our ability after losing one of our top players.  One of the things we fought for was to prove we are a complete team and we can win games and that is what we are doing," she said.

 

Published 10/15/15

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Clear Fork Edges Ashland on Wade's Goal

 

          Sophomore Macy Wade's goal in the 65th minute was the only score of the night as Clear Fork beat Ashland (1-0) in the Ohio Cardinal Conference girls' soccer tournament semi-finals on Monday night at Clear Fork High School.

          They play Madison for the tournament title on Wednesday night.  The Lady Rams beat Wooster (4-2) in the other semi-final.

          The Lady Colts (12-2) only had four shots on goal for the night and coach Brittany Bechtel says they knew going in they needed to take advantage of their chances.  "Coming into this game we had a little pep talk and a song.  We also communicated in games like these you may not get many chances so when you get that opportunity you better bury it because you may not see one again.  We really didn't have a lot of opportunities today, but this team seems to find a way.  A lot of our goals are off set pieces, but today we earned one off the ground, so its nice to get some offense created that way.  It was one of our center mids that scored that goal in Macy Wade." said Bechtel.

          She adds that she was pretty pleased with the way the bracket for the conference tournament came together.  "One of the other things we communicated coming into this game was we have been "OCC" champs three times, twice from the loser's bracket, and I said no matter what happens we are going to be in the winner's bracket, so we can actually feel like we won it," she said.

          After Wade's goal Ashland had a number of chances to even the game, but Clear Fork keeper Kaylee Krausman was equal to the task every time in coming up with 11 saves. 

          Bechtel says the are going to have to find a way to get some pressure off their defense.  "I would say even the first half our defense came off at halftime stating they needed a break.  Some of the things we discussed up top we need to start doing those things better so we can give our defense a break.  They say defense win championships and one of things we are proud of is to keep that goose egg," she told Swankonsports.com after the game, "Losing Jordyne (Helinski) this year we have had to kind of come through our summer in the middle of our season because we have had to completely shift everything we are doing and today we shifted it even more so.  Leading the way coming out of halftime were two freshmen in the middle of my field and somebody that was starting JV starting on the outside right."

          Depth is an advantage for Clear Fork is most of the matches they play and Bechtel isn't afraid to make changes.  "We keep the girls on their toes trying to make them better every day because there is a lot of talent in this program.  The junior varsity never loses games.  It shows our depth when we can keep 48 girls and still win all of those games.  We have a lot of depth which creates a lot of competition in practice and games and figuring out the right combinations because really I could toss coins up in the air it's that challenging for me," she said.

          Clear Fork beat Madison (1-0) in an "OCC" regular season match just a couple of weeks ago.  Bechtel says Madison will be physical and that will be good for their development.  "Madison is tough, they are strong, they are physical and we have got to man up.  We have got to battle and we have got to fight.  We have go to come in with an inner strength.  Madison has almost that Hoban intensity and if you are coming in and you are soft and you are on your heels you are going to hit the ground.  We need games like that to prepare ourselves to be better.  With possession they are a good team.  Last time, it was in the rain and it was not a possession game at all.  We will see how it goes.  We'll see if we can amp our possession game up because that is an area we need to continue to work," said Bechtel.

 

Published 10/12/15

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Clear Fork Facing Tough Ashland Defense

 

          The young Clear Fork Colts face another difficult challenge this week as they travel to Ashland to meet the one loss Arrows in an Ohio Cardinal Conference football game.

          Madison downed Clear Fork (33-13) in an "OCC" game last week, although the total yardage was pretty close with the Rams gaining 313 yards and the Colts 279.

          Clear Fork coach Dave Carroll says they just had too many breakdowns in the scoring zone.  "Over the last two weeks I thought we have improved.  I thought we made improvements offensively if you look at the statistics and the yardage.  I know that didn't impact the outcome of the game.  We probably moved the ball as well as we did in any game against a good opponent.  We would move the ball and have a negative play, move the ball and have two negative plays and that kept us from putting points on the board.  We had the ball in position several times.  Our big goal this week is to not have any assignment errors, not have any negative plays and see if we can capitalize and turn them into points this week," said Carroll.

          Madison's All-American Tyrell Aijan scored four times on Clear Fork, but Carroll says you can only do so much against a great athlete.  "Defensively we made some really good plays in the secondary.  Two of the plays that stick out in my mind are two fade routs that Tyrell Aijan ran on Dillon Pugh and you really can't play it any better than Dillon played it.  They kid just made unbelievable catches.  The one play was just a tremendous throw.  When you teach a kid to defend a really good athlete on a fade route you could use that as a training film he did such a fantastic job," he said.

          In the trenches, Carroll says they got pushed around a little bit, but they didn't give up the big play in the run game.  "They got us up front a little bit.  Their line is big.  They didn't gash us running the ball, but they were able to control that line of scrimmage and moved the ball.  When you have a 205 pound guard, a 265 pound center.  We have one kid that is 260 in a 5'8" body and then our two ends are about 185 pounds.  So, they got pushed around a little bit up front.  It wasn't like they were getting big, long runs against us they were just pounding it," said Carroll.

          Clear Fork (2-5,0-4) is at Ashland (6-1,3-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, for an "OCC" game.

          Ashland is known for its empty backfield, high octane passing game, but Carroll says they are featuring more of the run game this year.  "They run their inside zone play and run a reverse off it and a quarterback keeper off of that.  They have added to their offense.  It makes it a little more difficult in how you are going to defend them," he said.

          The key for the Arrows this year has been their defense.  Carroll says they are quick and aggressive.  "Their defense is fantastic.  They are not really big.  I think maybe their biggest kid is 215 pounds, but they are quick and they are very aggressive.  They play defense like they should and they get after it.  I wouldn't call them overly physical as far as big guy after big guy or anything like that.  Their defensive lineman come off the ball and they hustle extremely well," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "It is tough to get outside on them because of that quickness.  We are going to try more quick hitting, downhill type plays.  You know, Wooster beat them, but they struggled moving the ball against them as well, there were some turnovers involved and things like that that helped them win that game, but that defense is tough."

 

Published 10/16/15

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Colts Set Physical Tone

 

          Clear Fork didn't win last week, but they did something they hadn't done all season.  They were physical and that was a step in the right direction.

          Wooster beat the Colts (41-7) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game, but coach Dave Carroll liked that he finally saw some physicality.  "People that were at the game and are students of the game I think most of them would agree with me from our standpoint, and people might call me crazy, and I'm sure it won't be the first time hat someone has called me that, we were excited because we hit people, we flew around.  You can't play perfect, but you can give a perfect effort, and that's what we felt, especially defensively.  We held the "OCC" leader, a team that has tremendous athletes, they have speed everywhere, they have size, to 171 yards total offense and 84 came on that one play in the beginning.  At halftime we had 190 something to 90 something.  We gave them two touchdowns on a snap over the head and we didn't block a defensive end, who drilled Thomas (Staab) as he was throwing the ball and he fumbled and they scored," said Carroll.

          Trailing (21-7) at the half Carroll says they were thinking pretty positive.  "We went in at halftime thinking physically we were kicking their butt.  The scoreboard doesn't indicate that, but the stats do.  We were totally excited with a couple adjustments we can get this done.  The one big hurdle was we lost Thomas for the half and he was a huge part of our offense and we was doing really well.  Jarrod (Smith) went in with limited reps with the spread offense because we had to be in hurry last week to get that in and went in there and did an admiral job," he said.

          Especially the physical play has led Carroll to believe they have kind of turned the corner.  "We were proud of our kids because we just didn't feel we were getting effort and playing with confidence and physicality until that game against Wooster.  I talked to some coaches last week and they told me if you have to teach toughness, good luck.  I told my coaches I am never going to give up on these kids and if we are playing soft and we not hitting I am going to coach it and drill it because toughness in my mind is all a state of mind it is not how big and fast you are if you want to hit someone you hit them," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We just kept harping and challenging our kids and did some different things in practice to get some pads cracking.  The score wasn't what we wanted from any means, but our kids came out and played much more physical and if we can keep building who knows what can happen next year."

          Madison (3-3,2-1) comes to the Colt Corral on Friday night for an "OCC" game.  Carroll says they have a nice blend of size and athleticism.  "They have some big kids.  They have a 6'4", 305 pound kid.  I know him from track, he was a shot putter.  They also have some kids that are nice looking kids up on that line.  You can tell they have been in the weight room.  They have nice size from 225 to 245 to 260 range.  They have a division one athlete in Tyrell (Ajian).  I told our kids he is the fastest kid we will face all year, maybe your entire life, unless you go play at another level.  You can not let him get started.  He is not a big bruising runner.  He is just really fast and if you give him the open field you are not catching him.  Nobody has caught him and these other teams have faster kids than us," said Carroll.

          Madison hammered Lexington (59-10) last week.  Carroll says it was a game that everything went right for the Rams.  "I think everybody was shocked about how bad they beat Lexington.  Watching the film things went in their favor big time very quickly in that second quarter.  Momentum got out of control.  It was just tremendous for Madison and went the other direction for Lexington and things just piled up on them.  They looked very good.  They looked physical.  They ran the ball affectively when they came out in their power formation, unbalanced with four of those big boys on the same side.  They were pounding counters and misdirections.  Ajian carried for big yards.  Buckley got deep a couple of times," said Carroll.

          Carroll believes that if they continue to be physical and have better execution on offense they can play with the Rams.  "It is a similar process to what we have been through this year.  They have a relatively new team in some regards.  They are searching for an identity, kind of like we are.  They definitely found their identity Friday night against Lexington.  They are a good football team.  If our kids give us the effort that they did last week and then a little bit more, we shore up the mistakes, and hopefully get things running a little bit smoother offensively we can give them a good game," he said.

 

Published 10/07/15

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Colts Trying to Become More Physical

 

          The challenge for the Clear Fork football team remains the same.  They have become more physical is they are going to compete in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.

          Lexington handled them pretty easy last week, winning (27-7) at their place.

          Coach Dave Carroll instituted some personnel changes before the Lexington game and saw some good things, but not enough of them.  "The big change was at quarterback.  I liked the way Thomas (Staab) threw the ball.  I think we had more passing yards against Lexington than we had in the previous games combined.  He ended up with scrambles form some bad plays as well.  We couldn't get in the end zone with our option.  Our blocking up front is not where it needs to be right now.  Coach Gerhardt has done a great job with those kids getting them to play fast and physical and having fun doing it.  I told our kids the same thing.  That's how you play football, they go out and hit people and they enjoy it.  That was the way I was raised playing it and that is the way it is supposed to be done.  We have to get our kids to that level.  That is two weeks in a row we got out physicaled up front," said Carroll.

          The thing that is holding their defense back is their lack of physical play.  Carroll says they have to want to hit.  "Defensively, their line handled us most of the night.  There were times that we showed a little better linebacker play.  Still there was some inconsistency.  There were times guys would fire our and drive their offensive linemen back and our guys could make plays and there were other times when we didn't do that and they were able to get to our second level.  We need to become more consistent with our physicalness.  If Clear Fork was ever known for anything it was toughness and physicalness and we have to bring that back," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "Talking to other coaches and talking to different people and that's not easy.  I played the game for years and have coached it for years and some kids are just tough and they want to put the pads on.  I have said the last two years when you are younger you may not want to do that .  On the other side of the coin people have said if you don't bite when you are a puppy you are probably not going to bite.  I hope that's not the case."

          The coaching staff is not standing still, Carroll says they are attempting to restructure their practice schedule somewhat.  "We have tried to come up with some more physical drills in practice, but then you have to watch getting people hurt.  We are trying to show kids that is the fun part of the game.  That is why I played them game and went on to play college football because I liked the physical part of it," he said.

          Clear Fork (2-3,0-2) plays host to Wooster (4-1,2-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday in "OCC" action.  Carroll, like most thought Wooster would be down a little this year, but that is not the case.  "I was expecting them to be down a little bit this yearn compared to the last two.  They graduated a fantastic class last year.  The Blair kid had a full ride scholarship to Syracuse and was the MVP of the state all-star game.  The Jackson kid, the big lineman, three year starter for them, also played in the north-south and is playing college football.  Their quarterback, the Daugherty kid, was a three sport star, he played football, basketball, and baseball.  He got a full ride scholarship to Bowling Green to play baseball.  I pointed that out to our kids too.  There is a kid that did it the right way.  He played all three sports in high school and got a division one scholarship, he didn't concentrate on one sport," said Carroll.

          He says this is very good team they are playing and one that has some pretty good depth.  "They lost a lot of kids that were really good and they have filled in nicely.  They have a sophomore tailback that that weighs 210 pounds and is pretty darn fast.  The Blair kids that went to Syracuse, his younger brother is 6'3", 200 and plays fullback and some slot with good speed.  They have some nice size up front.  The quarterback seems to be picking up where Daugherty left off.  He doesn't run as much.  This kid is a little smaller.  Has good feet.  One their wide outs is 6'4" and that can cause a nightmare for a corner when you have a 6'4" kid out there.  On the line they have one kid that is about 6'4", 300, but overall they are about average size for the "OCC," they are bigger than us.  A lot of that 225, 240 kind of kid," said Carroll.

 

Published 10/01/15

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Celebrate the Rivalry

 

          In days gone by I was accused of stirring up the rivalry between Clear Fork and Lexington, as if that is a bad thing, and my answer was this was a rivalry long before I came around.

          We cover almost 80 schools in the North Central Ohio area on Swankonsports.com and this is one of the more long standing and intense rivalries around.  So, let's celebrate it.

          Let's begin by a giving it a name and a physical statute to be awarded to the winner of the annual football game.  Although only symbolic I think such a statue as it is passed from side to side down through the years would help to cement the relationship between the schools.  Have it at the site of the game sitting on a table if not under spotlight.

          You have to give it a name.  How about Johnny Appleseed?  Yes, I realize John Chapman has nothing to do with sports and he was spreading seeds around here long before there were organized sports.  However, his name was once the title of a conference that included both schools.  So, how about the "Appleseed Rumble" or something like that?

          You would not have to invent the wheel.  Check what schools like Wooster-Orrville, Danville-East Knox, or Norwalk St. Paul and Monroeville do.  It really could be a week lone event with a captain's breakfast, hosted by the village where that year's game is taking place.  You could have it at the V & M Restaurant or the Paul Revere Inn.  You could have a dinner each year on Thursday night at a certain location.  How about the Der Dutchman Restaurant?  It's about halfway between the villages.  It could include speakers.  I am willing to serve as the MC for such an event.  As far as who the speakers should be and who pays the fee is probably best left up to others.

          It could involve the whole student body.  Have a contest among art students to design the trophy.  Bands could put together special halftime shows to be played only at this game.  There could be a writing contest on the subject of the rivalry to be judged with the winners introduced in a pre game or halftime ceremony.

          Let's get this done!!

          Rivalry doesn't have to be bad it can be good.

 

Published 9/23/15

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Colts Making Some Changes

 

          Clear Fork is a team that has shown some flashes that they can be a good football team, but they haven't made the kind of improvement the coaching staff is looking for, so they have decided to make some changes in personnel.

          Last week, Mansfield Senior dominated the Colts (30-0) in their opening Ohio Cardinal Conference game.  Coach Dave Carroll says they just didn't execute at the level required.  "We were not physical at the line of scrimmage and had some assignment errors.  As we have been saying we have a lot of young kids playing and some kids in some knew positions.  We evaluate every weekend after every game.  We have young kids that are learning new positions, so they are under the microscope a little bit more.  We have just had some question marks in certain spots and some difficulties in certain spots.  This weekend we decided we have had three scrimmages and four games and we are not seeing improvement in some of the areas and with the issues that we felt we should be now, so we made some changes in personnel," said Carroll.

          On the offensive side of the ball, Carroll says they are going to make a switch at one of the sports on the offensive line.  "One of our offensive tackles has just been struggling.  He is a new kid that didn't play football as a freshman.  Last year, was his first year playing football, was a JV player, and this year was his first year as a starter.  He is just not quite ready yet.  He was letting guys penetrate and we just can't have that in our offense, so we shuffled that a little bit," he said.

          Sophomore Thomas Staab has been the most electric player the Colts have had on offense this year and Carroll says they are going to move Staab to quarterback.  "We are going to go with Thomas Staab at quarterback.  He has been our backup quarterback.  He is such a smart kid and he has been able to learn multiple positions.  As you have seen at running back he is extremely fast and elusive.  We just feel that at running back we can just get him the ball on so many plays and now he has the ball in his hands on every play.  In our offense obviously the quarterback is a large part of that.  Jarrod (Smith) has worked extremely hard.  Anybody we have made a move with we have told them that it is not because of a lack of effort we are just not seeing the improvement that we want and we are going to go in another direction," said Carroll.

          In another attempt to strengthen the running game, Carroll says they going a different direction at tight end.  "One of our tight ends kind of lost his spot.  In this offense it is really important to have some tight ends.  We knew that we didn't have a prolific tight end coming into the season, but we still felt this is what we needed to do.  One of the younger tight ends kind of stepped up and we gave him a few reps on Friday night and he executed better than the one that had been playing," he said.

          The more critical problems for Clear Fork have been on defense.  Carroll says specifically it has been the linebacker and they are addressing that issue as well.  "On the other side of the ball defensively we have been struggling with our linebackers, very similar to last year, so we have made a move there.  We tried to simplify things so they could play faster and more aggressive.  We put ourselves in just some awful situations last week.  We thought, and I think most coaches that coach the game would agree, were basic reads, simple reads that weren't carried out," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "It was not that they were bigger, faster, stronger, it was the mental focus of what you practice and what you are taught to do.  A lot of the those bigger, longer runs don't occur is we do things right.  We have been struggling with this and we kept thinking these guys are going to get it, this week they going to get it if we keep simplifying and they didn't."

          There may also be some game plan changes in the works for the Colts, especially on offense.  "We have a few things we are going to do offensively.  We do what we do, we run the veer offense and that's what we are going to do run option football, which we think it gives us out best chance for success.  You are going to see some different things.  I don't want to give away too much today,'" he said.

          Carroll says he just wants his kids to be smarter when it comes to reading the play and be more physical when trying to take the player down.  "I have always had a self evaluation process with me and my coaches .  We are always evaluating the players.  If you are not, you are probably going backwards or you are staying the same and the objective is to move forward every week.  Part of having some new faces and young kids is finding out who can play the game and we want to put the kids in the best spot to be successful.  It is not ideal on week five.  The same play has plagued us on game two, game three and game four it is just a G-play, wrap around play, pulling the backside guard and he chips the nose guard and the backside backer.  I told the kids that if you told me 20 years ago that people could do this against our defense or any defense I would have laughed.  Back then if you are going to run that kind of play you better have two backs in the backfield, one to block, and we are still going to blow that up.  We are hoping and praying that we found two guys in there that can do what we are asking them to do and be physical.  Being physical comes down to the kids and their mindset.  You want to hit somebody," said Carroll.

          Clear Fork (2-2,0-1) plays at rival Lexington (4-0,1-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division on Friday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.

          Carroll says they want to run the football and that means they have to be better at the things they haven't been very good at so far.  "They are going to run that same G-play whether if it is Biddle or if it is Gettle.  Both of them are quick and very good athletes.  The quarterback can keep it with the read keep.  They will run just a speed option and the quarterback sweep.  They don't want to throw it a whole lot.  I mean they can throw it.  They have some new play action plays.  They pass the ball better than what we have.  They try to run the football and get you off guard and get you on the play action.  Our defense has got to play physical and we have go to get some linebacker play.  If we get some linebacker play I think our defense is decent.  Our secondary guys do a pretty good job, they are pretty good athletes, back there making plays on the ball.  Our defensive line has gotten better the last few weeks.  Robinette has played lights out as a strong safety type player for us.  At linebacker we are going to get some guys in there that play with an attitude," said Carroll.

 

Published 9/23/15

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Lady Colts Move on Without Helinski

 

          The Clear Fork Lady Colts girls soccer team has received a set back with the season ending injury to leading scorer Jordyne Helinski, but they are committed to continue to have an excellent season.

          Helinski suffered and "ACL" injury during practice.

          Coach Brittany Bechtel says her other players have to pick up their games.   "I think sometimes when you have some adversity you find out what kind of team you have.  You have to have people picking up the slack and making themselves better each day so that we can continue to be strong and that is kind of how we are focusing on right now just getting better every day," she said.

          She says she feels bad for Jordyne and wonders if she could have done more to prepare her players physically.  "It's sad that a player like Jordyne will not be able to finish her career out.  This is not a good feeling at all.  In my 10 years of coaching we have had an ACL in nine of those years.  Last year is the only year that we did not have an "ACL."  Every coach says, what could I have done to prepare the body better?  You are going to have those regrets," said Bechtel.  

          Bechtel says other players are going to have to become scorers and playmakers if the Lady Colts are going to continue to be winners.  "When we found out we weren't going to have Jordyne back this year we said everybody is going to have to pick their game up and be a true team.  If each player brings their game up a little we can find that success as a unit.  I think what we have been missing this year there has been a lot of emphasis and pressure on her to do the job that all them should have been doing in the first place.  It is going to level that playing field out a lot more because we don't have that superstar up top scoring all of our goals," she told Swankonsports.com, "I think Jordyne had wanted that behind her to take a little pressure off her shoulders and relax and play a little bit.  It's fortunate that sometimes these tragedies bring out some things in other players that they didn't know were in them."

          Clear Fork (6-2,3-0) leads the Ohio Cardinal Conference standings and beat Mansfield Senior (10-0) on Thursday in league play without Jordyne.  Six different players scored in the match for Clear Fork,  Sophomore Aly Wend scored four times and senior Meshina Curry found the net twice.

          It has always been a team that has played a lot kids in matches and now Bechtel says players are going to have to prove they belong on the field.  "Our line up is ever changing now.  You have to make people accountable.  If your not working hard, during a game if you aren't giving 100 percent you are going to be off that field and we are going to find somebody that day that is.  I have to move people around more now that I have when I am not getting what I need instead of going back to the same players I'm going to go with the other player if she is playing really well right now.  Right now, it is not necessarily my formation I am looking at, but the players themselves and what they are willing to give," said Bechtel.

          In terms of strategy, Bechtel says they are going to need to bring more players forward and attack the goal.  "We realize as a team that the skills that Jordyne has you don't find in very many athletes.  But, it will be harder to shut us down if we bring six forward instead of one or two.  We are playing differently because that is the way we have to create offense.  We could get it done in the past with just the one and now we can't.  The game changes that way," she said.

          Clear Fork plays at Wooster in "OCC" play on Thursday.  

 

 
 

Clear Fork Preparing for Talented Mansfield Senior

 

          Clear Fork has sown solid improvement this season, but they clearly play their toughest game of the season so far as they travel to Mansfield Senior to face the Tygers in Ohio Cardinal Conference action on Friday.

          The Colts (2-1,0-0) rallied behind two Thomas Staab touchdown runs in the second half to beat Shelby (20-13) last week.  Coach Dave Carroll thanks God for the rain and says again his players made the right adjustments.  "God helped us out with that rain storm throughout that whole game.  That slowed those guys down a little bit.  That definitely helped us.  Our offense is kind of conducive to that kind of weather.  Being in the gun and stuff like that is pretty tough.  Our kids did a good job with their ability to respond to adversity.  Again being down they didn't flinch.  It really helped when Trevon scooped and took that fumble in before half that just pumped everybody up.  Our kids believed they could get it done.  Our defense stepped up for the most part in the second half and the offense got a couple of scores.  The kids picked up their adjustments really well at halftime and executed their plays.  We had a couple of big plays and we were able to hang on for the win," said Carroll.

         A big key for the Colts for the remainder of the season is their willingness to want to get better, according to Carroll.  "The key to that with a team like ours that is really young each practice, each game they are getting tons of experience that a lot of them haven't had.  it's a matter of them getting used to the speed of the game and what it takes to be successful at the high school level.  They just have a willingness to want to be good and get better and that is the biggest factor.  We have seen it again this week they just keep getting better each day in practice," he said.

          Clear Fork plays at Arlin Field against Mansfield Senior (2-1,0-0), #5 in Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday night.

          Carroll says the Tygers have scary talent on the offensive side of the football, especially at running back.  "They are very big up front and very fast in the backfield.  They are a typical Mansfield Senior team over the last few years.  The two backs, Vickers and Benson are quick, have tremendous speed and can cut on a dime.  They will take it through the hole if you give it to them, they will bounce it outside, they will take it through the hole and cut it back against the grain.  They are two tough backs and extremely talented athletes. Swindall at quarterback is doing a nice job throwing the football.  Manns is a division one prospect that plays wide receiver and they have a couple other guys out there that can catch the ball as well," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "They have a balanced offense, so you have to take care of business against the ruin and the pass against these guys.  If you slip up they'll be gone.  So, we have to be gap sound and tackle real well and play as fast as we can possibly play."

          Mansfield Senior has the same kind of athleticism on the defensive side of the ball.  Carroll says their athleticism causes havoc.  "I am really impressed with their defensive tackles.  They penetrate against everybody I have seen them play against.  They get on the offensive side of the ball and give you trouble.  Then they have the big nose guard in there.  I think he is 290 pounds and anchors the middle.  The you have two, not very big, but very athletic inside linebackers.  Benson, the one running back is one of those guys.  They do a good job of escaping blocks with their speed and getting to the football.  Then you have a secondary that has some of those same guys, Vickers is back there and some other kids that are pretty athletic," said Carroll.

          They have to keep Mansfield Senior's hands off the ball and Carroll says they want to eat some clock.  "With our offense we are going to try and maintain possession of the football.  We aren't looking for the big gainers.  We would like to get that 3.5 yards per play.  They add up to first downs and just eat up the clock, move the sticks, and hopefully get it down there and get it in the end zone," he said.

 

Published 9/17/15

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Clear Fork Volleyball off to Great Start

 

          There have only been two winning seasons in Clear Fork volleyball history and those both came more the 25 years ago, but this year it has been different for the Lady Colts.

          They are (6-1,2-1) and have earned wins over both Ashland and Madison in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          Coach Jennifer Moore says this is group that has great chemistry and is starting to believe in itself.  "I think the success of this team boils down to the fact that they work as a team.  There is no drama.  They all get along well on and off the court.  They are a tight nit group of girls, they are friends, and that shows on the court.  They work together, they support each other.  When they are all focused and working together and communicating they get it done," she said.

          Clear Fork plays preseason favorites Lexington and Orrville in conference action this week and Moore says she looks forward to seeing how her girls respond against a really good squad.  "The tradition at schools like Orrville, Lexington, West Holmes, is all long standing.  Even Ashland is starting to get into the mix as they are putting a program together.  When we beat Ashland in our "OCC" opener it really lit a fire under my girls because they realized that it is possible this year that we can have some success.  It is a tough league and we battle every year with them," she told Swankonsports.com. "We look forward to seeing Lexington and Orrville this coming week.  It will be interesting to see how we hang with girls that are headed to play at division one schools at the college level.  It is going to be a challenge, but I'm looking forward to it."

          It has been a flip flop this year in the "OCC" as Madison (1-7,1-2,) the most dominate program in conference history, has been having a down season.  However, when Clear Fork beat them last Thursday, Moore says that really meant something and was a confidence builder.  "We actually started that game really slow.  We were down 6-1 and I called a time out and I say, hey, listen I know you don't think you can do it, but you can and you need to work together.  Our focus this year has been communication, teamwork, and focus on the job at hand and they did those three things and started coming back.  We lost that first set 13-25.  I told them when we crossed over to the other side of the court you have got this next one.  You started to come alive at the end of that last set, keep pushing forward.  They did it and got ahead and never looked back," said Moore.

          If the Lady Colts are going to continue to take steps forward, Moore says they need to improve their passing skills.  "I think we need to be a little bit better passing wise.  I feel like we have a good defensive system in place, but we are really looking for that key liberio.  We don't have one on our roster.  The libero that I started last year is out with a shoulder injury.  I have  a freshman, she is doing a really nice job, but it's a big position to fill and she has her eyes wide open and looks a little scared," she said.

 

Published 9/14/15

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Colts Starting to Figure it Out

 

          Clear Fork is still a young football team, but one that is maturing as we head into week three of the high school football season.

          The Colts (1-1) play at Shelby against the Whippets on Friday night in non-conference action.

          They beat Ontario (42-24) last week after trailing the Warriors (24-21) with 6:40 to play in the third quarter.  They responded right away on a long TD run by sophomore Thomas Staab, who also returned a kick 85 yards for a score in the first half.

          Coach Dave Carroll says they made the right adjustments in the second half.  "Offensively we made some adjustments at halftime.  They were blitzing and our young line was having some trouble picking it up.  We tried to make some adjustments in the first half, but we weren't quite getting it every time.  The kids did a great job of that in the second half.  We played hard the whole game, we just played a little smarter in the second half.  We didn't have good field position in the first half a lot of times either and the turnovers hurt us.  We got those adjustments made and the kids were excited and knew they could do it," said Carroll.

          Clear Fork only has one senior and most of the varsity is made up of some talented sophomores and juniors.  Junior quarterback Jarrod Smith scored three times against Ontario.

          Carroll says maybe the best thing about this bunch is their eagerness the improve.  "They are a lot of fun to coach.  Each game they get better.  We are starting to see a lot of different looks that people want to give you against this offense through the two scrimmages and the first couple of games.  I'm sure there are going to be more things as we go.  The kids are going to be able to react better and know what to do and how to adjust and so fourth.  We are getting so much better again this week.  We actually got through practice 15 minutes earlier than normal.  Heck, I was able to get home early and finish up mowing my yard," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday evening, "It has been hot the last two weeks and they still have a lot of energy.  We are excited about these kids.  They are very young and hopefully they will stick with it, work hard, and get better and better as we go."

          They travel to Shelby (1-1) to face the Whippets this week.  Shelby beat Madison (20-6,) but lost last week to Lexington (34-20) in non-league play.

          The first thing you think about when it comes to Shelby is their sophomore quarterback Brennan Armstrong, being recruited by some division one colleges.  Carroll says he can do about anything on the football field.  "In my opinion he is one of the better athletes in North Central Ohio and probably beyond that.  He is very, very fast and has a rocket arm when he throws the ball.  He is just and athlete and has a great body as far as what he can do out there and make people miss and the speed and everything.  They have other kids to go with him, it's not just him.  That is were you have to start obviously with an offense like that, just like us the last couple of years with Kadin (Crastina) because most people are gearing towards him because of the offense you are running.  But, you can't fall asleep with the other athletes they have either," said Carroll.

          Even if you flush Armstrong out of the pocket he is dangerous, maybe more so.  "You have to be careful because if you go after him on the pass and don't cover up the seams on that defensive line he will find that little hole and he will be gone.  He is just as dangerous running the ball on a pass play as he is throwing it.  He can throw it a country mile, accurately and quickly," he said.

 

Published 9/10/15

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The 1980 Softball Team Made up of Dreamers

 

          Members of the 1980 Clear Fork softball team will be inducted Sunday afternoon into the Clear Fork Valley Athletic Hall of Fame.

          Cheryl Sowash, who was the head coach of the team to begin that season before having to step aside because she pregnant, says she remembers the players on that team being pioneers.  "I remember building a tradition with these girls.  When I first started coaching we just talked a lot about building a tradition.  The fact that we are getting to see that tradition play itself out and the fantastic teams that Clear Fork has every single year.  There is a sense of pride," she told Swankonsports.com on Friday night, "The girls were fantastic to work with, they have a great work ethic, they wanted to be on the field.  They wanted to win and I think that is the biggest thing we talked about.  You have to learn how to win and we wanted to instill that in the girls."

          Title IX was passed in 1973 and it wasn't long after that when Clear Fork began playing girls' softball.  Sowash says in those early days they had to fight for what they got.  "I went to the athletic boosters, our girls were winning, we were established the tradition, and I felt we had done enough and had earned the right to ask for a pitching machine.  What I had to go through to I said these girls are worth it.  At the time it was a big ticket item.  I felt that we had to show that we earned it and these girls were worth it and we got that pitching machine," said Sowash.

          The Lady Colts now play at one of the premier facilities in North Central Ohio, but Sowash says that was a process.  "Our very first game was against Ontario.  This was 1975, we thought we were going to play slow pitch and Marcia Bare shows up and says by the way we are playing fast pitch tonight.  I will never forget that game, that was at Bellville.  Then we went to Butler and then we built this field here.  It is a gorgeous field," she said.

          Sherri Lifer was the main pitcher for the 1980 squad, which was the first Clear Fork team to advance to the state tournament.  Sowash says she took for players to get special training.  "Even back then I would take the girls over to Ashland where there was a semi professional team and there were a couple of really good pitching coaches.  We would take our girls over there and at the time that was unheard of in this area.  For me to take these girls to clinics and to pitching coaches.  We did what we needed to do to help them be successful," said Sowash.

          In order to be successful in sports, softball included, you have to believe in yourself.  Sowash says she encouraged her players to be dreamers.  "There was a song that was popular back in the late 70's, early 80's, that said "dreams never die, just the dreamer" and that kind of became our motto.  I said you have to dream winning the state championship.  You have to dream it, you have to visualize yourselves there.  I said, guys you have to be dreamers and you have to dream about this," said Sowash.

          The 1980 team, along with Clear Fork's 2010 state championship baseball team, former football and baseball star Dan Henry, 1994 defensive player of year in Ohio, and 1955 Bellville High School grad Ron Kochheiser, an All-Ohio basketball player and member of an undefeated football team, will be inducted in a ceremony Sunday afternoon at Clear Fork High School.   

 

 
 

Clear Fork Just Has to Work on Getting Better

 

          Was Clear Fork better than they were last year?  Yes, but they still were not good enough to beat Fredericktown in their opening game last week.

          The Freddies kicked a field goal in the final minute to beat the Colts (17-14) last Friday.  Clear Fork coach Dave Carroll says turnovers killed them and adds one of those belongs to him.  "It was definitely a heart breaker.  Fredericktown had a tremendous team the last couple of years, especially last year, and they lost a lot of seniors.  We really thought it was one we could get.  They are decent team, they have had some guys step in there, they have 12 seniors on their team.  Their kids played very well and Will Hartley is doing a great job coaching them.  We just made too many mistakes, especially in the first half when we had some opportunities.  We missed some passes, we turned the ball over three times.  The one was my fault," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "I went for a fake punt on the about the 50, right or wrong, agree or disagree.  We stopped them the first drive and we felt our defense was going to a great job against those guys.  We asked our kids in the locker room do you feel confident enough for us to defer if we win the toss and play defense first?  And they said absolutely, coach, do it.  We thought the fake punt was there and we didn't get it done.  Maybe we should have punted the ball down and put them in bad field position.  That was my mistake.  We had a drive down the 20, 25 yard line and fumbled, it was right before half and it didn't do much damage, but the other two did."

          Carroll says Fredericktown was bigger them, but that is going to be the case all year.  He says they have to be more disciplined.  "Everybody is going to be big compared to us.  They are just going to have bigger kids and that's just the way it is.  We have talked about knowing your assignment and carrying out your assignment and don't try to do somebody else's assignment.  We had that a few times too much," he said.

          There are certainly some positives that can be taken from the loss to the Freddies.  Carroll says the didn't quit down (14-0) at halftime.  "Two things that were good was there wasn't a lack of effort, there was no moping at all.  There was just not playing the game the way we are supposed to play it at times and it cost us.  The other good things was we competed.  We went into the locker room at halftime, last year we were up on them 42-27, and all they did was come out and end up scoring 69.  We told our boys we can do this.  Things aren't always go to go your way whether it's in football or life.  You can either curl up in a ball and cry about it or respond in a positive manner and our kids did that.  That shows some maturity from last year.  Last year when we got down things just got bad, it just went down hill.  We just have to get better at what we do," said Carroll.

          Last season, the Colts were one of the youngest teams in the area and it sowed.  Carroll says they are still dealing with that.  "No excuses, but we have one senior.  We have a freshman starting at left guard, and we have a ton of sophomores playing.  Our right tackle is a junior, but he has never seen varsity football and only played one year of football.  It is one that got away from us that we could have got, should have got, but we didn't get it done and we have to work on our mistakes," he said.

          Friday night, Clear Fork hosts Ontario (0-1) in the Hall of Fame Classic.  The Warriors lost last week to Lexington (26-19) in their first game.  Carroll says there are some similarities to the two rosters, except Ontario is a lot bigger.  "They are similar to us in that they have a lot of young kids.  They don't have a ton of seniors, but they have more than we do.  You see a lot of sophomores and juniors in their line up.  They are big and they have some big kids.  I don't know if they are using fertilizer over there, but they have a 6'5" kid, a 6'6" kid, another 6'5" kid.  They have speed in their skilled positions.   Their quarterback can run.  They receivers are in a slot.  The run a lot of jet motion and screens and their running back does a nice job.  It is going to be from a spread formation, so now you are talking about where you need to be and tackling in space, which I think is one of the hardest things you have to do in football," said Carroll.

          When it comes to defending the spread, Carroll feels they have the personnel capable of defending that kind of offense.  "We have our work cut out for us, but we feel we are probably a little more suited for the spread than we are then they are pounding it down your throat.  We just aren't really big, but we have some athleticism and quickness.  Hopefully that will help us out.  We did a pretty good job against Marion Pleasant, Mt. Vernon, and those teams that spread us out.  Hopefully they don't revert and line up in the "I" and pound it down our throat.  I don't think that's what they want to do, they haven't shown that at all.  We just have to do our job the way it is supposed to be done," he said.

 

Published 9/02/15

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Kochheiser to be Enshrined

 

          It was  a different game then, but Ron Kochheiser was a pretty good basketball player, and just athlete in his day.

          Nearly 80-years-old now, Kochheiser is still being rewarded for those accomplishments.  On Sunday, he we be inducted into the Clear Fork Valley Athletic Hall of Fame.

          The 1955 graduate of Bellville High School remembers most fondly be part of some pretty good Blue Jay teams.  "The fact that I was on a team that won the county tournament my senior year in basketball.  Then I was on the football team that was undefeated.  Those are the highlights of my high school career," he told Swankonsports.com on Sunday.

          He a pretty good player, not a very good player, he was All-Ohio in basketball and conference in football, a four year starter on the gridiron.

          They say you celebrate wins, but losses linger with you.  Kochheiser remembers his last basketball game as a Bellville Blue Jay pretty well.  "Probably the game in the district tournament that we lost, but I had 29 points or something like that.  We were behind quite a bit and caught back up, but still lost the game.  That was a highlight of my career," said Kochheisher.

          He says basketball was a different game in those days than the one we see now.  "Very much so.  It was so much slower then than it is now.  It's completely different." he said.

          Kochheiser will be inducted in a ceremony to be held Sunday afternoon at 2 PM at Clear Fork High School along with former Clear Fork football and baseball star Dan Henry, the 1980 Clear Fork girls' softball team and the Colts 2010 baseball team.

 

Published 8/31/15

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Colts Defense Showing Good Signs

 

          Clear Fork travels to Fredericktown to meet the Freddies in non-conference play in the season opener on Friday night.  If this to be a better season for the Colts their defense has to be much improved.

          Veteran coach Dave Carroll says he very much likes the bunch of kids that he has on his roster this season.  "I am really excited about this group of kids.  They are a really hard working group that loves to compete and they love the game of football and they seem to love each other.  Those are three key ingredients.  We are having a lot of fun.  We are still young, so everyday, and every contest, you learn a lot of things.  They are definitely progressing," he said.

          Last season, the Colts (3-7) gave up six touchdowns a game and twice lost a game when they scored more than 40 points.  One of those was a (69-49) loss to Fredericktown.  They allowed more than 40 points in seven of their 10 games.

          Carroll says a year has made his defense bigger, stronger, and more physical.  "The proof will be in the pudding because Fredericktown will challenge us in the running defense category and with the pass.  They like to run the football.  From what I have seem so far we are greatly improved from last year.  We really can't get much worse than we were last year in a lot of those games.  We gave up a lot of points, a lot of yards.  I tried to tell people last year in my opinion the greatest thing that is going to affect a football team when you are that young with three sophomores and three freshmen starting on your defense, they are not as big and fast and willing to hit, and that was very evident," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We have a lot of these kids back and they are a year older, a year in the weight room, a year of experience.  They are just much more aggressive.  They look better, number one, they run better, and we seem to be tackling better, and we are just more physical than what we were.  That is priority number one to sure up the defense greatly compared to last year."

          Fredericktown has a new coach in their former assistant Will Hartley, a Clear Fork grad.  Carroll says they are going to face a Fredericktown team that is going to try and do a lot of the same things.  "Will is very smart and has been coaching for a long time.  They are basically running the same things.  They are running the same offense and they same defense as last year, so the kids are comfortable.  If a new guy comes in and changes everything there could be problems.  They were 10-0 last year and the year before that they were very good, so I think it was a very good move on his part to keep doing what they have been doing.  They will be a mix between the "I" and the shotgun.  The will run some unbalanced line, some pro and con, twins, things like that.  They try to pound you off tackle, try and play action pass you.  They have another kid in there at quarterback, the Smith kid, he is very similar to Hathaway.  He is tall, big kid, he can run, and he can throw, so he presents a challenge, and their line is a bunch of big kids too," said Carroll.

 

Published 8/26/15

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Colts on the Right Track

 

          Clear Fork faced a big challenge in their first scrimmage and came out of it with a lot of positive signs.

          The Colts played defending division six state semi finalist Defiance Tinora on Tuesday and coach Dave Carroll says things were far from perfect, but he was pretty pleased.  "We came out and did some good things.  We did some bad things, which is typical of a first scrimmage, but all of those bad things are correctable.  Tinora is a good team.  They were in the state semi finals last year and got beat by the state champion Minster in division six by one point.  They have most of their kids back, so it was a pretty formidable opponent.  They are big and they are fast.  They had a 4x100 team that placed, their skilled kids, and some big boys up front.  We thought we did some good things.  They scored three touchdowns and we scored two.  We probably had a couple of other opportunities to score and just didn't get it done," said Carroll.

          With some fakes and things, the Colts got beat on some big plays and Carroll says that is a mental thing.  "We have to be better disciplined football players.  They are a play action, wing T like team and we weren't reading our keys like we should and they got a couple of pass plays on us that they shouldn't have.  We just weren't used to the speed that they bring at you on their offensive line and their backfield.  With fast kids you try to simulate it in practice, but until you hit that ground running in the first scrimmage you just don't know," he said.

          The numbers have made a little climb this year in the valley and Carroll says they are approaching this year with some excitement.  "I love our team culture and out attitude we just have to be more disciplined and more focused.  We only have two seniors that start for us.  Their was only one on the field (Tuesday) night.  So, we are still relatively young with a lot of juniors and sophomores playing because they are pretty good athletes that they are excited about not just this season, but the future," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "Our numbers are up a little bit, still not where they need to be.  We have this senior class where the numbers have always been low.  We have had two classes in a row where the numbers have been low.  We are over 50.  We will be able to play JV and freshmen this year after only playing JV last year, so we are excited about that."

          Kadin Crastina was a an excellent quarterback the last two years for the Colts, producing some big numbers.  Carroll the kid they have filling that roll is doing everything they have asked and more.  "Joe Smith is our starter right now.  When we went under center last year and tried to run it he was under center, so he got quite a bit of experience last year.  He is a tough kid.  He has really surprised us in the seven on sevens this year.  Even (Tuesday) night he did a nice job with his passing.  He is off to a pretty good start.  There are some things that he has to iron out and get better at," said Carroll.

 

Published 8/13/15

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Lady Colts Reloading

 

          Clear Fork played in the regional final last fall, they also did so in 2012 and 2011, and Brittany Bechtel has built one of the most respected girls' soccer teams in North Central Ohio.

          There will be a spirit of transition this season with All-American Dejiah Swihart now at Ashland University.  Bechtel says they still have a lot of talent.  "We graduated six, four year starters and a All-American.  Also the experience those kids had.  They led us to three regional finals.  They will definitely be missed, but we have that every year.  There are going to be areas that you miss.  We just hope the kids coming up through are going to step up.  I definitely think we have the talent to do it this year," she said.

          The success they have had in recent years means a lot of girls at Clear Fork want to play soccer.  Bechtel says that makes her job tougher.  "I think we have the largest numbers I think we have ever had in this school's program history.  It's a nice problem to have, but it's an awful problem for a coach like me.  I'm a first grade teacher, so I have some empathy there. It's hard for me to cut, we have never had to cut as long as I have coached.  We are definitely looking to have to cut some girls to get down to a manageable number," she told Swankonsports.com, "We have been lucky enough to get four more JV games added to keep a few more players and allow them to have some experience.  They obviously love the game and we don't want to take that away from them.  You graduate six and you bring in 20 it makes for a very challenging player selection."

          Success breeds success and Bechtel says her players know what it takes to produce a winning team.  "We have over 30 things in the summer and that is a big commitment not knowing if you are going to make the team.  We have seven girls on our team that haven't missed a day yet.  In order to be a great team you have to be there.  When I first took over the program the very first open field I only had four girls showing up.  It's a far cry from that to have 40 girls showing up," she said.

          With Swihart gone from the midfield, Bechtel says they need to learn how to build an attack that will lead to goals.  "We still have our top scorer in Jordan (Helinski) up top.  My concern is not down at the 18, but maybe building the attack up to the 18.  We struggle at times forcing the ball and getting into the attack and getting numbers up.  We seem to be a little bit more withdrawn and in a defensive mode.  We are trying to get them to understand we can't have one person do it all.  We have to have people around the field placing the ball in the net as well," said Bechtel.

          Also graduated was keeper Morgan Bailey and Bechtel says replacing her won't be easy.  "We have three keepers this year, two freshmen and a junior returning.  There is definitely a battle for playing time all around the field and that includes the net.  Figuring out who are keeper is going to be.  Replacing Morgan is going to be a very challenging thing to do.  We have talent there, but we are going to miss Morgan's height and her athleticism.  I think she has the state record for number of goose eggs she had over four years.  That is something we are going to have to do early, find someone that is going to fill her shoes," said Bechtel.

 

Published 8/05/15

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Two Sport Star Henry to be Inducted into Hall

 

          Clear Fork has a great tradition of football success, they have made the post season playoffs more often then any school in Richland County, and Dan Henry is one of the best players to ever put on the helmet at the school.

          Henry, along with the 1980 Lady Colts softball team, Ron Kochheiser, a stellar Bellville High School athlete from the 1950's, and the 2010 Clear Fork baseball team, will be inducted into the Clear Fork Valley Athletic Hall of Fame, on Sunday, September 6.

          Henry, who now works in Mansfield, says he used to stare at a wall, that at the time supported pictures of Clear Fork's All-Ohio players, and made up his mind that he wanted to be there too."  "It's a great honor.  When I used to set in the cafeteria they had that all-Ohio wall.  There might have been, I'm guessing 30 or 40 people up on that wall.  There wasn't a lot of guys on that wall and I used to pick a seat out so I could see that wall.  I made it goal I want be up on that wall with those guys," he told Swankonsports.com, "What if we would have had this hall of fame wall then to be able to look at that and get the pride and get pumped up and stuff.  I have kind followed the classes as it has happened and I am amazed at some of the talent."

          He more than made All-Ohio status.  He was the co-defensive player of the year in the state as a senior in 1994.  He was Northwest district player of the year that year and was an All-Ohio punter as a junior. 

          He says he remembers most just being a good player on a great team.  "I would say how good of a team we had.  I had that award and stuff, but our defense as a whole.  That might be one of the best defenses that school has ever had.  There were a lot if guys.  I just happened to be at the right spot at the right time.  As a team I think we had 23 interceptions," he said.

          Henry 17 career interceptions and 115 tackles from his defensive back position.

          It was a deep team coached by Dan Sparks and Henry says there weren't any weak spots.  "You couldn't pick on any spot.  I think we had 20 seniors when I was a senior.  I believe that all 11 spots on that defense were held by seniors for most of that season with a couple of juniors filling in at times.  We had a lot of talent and we had guys that knew where to be and it worked out very well that season," he said.

          Longtime Clear Fork coach Gary Beal was the defensive coordinator and Henry says there were certain requirements to play on Beal's defense.  "We did a lot of hitting in practice and if you didn't like to hit you weren't going to play on his defense," he said.

          Henry was also a baseball player at Clear Fork and he points out that current Colts coach Rusty Staab was responsible, in his opinion, for putting Clear Fork on the map in baseball.  "I think we were the first team to win a district title.  When coach Staab came in we were one his first classes.  I was a sophomore when he came in.  From that point in baseball at Clear Fork took a turn for the better.  We had some descent coaches before him, but that guy is full of knowledge of the game and I think that really turned around that sport," said Henry.

          Depending on the era Clear Fork athletes might pick a different school as their biggest rival and for Henry that was an easy choice.  "The biggest rival for sure would have been Loudonville when I played.  That rivalry really got intense starting in the late 80's.  We were really in the mix of it in '93 and '94," he said.

 

Published 8/03/15

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2010 Clear Fork Baseball Team Headed to the Hall

 

          Clear Fork's 2010 baseball team was the whole package with some tremendous hitters, dominating pitchers, and kids that just loved the game and what resulted was something very special, a state title.

          That 2010 Colt baseball team, along with the 1980 Lady Colts softball team, Ron Kochheiser, a 1955 Bellville High School grad, and two sport star, and Dan Henry, 1994 co-defensive player of the year in division four as a Clear Fork football defensive back, will be inducted into the Clear Fork Valley Athletic Hall of Fame, on September 6.

          There were a lot of expectations surrounding the team, but its coach Jeremy Riddle told Swankonsports.com that the pressure was kind of off after they won the regional title, beating Elmwood (6-4).   "The thing that comes to mind for me personally would probably be our regional championship because I knew we were going to Columbus and I knew we had a shot and I knew we had Travis Hissong going in the semi-final.  There was so much pressure and expectation from that year, win state or bust, and knowing we were going to Columbus with Hissong on the mound was a deal I would take any day of the week," said Riddle.

          Hissong beat Independence (6-0) in the Friday semi-final, going the distance, allowing only one hit, and striking out 11, and after a rain out on Saturday, the Colts run ruled Wheelersburg (14-3) in the division three state final on Sunday.

          2010 was a great year, but Riddle says he kind of knew he had lightning in a bottle early on, as far back as the spring of 2008.  "I would have to say about the sophomore year when we kind of got over the freshman blues and some guys got an opportunity to play.  A lot of the fundamentals were there and we were working on philosophy and attitude and what it meant to be a Clear Fork baseball player.  I saw a lot of possibilities and there were a lot of set down meetings trying to get these kids lined up and headed the right direction.  That year was a sectional championship with predominantly a bunch of sophomores.  The junior year we went into regionals, beating a Sandusky Perkins team that was tough that year," said Riddle.

          The Colts were 32-2 in 2010 and there had hitters throughout the lineup and with guys that Hissong, Liberti, Dickerson, McCune, and Kline, Riddle says they could put up a crooked number at anytime in the game.  "They had a lot of potential one through nine.  In a typical baseball game you kind of look at what you have coming up next inning and how you are going to try and score a run.  I was blessed to never have to worry about where we were in the order because it really didn't matter," he said.

          In one particular game at Arlin Field playing Mansfield Senior, Riddle says they really exploded.  "In that game, I believe it was the third inning, Jake Dickerson hit two grand slams in the same inning and they were no doubters out into the centerfield woods.  Travis Hissong hit the bus barn in leftfield.  We scored a lot runs that day," he said.  Dickerson's performance is still part of the OHSAA record book.

          No team is going to win a state title with just some very good hitters.  Riddle says they have great starting pitching and played some pretty solid defense too.  "We were very blessed with the pitching, and the defense, and just the knowledge of the game.  The best part of that team is you were able to take coaching to the next level and talk about and do and execute things that you might not get to talk about on an average year with a high school team," he said.

          The reason they were such a powerful team, Riddle says, was their work ethic.  He says team wanted to work so hard that it was hard to get them off of the diamond when practice was supposed to be over.  "During the season I would make the mistake of asking who wanted ground balls or who wanted some extra BP after an hour and half or two hour practice.  All that meant was we were going to be there another hour, hour and half.  There times when I had to tell them to leave," he said.

          Riddle says their experience at Clear Fork not only made them great baseball players, but pretty good young men too.  "That is something that maybe doesn't get talked about as much, we talk about there talent level and maybe how many games they won, but what a great group of kids that to this day have each others back and are still contributing to the community," he said.

          The 2010 championship did not come without a lot of hard work, some God given talent, and Riddle says an attitude toward the game and each other that was forged in some rather agitated locker room conversations.  "To have guys that know their role. Whether it is just to throw BP and shag fly balls or be the starting pitcher.  To have a team like that you are going to have some tough times.  If you talk to anybody they can tell you about some locker room doors being locked and having some conversations with each other and figuring out what we were all about," he told Swankonsports.com, "There were a lot of those moments that we had to close the door and make sure we were all on the same page.  By the time we got to the senior year we were all on the same page, but that wasn't without some effort, some yelling and screaming and there might have been a water jug in there somewhere."

 

Published 7/27/15

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Tresey New AD at Clear Fork

 

          Joe Tresey is returning to the high school level and he is very comfortable in doing so.  He is the new athletic director at Clear Fork High School, or as it is termed now Activities Coordinator.

          He has spent the last two decades coaching at various positions, at various levels of college football, the last three years at Youngstown State as defensive coordinator.

          Tresey was head football coach at Fredericktown High School form 1987 to 1989.  He remembers dealing with the Colts on the gridiron.  "I have come here with 36 years of coaching and 15 years in high school as a teacher, and primarily a head football coach.  Unfortunately, I was at Fredericktown for three years.  Clear Fork was our rival and it was the opening game.  I could not have applied for this job if they were still rivals.  The dynamics of that has all changed and Clear Fork has kind of went in a different direction and so has Fredericktown, obviously," said Tresey.

          He led the Freddies to the state semi finals in 1989.

          He has also been an assistant coach at the division one college level at UCLA, South Florida and Cincinnati.  He has also been part of the football coaching staff at Georgia Southern, VMI, Central Michigan and Akron.  Plus, he was also the head coach at Middletown, New Philadelphia and Mechanicsburg High Schools.  Tresey brings a vast amount of experience to the valley.  "I've had a great career in high school and a life long relationship with a lot of my players.  I was in college for 20 years.  I was a football coach and I have coached at every level in high school and coached in a every level in college except for division two," he said.

          Although all of his coaching experience has been in football Tresey told the school board, and those is attendance Tuesday night, that he can work with all of the sports.  "I am not just a football guy, I love all of the sports," he said.

          Joe's wife Patty was hired this week as Director of Pupil Services with the Mapleton Schools in Ashland County.  He says their life has been one of constantly being on the move, but they are kind of tired of that.  "This is going to be our 16th move in 29 years of marriage.  A lot of people have asked me why, why, why?  Well, we are tired of moving.  To be honest with you we just felt at this time in our careers we were just tired of dealing with the egos and the security of a lot of positions that head coaches are put in today.  They don't have very secure jobs like they used to.  We were very adamant about coming back to high school and being around young people," said Tresey.

          He has had the chance to influence people had a number of levels, but Tresey feels it's at high school where you can have the most positive impression.  "You can impact at this level greater than any other level.  We are all about kids.  My job, and I think all of our jobs as educators, at this level, is to put kids first, and make sure they are first, and give them every opportunity we can in our power, to let them embrace, and enjoy and just try to be the best they can be, not just athletes, but student athletes.  It's our job the provide that environment for them and every opportunity to be successful," said Tresey.

         Tresey replaces Benji Bethea, who left the valley to become high school principal at Northmor.  Tresey says one his goals is to make Clear Fork at place people always want to call home.  "I was just talking to Benji today.  He told me he played at Clear Fork, I had no idea.  I asked him, why did you come back?  He said, you know Joe, I had such a great experience in my extra curricular, I just loved this place and wanted to come back.  When our kids leave Clear Fork they want to come back.  Maybe not so much as residents, maybe they have grown and moved on, but they always want to come back and see their coaches and talk to their coaches and get with their teammates and talk with their teammates, and always talk about the experiences they had.  When you do that at the end of the day we have all won," said Trecey.

 

Published 7/01/15

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Bellevue Uses Big Inning to Beat Clear Fork

 

          Bellevue scored all eight of their runs in the second inning on their way to an (8-4) win over Clear Fork in the division two softball district semi final at Seneca East High School on Tuesday.

          The Lady Red had five hits in that pivotal inning, including three for extra bases hits.  "We probably had the worst practice in my 26 years (Monday), so I surprised we came out and hit the ball like we did.  This is best hitting team I have ever had," said Bellevue head coach Walt Snyder.

          Clear Fork (21-8) took a (3-0) in the top of the first on two Bellevue errors and some good small ball work by the Lady Colts.

            They shared the Ohio Cardinal Conference title with Orrville this year.  Coach Jeff Gottfried thought they had a very good year, but on Tuesday Bellevue, the Northern Ohio League champ, was just better than them.  "It is like any coach says at this point and time in the season.  One game doesn't make a season.  If people were going to predict what we did this year, it wasn't what we did.  To get a share of the conference with our backs against the wall and winning three straight," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "We had a big two weeks.  We didn't have a let down (Tuesday) we just ran into a better team.  Sometimes on a given day the other team was better than you were and they were.  Hats off to Bellevue, they played very, very well."

          Snyder says he has a young team really hits the ball well.  "It don't know what to say.  We have bunch of freshmen and sophomores and a few senior leaders that pulled us through I guess," he said.  Bellevue totaled eight hits off Clear Fork pitchers Darian Gottfried and Morgan Arnett.

          A based loaded triple in the that eight run second by lead off hitter Sophie Pressler, followed by another triple by Lindsey Seaman and a double by pitcher Morgan Andrews were daggers for the Lady Red.  "The bases loaded triple to left, we missed our location there.  We were trying to go in and get it on her hands and we got it out over the plate and she was able to drive it.  The fly ball to centerfield that kind of went over our centerfielder's head we might have misplayed it a little bit.  It was a tough catch.  It was right at her, but it was hit very, very hard.  If we make that play they only get four instead of eight.  The dropped pop up killed us.  That gave them the extra two runs.  When you are down five runs that is a tough hill to climb against a very good pitcher," said Gottfried.

          This is a different kind of Bellevue team for Snyder, who has been the softball coach at the school since 1989, but he smiled and said he thinks he has handled it pretty well.   "This is one of the loosest teams I have ever had.  They goof around and I am pretty much a disciplinarian, but coaches have to adjust to their personnel.  I think I have adjusted pretty well," he said.

          Bellevue will play either Edison or Shelby for the district title.

 

Published 5/20/15

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Clear Fork Playing with Some Confidence

 

          Clear Fork earned a co-title this year in the Ohio Cardinal Conference and they meet Bellevue, the Northern Ohio League champ, in the division two district softball semi-finals on Tuesday at Seneca East High School.

          The Lady Colts (21-7) won their last three "OCC" games, one against Ashland and two against Orrville, and shared the conference title with the Lady Red Riders.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says they played well at the very end of the regular season when they absolutely had too.  "It was one of those years that I felt like after about two weeks of the conference season that it was gong to be back and forth for several teams at the top and there was going to be about four schools that were going to have a chance to win the thing.  We had some tough games, we had a couple of down games, but we just kind of kept at it, kept at it, and kept at it.  It got to the end where we were playing the best teams in the conference.  We put ourselves in position where we had to win out," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, "We had to win the last game with Ashland and win two against Orrville to have a chance and our kids got it done with a lot of confidence and playing well at this time of the year.  I am very proud of the girls and the success they have had in the conference this year."

          Clear Fork is no stranger to the district tournament.  They have been in every district tournament since 2002.  Gottfried says they know what is required to be successful.  "The team that makes the last mistake ends up getting beat in the tournament.  We stressed that to the girls (Monday) night we just have to pitch and play solid defense and hope our offense will produce enough runs to win.  If we do the pitching and defense we'll have not complaints no matter what happens with the end result of the contest.  We are looking forward to (Tuesday) night being a good, competitive game with a well coached, well disciplined Bellevue team.  We will just give it our best shot and see what happens," he said.

          Bellevue (17-4) has a tremendous season and was rarely even challenged in "NOL" play, losing only two games in league play, one after the title was already clinched.  Gottfried says they have the whole package.  "I think it just a typical Bellevue team.  They are very solid.  They have a little bit of speed at the top of their order and then they have some kids that can hit.  They have a senior pitcher on the mound and a veteran behind the plate.  They have a lot of experience and coach Snyder does a great job, he has been there for 30 years.  You know what you are going to get.  They have going to be very disciplined and they are going to do things the right way.  Hopefully, we can force some issues with the way we play and hopefully by the end of the game we are up by a run.  That would be very good for us," said Gottfried.

 

Published 5/19/15

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Clear Fork Keeps Hopes Alive

 

          Montana Walker's RBI triple capped a seven run sixth inning and helped propel Clear Fork to come from behind and beat Ohio Cardinal Conference co-leader Orrville (8-7) on Tuesday in the valley.

          Orrville (16-4,11-2) had not lost an "OCC" game since Lexington beat them (4-2) on April 1.  They were able to build a significant early lead, but Clear Fork coach Jeff Gottfried says his kids had a never say die attitude.  "It was one of those game where we weren't playing terrible, but they had some clutch hits and had some big innings themselves.  They kind of got things rolling there in the fourth inning and were up 6-1.  We needed to make a pitching change and do something different.  Darian Gottfried came in and basically slammed the door on them.  We held on long enough until we got our bats going.  It was nice to have a big inning like that.  You don't expect a seven run inning, but we got one.  We able to take advantage of it and hang on by a run," said Gottfried.

          He said it was a matter of getting the right people to the plate at the right time and they were able to produce.  "It is nice to have some kids with some experience at bat when you need those clutch hits.  I can't say enough about the kids that got the inning going in the bottom of the order.  We had a couple of good role players get pinch hits, but we ended up getting two outs and still needed to score some runs," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "We had three straight hits with two outs with Erika Farst, Darian Gottfried and Montana Walker.  If you don't have those other base hits to get the thing close you don't stand a chance.  Darian had a big hit to tie the thing up with two outs and then Montana's triple kind of put the nail in the coffin for us.  Those kids have gotten some experience over the years and it was nice to have them up at the right time."

          Orrville and Lexington share the conference lead with Clear Fork (19-7,10-3) a game back.  Gottfried says that gives some meaning to the game on Thursday at Orrville.  He says they know what's on the line and are going to head to Wayne County determined.  "Now there are two teams with two losses in the conference in Lex and Orrville.  We still control our own destiny somewhat.  Lex on pretty sure needs to finish up their series with Ashland and I know they have two games with Wooster to go yet.  Their road isn't going to be easy.  We can't worry about them.  We can't scoreboard watch we have to take care of our own.  If we don't care of business it doesn't mean anything.  Our kids are excited and you always want to have a chance going into the last ballgame in the conference and I think we have an excellent chance," he said.

          The Lady Colts host Tiffin Columbian in their division two tournament opener on Friday.

 

Published 5/13/15

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Lady Colts With Must Win

 

          Clear Fork kept it's slim hopes for an Ohio Cardinal Conference softball title alive with a come from behind (8-7) win over Ashland on the road on Thursday.

          After losing their last three "OCC" games, two to Lexington last week, and Wednesday to Ashland, the Lady Colts scored four times in the sixth inning on Thursday to come up with the win. 

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says they knew they had their backs against the wall.  "We discussed it after the loss (Wednesday) night that with three losses in the conference with three games to go it is win or go home time for us in the league.  It was a very, very well played contest.  Very clean defensively on both sides.  It was just a fun game to be a part of.  We got the lead and they came back and tied it up.  It kind of went back and fourth a little bit.  We were actually down 7-4 going to the top the sixth and we scored four to take the lead and we were able to get the last six outs without them scoring.  It was just a very, very good team win for us.  It gave us a lot of confidence and a lot of belief in each other as players,' said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork had lost four its last five games overall, but Gottfried says he still believes in them and they believe in each other.  "It has been hard.  We have had some kids that have carrying the load for quite a bit this year struggle some and you have that throughout a long season.  You have some ups and downs.  The bottom line is you just have to trust and think that it will eventually come around.  The other thing to that you don't have any control over is the opposition.  We have been seeing some very quality opponents as of late," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday night, "Sometimes in the end we don't play necessarily very well, but at times you can play very well and it's still not good enough.  I like were our team is at.  I like the closeness and just the competitive fire that they bring to the table every single night.  They never feel like they are out of it and they are going to battle to the very last out of every game."

          Orrville leads the Ohio Cardinal Conference standings by one game over Lexington.  Clear Fork is two back.

          Clear Fork (17-7,9-3) plays Orrville twice next week.

          They host Tiffin Columbian in a division two sectional semi final game on May 15.  Gottfried says the way the draw played out was kind of odd.  "It was interesting because Edison was the number one seed, Bellevue was two and we were three.  Edison went to one side and Bellevue went to the other side.  We have had a lot of success against Edison in recent years, but in my heart of hearts I just thought we need to go to the other side of the bracket this year.  So, I went to Bellevue's side and obviously we won't play them until the district semis.  Most everybody after us went to the other side of the bracket, fourth seed, fifth seed, sixth seed, went to Edison's side.  Hopefully the four best teams get to the districts.  You have to win game one.  It is a one and done scenario when the tournament starts so hopefully we can get the job done and get started on the tournament trail next week," said Gottfried.

 

Published 5/08/15

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Clear Fork Downs Ashland

 

          Clear Fork scored four times in the first inning and went on to beat Ashland (6-3) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Wednesday in the valley.

          Thomas Staab started the bottom of the first with a double, followed by a single by Nick Schoonyan, and Ashland misplayed a ground ball by Lee Snyder allowing Staab to score the game's first run.  Luke Clark then drove in two on a ringing double.  Later in the inning Caleb Merendino drove in a run with a single.

          Coach Rusty Staab they were able to take advantage of situations.  "Anytime you can come out and hit the ball.  We always tell the kids keep it out of the air.  When you hit it on the ground three things have to happen.  They have to field it, they have to throw it over, and someone else has to catch it.  Ashland kind of struggled in the first inning.  For once in a long, long time we were able to capitalize on their mistakes because we got a couple of key hits after those errors.  It is awful nice to see Lee (Snyder) out there with a 4-0 lead, 5-0 lead and he can just go out there and throw his fastball and his change up," said Staab.

          Ashland coach Rob Lavengood was disappointed that his players were not mentally prepared for the game.  "We weren't ready to play offensively and defensively.  We have three guys strike out in the first inning.  Obviously our mindset when we stepped in the batter's box wasn't very good.  The defensively we come out and have three errors, allowing them to score four runs, probably only one of them was earned.  We have to come ready to play a lot better than we did (Wednesday) night.  You spot them four in the first inning and you lose 6-3 and that was really the ballgame right there," said Lavengood.

          Snyder struck out nine Ashland hitters over four innings.  Staab says he kept the Arrows off balance.  "He has a great change up there is no doubt about that.  He can throw it at any time in the count.  It just freezes them.  Rob (Lavengood) was getting frustrated because they froze and they just wouldn't swing and it was strike three.  Lee has had two great outings in a row and we hope it continues because it is tournament time," he said.

          Clear Fork upped their lead to (6-0) on RBI hits by Snyder in the second and Ricky Bartrum in the third.  Ashland got a run in the sixth and two in the seventh.

          The Colts (11-7,6-4), #5 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, didn't make any errors over the first five innings, but Staab says they kind of lost their focus.  "We fielded the ball great until the sixth and seventh then their brains kind of drifted towards the clouds and some of the nice looking girls from Ashland and everywhere else.  That's what I talked about in our huddle after the game.  A good team, and not that Ashland isn't, a good team in the tournament is going to turn that error into a four run inning and now they are back in the game," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "Ashland darn near did it because we had a throw to second where he is dead out and our second baseman misses it.  We get a routine grounder to short and it goes right through his legs.  Those are the things that can't happen and the kids know it."

          Clear Fork plays host to Galion (8-14) in the division two sectional semi-finals on Saturday.  "We got the seventh seed and no one sees us play.  We were 10-6 at the time of the draw.  We just didn't win enough big games.  If we would have beat Madison and maybe swept Highland.  Those Sandusky teams they don't see us play they just look at records.  We got a seventh seed that I wasn't happy about, but what can you do.  It really didn't matter we got a home game against Galion that we just beat last Saturday.  I know we are probably going to see (Chad) Karnes, who is probably their ace.  We'll see what happens, hopefully we will continue this," said Staab.

          Ashland (10-8,6-4) will be at home with Toledo Central Catholic next Thursday in a division one tournament game.  "It was nice to be able to play a home game for a sectional final next Thursday against Toledo Central Catholic.  With 20 teams involved in the sectional draw there are a lot of good teams.  We were hoping to be one of the top eight so we could host.  Toledo Central Catholic has a nice team, they are 9-8.  They play a tough schedule, so we are going to have our hands full, but we are going to be playing on our home field, which is nice," said Lavengood.

 

Published 5/07/15

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Clear Fork Gets Back on Winning Track

 

          Darian Gottfried fired a two-hitter and Clear Fork hammered Marion Harding (9-0) in a non-conference girls' softball game on a chilly, overcast evening in the Clear For valley on Thursday.

          After back to back losses to arch rival Lexington in Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Tuesday and Wednesday, coach Jeff Gottfried says it was kind of a must win situation for them, especially mentally.  "It was very important for us to get right back on the field after having tough back to back games with Lex the last two days.  I think the girls came out with very, very good spirits," he told Swankonsports.com after the win on Thursday night, "They were ready to play.  I mean the weather was a little iffy.  We weren't sure if we were going to get it in our not.  Harding left a little bit late to get there.  We didn't start the game to about six o'clock.  We were ready to go from the get go.  We got them 1, 2, 3 in the first inning and put a three spot on the board in the bottom of the first.  We got a good start and just rolled from there."

          Pitching is often the key in softball, as it is in baseball, and Gottfried says if you are going to be successful you need very good pitching and they got that on Thursday night.  "That is very obvious with the opponent we had the last two nights.  Lexington had great pitching.  Sometimes good pitching isn't as good as great pitching and that's what they had against us.  Unfortunately that got us two losses in the conference.  We bounced back well.  Darian Gottfried pitched fantastic.  She only gave up two hits, didn't have a walk, and struck out 10 and the defense was solid behind her.  It was just nice to see our whole team bounce back and play very, very well," said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork (16-5,8-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, is in tight race in the Ohio Cardinal Conference heading into the last two weeks when they play Ashland and then Orrville.  Gottfried says they know the assignment.  "Next week is a big week for us.  We had a big lead going into this week, but as I told many people there is no team that is going to go undefeated in this conference it is way, way too good.  We got two losses, but we are still right there.  We are tied in the loss column with Orrville and Lex.  We control our own destiny and that's all you can ask for with a couple of weeks to go   We have to take care of business starting next week," he said.

 

Published 5/01/15

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Clear Fork Strikes Back

 

          24 hours after losing to rival Lexington (7-3), the Clear Fork Colts beat the Minutemen (9-3) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Wednesday at Lexington.

          Jonah Albert had two hits and three RBI and Lee Snyder went the distance on the mound for the Colts (9-6,5-4), #5 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division. 

          Coach Rusty Staab says he was very pleased how his players responded to the loss and Tuesday and played an excellent game.  "We had a five game losing streak and we probably should have won three of them.  We seem to have the knack.  We played Wooster and Lally threw a no hitter and we came back and beat their best the next day.  We kind of got smoked by Madison last week and then had a 4-2 lead in the seventh the next day.  So, the kids are very resilient.  Maybe they are too young to realize there is pressure on them, but they have done a good job," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "Things didn't look good (Tuesday), especially in the seventh inning.  (Wednesday) Lee Snyder just pitched a gem.  He wanted to stay in the game and his pitch count was down.  The big thing was he threw strikes, his change up was working.  Even Lee made two quick outs in his first two at bats.  We scored runs.  We were up 5-0 and they scored two and we came back and scored another four.  It was a great day, some of my seniors that have been slumping realized that there is a right field and they can go the opposite way.  Jonah (Albert) had a great day.  He had three RBI and two hits to right field.  It was a long time coming.  It was a great day, especially when you beat Lex."

          Albert, who has struggled a little at the plate lately, was up to the occasion on Wednesday.  Staab says he had a better approach at the plate and that was the difference.  "Jonah was the answer (Wednesday).  He came up in his first at bat and had the bases loaded an nobody out and struck out looking.  They were throwing Even Lee and he is one of the best.  He was the DH and I told him in the dugout that you can't get a hit if you don't swing.  He got up with runners on first and second and I put a hit and run on and he had a nice hit to right center and scored two.  He came up again with a guy on second and got a hit.  He forgot about that first at bat and did really well," said Staab.

          Lexington scored three times in the seventh inning to put the game away on Tuesday.  However, Staab says on Wednesday, Snyder was in control all of the way.  "Dillon Wade is a freshman pitcher and he doesn't throw hard, he has to spot his pitches and (Tuesday) he didn't.  They really teed off on him.  They got to him and then they got to Lane (Belcher).  (Wednesday) Lee's change up was ungodly.  They had so many pop ups, so many ground outs.  I believe we played error free ball (Wednesday), so when you do that and get good pitching and score it's really fun," he said.

          Clear Fork plays Galion (7-11) in a non-conference game on Saturday.  They play Ashland in the "OCC" series next week.

 

Published 4/30/15

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Clear Fork Maintains "OCC" Lead

 

          With a (4-0) win over visiting Mansfield Madison on Wednesday, the Clear Fork Lady Colts remain unbeaten in Ohio Cardinal Conference action and all alone in first place.

          Clear Fork also won Tuesday's game at Madison (9-1) to sweep the series.  Coach Jeff Gottfried says he knows the Lady Rams are dealing with some injuries right now, but they always play his team tough.  "Coach Niswander has done a nice job with them.  He is getting the competitive fire into them and is putting kids in the right positions.  They've got some power.  They have had some injuries that have kind hurt them.  We saw their number two and she is solid, she does a nice job and doesn't walk people, and keeps the ball in a good location.  We know it is going to be a dogfight anytime we play them.  They are always competitive with us.  It was good to get those two wins this week and keep things rolling in a positive fashion for us," said Gottfried.

          Sophomore Darian Gottfried went the distance, striking out four and walking none to get the win.  Coach Gottfried says she, and her fellow pitcher Morgan Arnett, have done a super job for them.  "We said before the season started for us to be competitive this year our pitching had to be better than it was a year ago.  Our two kids in the circle, the third hasn't got much work, Morgan Arnett and Darian Gottfried have really stepped up their game.  They complement each other very, very well," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday evening, "There is not one kid more excited more than the other.  When somebody does well they high five each other.  They are a good mix and they keep teams off balance.  You absolutely have to have some good strong pitching to keep yourself in ballgames and we have certainly gotten that, not just this week, but the last couple weeks as well."

          Clear Fork held a (1-0) lead over Madison Wednesday through four and half innings.  They scored three times in fifth, keyed by a two run hit by Michaela Fidler.

          The aspect of the game that has improved the most for the Lady Colts this year is their defense.  Gottfried says they have become strong up the middle.  "In softball or baseball that is where you want to put your strength.  I wasn't sure where we were going to be to make that happen.  These kids have really grown and have certainly cleaned up the mistakes that we were making early in the season.  With the two pitchers we have of the 21 outs we had 14 assists.  That means there were some kids making some plays in the field it's not a bunch of strikeouts.  I couldn't be more pleased about how things are rolling right now," he said.

          Clear Fork (12-4,8-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, is now more than half way through the conference schedule unbeaten, but Gottfried says the final six are going to be very tough ones, including next week against arch rival Lexington.  "It's a long "OCC" season.  It's nice to play two a week and then you get a little break and focus on the next game coming.  We definitely have some tough ones to go.  Lexington probably has the best pitcher in the league, so we are going to see some good ball games next week.  Ashland after that.  As far as I know Orrville has lost only one game in the conference, so we definitely have and up hill climb to go to get to the end, but our kids are pretty darn confident right now," said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork plays in the "MVD" Tournament in Ashland this weekend, playing Lucas on Friday and Vanlue and Mapleton on Saturday.

 

Published 4/23/15

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Clear Fork in First Place... So Far

 

          Although they at young many of the positions, the Clear Fork Lady Colts have played some pretty good softball and stand alone in first place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.

          Clear Fork (10-3,6-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, has been pretty consistent in its play.  Coach Jeff Gottfried would really want only two of those games back.  "Out of the 13 ball games that we have played I thought we have been pretty solid in 11 of them.  Two of the losses I would like to do them over again.  When you don't play defense and give up some unearned runs it makes it pretty difficult to win.  In the other ball games we have played pretty darn well.  Friday night was an example playing well at Ontario and beating them 10-1," he said.

          Their wildest win of the season came last Wednesday when they rallied to beat Wooster (11-10) in "OCC" play.  Gottfried says they had a never say die attitude.  "It was a crazy game Wednesday night.  We gave up four in the first and three in the second and it's already 7-0.  I thought well we can chip away at it, but we didn't do a whole lot.  The next thing I know it is 10-1 and I am preparing my post game speech telling the kids that it is only one loss in the conference.  The next thing you know we put a six spot up and it's 10-7 after six innings.  We only had six outs to go and we had to get nine runs, but darn if we didn't battle and give ourselves a chance," he told Swankonsports.com, "The crazy thing about high school sports is when you get that momentum rolling.  We got them out 1-2-3 in the seventh inning.  When we huddled up you could just see it in the kids eyes they weren't going to get less than three runs and we ended up getting four and won the ball game.  It's nice to see a team battle to the very end like we did that night."

          Darian Gottfried and Montana Walker had back to back two out, two run doubles in the bottom of the seventh inning in the win over Wooster.

          Gottfried, yes, the daughter of the coach, is one two excellent pitchers on the Clear Fork roster, Morgan Arnett is the other.  Coach Gottfried says their pitching has been pretty good.  "As a whole our pitching has been relatively solid.  We have three losses and I think in two of those losses we only gave up one earned run.  It is just a matter of are we going to bring the gloves with us?  Part of it is we have a lot of sophomores playing and sophomores are sophomores one night they are going be lights out and then you say where did the kid go?  It is just a work in progress.  I think the more innings you can get and playing five straight games last week was nothing but good for us.  Hopefully, there are bigger and better things to come," he said.

          Clear Fork plays Madison (4-4,3-1) in an important "OCC" series this week.  Gottfried knows the meat of their conference schedule, also including Lexington, Ashland, and Orrville, remains.  "It is a grind to get through our conference.  With what we lost in personnel it was kind of nice that it was set up with Senior High the first week for us and then West Holmes on week two.  We have just built gradually from there.  We got through Wooster.  It is still a long way to go.  We still have eight ball games to get through within the conference.  I'll tell you what our kids have a lot of confidence and our continuing to grow and sometimes that will overcome a lot of mistakes you could possibly make," he said.

 

Published 4/20/15

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Colts Knock Off Wooster

 

          Clear Fork knocked Wooster from a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference lead as they rallied to beat the Generals (6-5) in nine innings on Wednesday in the valley.

          With runners on second and third with two out in the bottom of the ninth, Lane Belcher dribbled the ball to the left side of the infield, the throw appeared to be on line to first, but first baseman Ryan Lally was not there to receive it and bounced down toward the fence in foul territory.  Luke Clark scored the winning run.

          Trailing (5-3) after four and half innings, the Colts scored single runs in the fifth, on an RBI single by Jonah Albert, and the sixth on a RBI hit by Clark, to tie the game.  Clark had three hits and three RBI on the day.

          Coach Rusty Staab knows how big win the win was for his team.  "This was a big, huge learning process for the kids.  This gave them so much confidence to beat a great Wooster team.  To beat Daugherty of all people, who is going to Bowling Green, is an absolute stud, but we hung in there.  When you hang in there in baseball good things happen.  We had two innings in a row against (Cam) Daugherty where we had nobody on with two outs and we got something started," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "The inning before they got out of it on a great play he made up the middle. We just didn't quit.  These guys have to learn that it's never over and they didn't put their heads down.  They didn't listen to me when I was yelling at them.  They just went out and played and that was a big win."

          Staab has also been a youth coach over the years and has been responsible for a lot of Clear Fork kids to get introduced to baseball at young age.  However, he says this group doesn't have a lot of that.  "They don't even know what that means, mental toughness.  We have a lot of seniors and juniors, a freshman, and a couple of sophomores.  It's just the fact that there aren't a lot of guys that have played those 50 to 60 travel ball games and all of the that competitiveness and just tough competition in general, they don't know.  This is all new to them and now they are having fun.  This is what baseball is supposed to be.  You are having fun because you are winning," said Staab.

          Wooster (5-1,4-1), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, took a (5-3) lead in the top of the fifth on a two run double by Aaron Saal and perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Ryan Boyd.

          Staab says they weren't real good clutch hitters on Wednesday and he says that is something they have to improve.  "I told (assistant coach) Bob (Pore) back in the sixth inning we have to have 11 guys left on base. We stranded a lot of runners and that is something we have to improve on and it some from undisciplined, young, inexperienced hitters learning the game.  Each week is a new step for these guys.  It is all new for these guys.  There are so many new varsity players this year.  Each week is something new," he said.

          In addition to getting the winning hit, Belcher pitched four shut out innings on the mound.  He allowed only two hits, both in the ninth.  Staab says he didn't hesitate to put Belcher in the game.  "I was happy to get five out of Lee (Snyder).  His arm was getting a little tender.  His change up and his curveball were hanging and they kind of deposited some in the gap and you could tell he was done.  When he is not getting the ball down at the knees, that means he is done.  Lance was fresh.  He hasn't pitched since last Saturday.  He was just dying for the ball.  That was his fourth win," he said.

          Clear Fork (6-1,4-1), #4 in our poll, plays Hillsdale in a non-conference game on Friday and Highland in a doubleheader on Saturday.  They play Madison in their "OCC" series next week.

          Wooster travels to Madison on Friday and they play Ashland in their series next week.

 

Published 4/16/15

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Clear Fork Still Unbeaten in "OCC" Play

 

          Clear Fork scored four times in the bottom half of the first inning and never looked back as they improved to 4-0 in the Ohio Cardinal Conference by downing West Holmes (8-1) in league play on Monday afternoon.

          West Holmes (4-5,1-3) scored their only run in the top of the first and Morgan Arnett went the distance for the Lady Colts to get the win.  Coach Jeff Gottfried was a very proud of how his team responded.  "They scored a run in the top of the first and sometimes that gets the momentum rolling for the other team, but we responded right away," he told Swankonsports.com in the dugout after the game, "Even with an unearned run I told the girls in the circle we made an error and there wasn't one single person on the field or on the bench that hung their head by giving up a run and we just bounced back.  A four stop is pretty big when you give up a run in the top of the first inning to respond like that.  We were ready to play."

          The Lady Colts (7-2,4-0) didn't make an error the rest of the way and Gottfried says the showed great mental toughness.  "I games past when we have made a mistake we would kind of let it snowball into two or three more errors and a walk.  When we have played well we really haven't made any errors and sometimes it works that way.  Like I said our kids made that first mistake and it wasn't going to happen after that and the kids really played well," he said.

          Erika Farst, Montana Walker and Caylee Caudill had two hits each for Clear Fork.

          They have beaten Mansfield Senior twice and West Holmes twice in "OCC" play, but Gottfried knows things are going to get tougher in the league, beginning with Wooster this week.  "Yeah, it's a good start, but it is a long season.  Everybody is good in the conference.  I think everybody spilt the first week except us because we had Senior.  It's a good position to be in, but we can't rest too long because we have Wooster (Tuesday) and Wednesday and they always play us tough, especially on the road.  I have confidence, the girls have confidence too, they will be ready to play," said Gottfried.

          Gottfried thinks maybe the most important thing they have as a team is confidence they are playing with right now.  "Confidence is as a big a thing as anything in this sport, especially for the girls.  All of the kids on the field, including the ones on the bench, feel good about what they are doing.  They know what their strengths are and they are playing to them right now and that is all you can ask for as a coach," he said.

 

Published 4/14/15

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Lady Colts Playing Well

 

          They haven't played this week yet due to weather conditions, but the Clear Fork Lady Colts softball team won four of the five games they played last week.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says like everybody else they just want to be able to play some completion and just try and get better.  "Having our scrimmage week pretty much blown up with cold weather and snow and only getting one scrimmage in it was tough to know what you had going in.  We come out the first week of the season and were able to get five games in and you felt pretty good about getting that many games in and seeing some kids do some things.  Now we are back on shutdown mode again.  It is just tough once you get outside to have to come back inside and just try to work on little things here and there," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "It is not the same as being out on the dirt and being able to pick some grounders and out on the green grass and take some flies.  Our kids are doing to best they can just trying to keep good attitudes about it.  Once we get out there everybody is going to be in the same boat, no pun intended, everybody understands you can't control it, you just have to make the best of it."

          Clear Fork (4-1,2-0) shares the Ohio Cardinal Conference lead with Mansfield Madison.  They hope to be able to host West Holmes (3-2,1-1) in a conference game on Thursday.

          Gottfried says they have played well, but honestly their competition is going to get tougher as the season goes on.  "We are kind of ahead of where I thought we might be, but the competition the first week wasn't exactly the greatest it was just the way the schedule turned out.  I think anytime you can get some wins under your belt, especially with a new team, it gives them some confidence no matter who you are playing.  I think when we got done with the first week, especially with that doubleheader on Saturday, even though we split, I told the girls we won four of the five games in a week.  If you can do that week in and week out you are going to be pretty good by the end of the season," said Gottfried.

          With so much of their offense to replace from last year, Gottfried says he has been pleasantly surprised with their ability to score runs this year so far.  "As a whole I think it has probably been our offense that has been the most surprising.  The pitching we have had at times hasn't been the greatest, but it hasn't been bad either.  I honestly didn't think we would score as many runs as we did.  In the game we got beat in we only scored three runs there against Colonel Crawford.  We scored six in our season opener against Triway and then we played Senior High and scored a bunch against them.  We bounced back on Saturday and run ruled a Plymouth team, who has a very decent pitcher.  We scored 12 against her.  I'll tell you what if we can get that productivity throughout the season that is going to be a plus for us," he said.

 

Published 4/09/15

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Colts Shutout Mansfield Senior

 

          Dylan Parkinson and Lee Snyder scattered four hits over six innings and Clear Fork kicked off its baseball season with a (10-0) shutout of Mansfield Senior in Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Tuesday afternoon in the valley.

          Parkinson went the first two innings, with three strikeouts, and Snyder, who saw a lot time on the mound last year, threw the last four innings, he also got three strikeouts. Clear Fork baseball coach Rusty Staab was most impressed with the fact that they didn't issue any base on balls.  "We were very happy with our pitching.  We stressed pitching as we had been in the gym forever with this weather.  We didn't walk a batter (Tuesday).  They have some good hitters, really one through five they make contact and they hit the ball hard and we were able to keep them off balance.  We knew that if we had pitching and solid defense.  The defense was a little shaky," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "We made some mistakes, but the big thing was they didn't get a big inning out of it.  Nick (Schoonyan) makes that great play and the next play he throws it in the parking lot, but the good thing was the next guy makes the last out.  That's what we need, we can't have anything open up big time.  We were happy with our pitching and we have some guys throwing (Wednesday) too, so we are looking forward to it."

          There wasn't any scoring until Clear Fork catcher Luke Clark smacked a two out double up the left centerfield alley in the bottom of the third, scoring Ben Sprang.  Thomas Staab drove in the second run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth.  After Schoonyan was hit by a pitch, Sprang ripped a two run double off Mansfield Senior starter Dylan Dudley to give the Colts a (4-0) lead.

          Staab says they were able to get some clutch, two out hits.  "We had a couple of unfortunate things happen with us this year, so our batting order is kind of, we have some spots.  The spots that we were worried about really came through.  It was nice to see the guys that were in there in the first when they stuck out the side, our one, two, and three hitters all struck out, but in the fifth inning they were all on base.  Hopefully they all have short memories.  We didn't have timely hits last year.  Last year, we had no timely hitting, we either beat the snot out of a team or we let a team beat us, so hopefully we get some timely hits like we did (Tuesday)," said Staab.

          Five of the Colts final six runs came when Mansfield Senior pitchers either hit batters or walked them with the bases loaded.

          Clear Fork (1-0,1-0) travels to Mansfield Senior (0-1,0-1) to play the Tygers on Wednesday and then they host Mt. Vernon on Friday.  Staab says it was just nice to get on the field.  "We didn't have a game (Monday), but this weather has just been brutal.  We were down in Cincinnati two Saturdays ago and it was 71 degrees and we played a doubleheader against Anderson.  When the weather is nice it is so much fun.  It is just so cold, we will see what happens.  Hopefully, it will break.  You know it will rain on Friday, it always rains on Good Friday.  Of course, we play Mt. Vernon, so we'll see what happens," he said.

 

Published 4/01/15

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Lady Colts Are a Little Sloppy in their Win

 

          Clear Fork had 13 hits, but they also had five errors in a (6-3) win over Wooster Triway in a non-conference girls' softball game on Monday afternoon.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says the most important thing was they got the win, but he told the girls that there are a lot of things that have to get better if they are going to end of being a sold team.  "Like we told the girls in the circle afterwards.  We want to start with the positives, the old sandwich approach, the positive was getting the win.  The middle part, the meat and the cheese and all of that stuff, that took quite a while.  There were a lot of negatives that happened in the process.  It was a  learning process.  Not getting scrimmages in last week definitely hurt us (Monday) night.  A lot of things happened that were very, very good for us that I think will pay off for us down the road.  It's good to get off to a good start and get that "W," said Gottfried.

          A couple of key members from last year's team that are back are Montana Walker and Erika Farst, but both have changed positions.  Walker from second base to catcher and Farst from third base to shortstop. 

          Gottfried says there is going to be some learning from everybody on the team.  "There is no doubt that it is going to take some time for kids to get used to some things.  When you lose a catcher, shortstop and centerfielder, that is the strength of your team baseball, softball wise.  We have moved some kids around.  Kids that were in the middle for us last year might be in a different spot.  It is going to take some time," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday evening, "We have some JV kids that are now on varsity and it is going to take five to ten ball games to catch up to it.  It is a learning process and we have to be very patient because we do have a very young team.  We only have two seniors and a lot of sophomores out there playing."

          Clear Fork plays at Mansfield Senior on Tuesday and hosts the Lady Tygers on Wednesday in a pair of Ohio Cardinal Conference games.  Gottfried knows that these are important and if they don't play well Mansfield Senior can beat them.  "There is no doubt about it.  Anytime when you go into the conference you have to take care of business, especially against teams that you are supposed to beat on paper.  That doesn't get you a win and our kids certainly understand that.  They have a returning pitcher in Jeryn Reese and she throws the ball well.  We have to be ready to play and anybody can sneak up on anybody.  There are going to be some times when we are going to have to score some runs.  If we don't take care of business on defense a little bit better than we did on (Monday) night we are going to have our hands full because (Reese) is not going to give up a ton of hits and a ton of runs to us.  So, we have to do what we have to do take care of our side of things," said Gottfried.

 

Published 3/31/15

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Clear Fork Has to Mature Quick

 

          Clear Fork will be a team that has very little varsity experience to start the season and they are going to have to mature if they are to be competitive.

          Coach Rusty Staab says they are starting from scratch in a lot of instances.  "We lost six big seniors due to graduation and they were all players and they are playing at the next level.  We are very young.  Even our guys that are juniors.  Drew Parkinson is a senior is a pitcher, he is a senior and this will be his first year up on varsity.  We hope that our strength is going to be our pitching.  Last year I think we struggled a little bit defensively and we are trying to mend some holes there.  It will be tough to replace a Ridge Winand out in the outfield, but we are hoping some young guys can take over there.  Luke (Clark) is going to have another year under his belt.  He is a sophomore, but he did a lot of our catching last year.  We are relying on some guys like Jonah Albert.  He didn't play a whole lot last year, but he is showing some good senior leadership.  Of course, Lee Snyder will be our ace.  Nick Schoonyan will probably be our number two and play short," said Staab.

          There has been some good competition for spots this year at Clear Fork.  Staab says he wants to get as many kids as he can on the field playing baseball.  "We have put a little pressure on them.  We like friendly competition and that is what we have this year.  We have 10 freshmen that are very good baseball players.  We actually have six freshmen games scheduled.  Obviously we can't play a freshmen, JV and varsity on the same day.  There are going to be days, Fridays and Mondays, because of our schedule with the "OCC", that we are going to let the freshmen go play.  There is not going to be a lot people setting, there are going to be a lot of people playing.  We have some players that know they are pitchers and pitchers only.  It is going to be an interesting year, different than we have had in past.  We will see what happens," he said.

          Clear Fork opens the season at Fredericktown on Saturday, weather pemitting.

          No one is more intense when it comes to winning than Rusty Staab, but he says they have to be a little careful with these kids until they get used to the varsity level of baseball.  "When you play Madison back to back and you have a bad week now you re looking for someone else to start knocking people off.  Our big thing is we can't put too much pressure right off the bat on these kids because they are so young.  What I mean by young is they are not all freshmen and sophomores, I mean they are young as far as varsity experience.  I definitely believe we have the talent," he told Swankonsports.com, "Last week, I had a couple of juniors, first year varsity, that we so nervous, and they were not pitching the way they have all winter.  It was like let's get that out of the way now, so when we hit "OCC" your nerves can settle a little bit.  I told Josh Lewis, who struggled a little bit, it was good to know you were nervous because that means you care.  You are an upperclassman now, learn from what you did wrong and go from there."

          The Colts first "OCC" games will be next Tuesday and Wednesday against Mansfield Senior.

 

Published 3/26/15

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Girls' Basketball Players to Showcase Talents

 

          Wednesday night, girls' basketball players of all ages will get an opportunity to show what they can do to fans and college coaches with Shelby Rotary NCO Girls' All-Star Basketball Classic at Shelby High School.

          Kyle Fenner of Colonel Crawford and Eric Mitchell of New London are the coaches in the senior game, which includes two ten player teams.

          Fenner has done this before, so she knows what to expect.  "This will be the second time coaching the all-star game.  I believe in 2000 I coached the all-star game over in Ashland, so this will be my second time," she said.

          She will coach team black, which will include: Anna Hintz of South Central, Deijah Swihart of Clear Fork, Gabby Stephens of Shelby, Shelby Stamm of Bellevue, Ellie Richmond of Wynford, Hannah Adams of Willard, Sydnie Carpenter of Ashland, Mekaila Grose of Mansfield Madison, Ta-Sharra Jeffries of Sandusky and Emily Wagner of Sandusky Perkins.

          A real key to this format is to get everyone into the game with a chance to showcase there skills.  "It's not really hard we will have ten kids and we will probably put them in groups of five and let them play for four or five minutes then we will substitute.  We will approach it that way and let them get up and down the floor and show their skills.  If it's a game at the end we will probably go with the five or six best kids that we feel can win the game for us," said Fenner.

          Some of the players might know where they are going to college, but some may not.  Fenner says this is their chance to impress.  "There are going to be a good portion of college coaches there that night.  They have done a great job of getting college coaches there.  It will a great chance for these kids to show their skills off to not only the area, but also some college coaches that will be there," she said.

          On team white will be Carly Santoro of Bellevue, Valesha Province of Tiffin Columbian, Shelby White of Ashland, Jeryn Reese of Mansfield Senior, Morgan Bailey of Clear Fork, Hunter Feltner of Willard, Alexis Smith of Mansfield Madison, Makayla Cook of Norwalk, Megan Flaherty of Bucyrus and Samantha Reer of Norwalk St. Paul.  The coach of the team will be Eric Mitchell of New London.

          There is also an underclassmen game on Wednesday night, a first due to a change in OHSAA rules and Clear Fork coach Heidi Roush is one the coaches in that game. 

          She was an MVP in an all-star game as a player, but this will be her first as a coach.  "It is my first time coaching anything like this.  There are some stipulations as to who can coach the younger kids.  You couldn't have one of your own players on the team.  I think that is how they kind of stumbled on me.  I'm really looking forward to it.  I think it will be a lot of fun," she told Swankonsports.com.

          Her team members are:  Renee Stimpert of Crestview, Abigail Fogle of Upper Sandusky, Sarah Ogden of Wynford, Gabbi Baldridge of Willard, Ashley Painley of Norwalk St. Paul, Shelby Kin of Carey, Maggie King of Willard, Jisselle Thomas of Norwalk, Paige Leitz of Monroeville and Leah Bouillon of New Riegel.

          She says she will judge playing time by performance during the game.  "With you know you have talented kids, they wouldn't be on the team other wise.  I think for the most part you just go with who is playing well.  Get everyone in there and let them show their skills," said Roush.

          There are only a couple of practices before them game and Roush says the players sort of have to get used to each other.  "There are some larger schools and I know those players and what they are capable of and there are some players that I haven't seen before and I only know their stat lines checking on then throughout the season in the paper.  I think it will be a little bit of a challenge for the kids knowing each other.  Some of them will have played against each other in summer league, some during the season and then there are kids they really don't know each other," said Roush.

          Playing for team black in the underclassmen game are Seina Adachi of Seneca East, Sydney Wentling of Carey, Kamryn Troike of Fostoria St. Wendelin, Payton Shays of New London, Kelci Simms of Bucyrus, Jenna Strayer of Bellevue, Sydney Holderman of Riverdale, Emily Yeager of Mansfield St. Peter's, Jackie Garrett of Shelby and Alexus Burkhart of Colonel Crawford.  They will be coached by Jon Dawson of Willard.

          Roush thinks it is pretty cool that underclassmen get to participate too.  "In this sport most of the time you are going to end with a loss and it can be so disheartening.  Now, these younger kids are going to get a chance to play again this season and pump them up and get them ready for next season," she said.

          There will be a halftime three point shooting contest among girls in district 6.  Some boys will be there for dunk contest as well.

          The underclassmen game starts at 6 PM, with the senior game at about 7:45.  Tickets for the game are $6 for adults, $3 for seniors, and free for 18 and under who donate a gently used or new children's book to the Shelby Rotary's "Big Red Book Shelf."

 

Published 3/23/15

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Clear Fork a Work in Progress

 

          Clear Fork has one of the strongest softball traditions in North Central Ohio and the Lady Colts are never rebuilding they are just reloading, but this year they are going to have to find a way to score runs.

          They are less than two weeks from their scheduled opener with Wooster Triway and coach Jeff Gottfried admits they have a lot of unanswered questions.  "Anytime you start a new year you have to create yourself a new identity.  With the players that we graduated last year, players that played three and four years for us, there are a lot of holes to fill.  It is requiring moving some kids around.  To be quite on honest I can't even says where everybody is going to be.  Hopefully, we can get some scrimmages in next week to see what we have.  The one thing that we really like about the bunch this year is they are really hard working.  They understand what it is like to be part of our program and they are picking up where we left off from a year ago," said Gottfried.

          One known comity is pitching where the Lady Colts have both kids back that did most of their pitching last spring.  Gottfried plans to go with the same rotation.  "Having both kids back that we had there a year ago in senior Morgan Arnett and sophomore Darian Gottfried.  They are a good place to start because they can balance each other out because one is one style and the other is another style.  I don't think that one is so overpowering that we can ride them the whole way.  I think they understand that they need each other to be successful.  Hopefully they can set the tone for us this season," he said.

          When it comes to the defense, and where to play kids, Gottfried says they have to find a way to get their best players in positions where they can make the biggest impact.  "The strength of any team be it baseball or softball is in the middle.  We lost everything in the middle.  We lost our starting catcher, our shortstop and our centerfielder.  The pitching is back and we do have one middle infielder back in Montana Walker, but what we are going to do with her we are not real sure.  She may end up going behind the plate for us because we need to fill that before anything else," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We have some other kids that can play the middle spots.  Erika Farst is a great athlete that played some first base for us and last year played third.  She is one of those players that you have to have the ball in her hands as much as possible.  We are going to put her in a position where she can handle a lot of plays.  We have some younger kids that are stepping up too and will just have to see what happens."

          Losing both Taylor Kline, now at Ohio Dominican, and Anna Myers, now at Notre Dame College, to graduation presents a problem when it comes to the lineup too.  Gottfried says they are going to have to go at it in a different way.  "It's going to be instead of an automatic three runs because your leadoff hitter can generate one by herself we are going to have to scratch and claw.  I don't think we will be without power, I think we will have some kids that can drive in runs.  It is just a matter of getting the right people on in the right situations.  We have to win as a team and execute as a team it is not going to be one player carrying the load this year.  I think the girls understand that and are ready for the challenge," he said.

 

Published 3/18/15

(C) Swankonsports.com

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I Miss It Already

 

          I look at my watch, it's five PM, well maybe I can write another story.  No, better not, no just one more, then it's six, and I get in the shower and a half hour later I am at the door.

          I give my wife a kiss and I am on my way to the gym.  Okay, you have seen me, yes, I know I should be going to a gym to workout, but that is not the gym I am talking about.  I mean Les Hauenstein Gym at Clear Fork High School where they play basketball in the winter.  And by way why doesn't the media refer to the facility as such?  They call it Pete Henry or Wayne E. Miller or Value City Arena don't they?  That's another thing, why are we still calling it Value City Arena?  I believe all of the Value City Department stores are closed.  Despite the look of the Ohio State offense on Sunday there are live bodies in the building.

          As I hit Ross Road I start my Fleetwood Mac CD, the live one, and I play "Sliver Springs" like I always do.  Making sure I am not exceeding the speed limit as I top the hill on 13 heading into Bellville, a police car always seems to be sitting there, and the Bellville Police are the unsung heroes of the 21st century.  By the time I hit Hines Avenue "Sliver Springs" is over and I change it to "Rhiannon" which I hope will be over by the time I hit the parking lot.  It never is and I have to make the decision on whether I am going to sit in the car and let in play out, the last 60 seconds of it are the best, or am I going to get out.

          I'm not a creature of habit, it just seems that way.

          As I make my way into the school I whip out that pink, laminated card, that says media and has my name "Jeff Swank" on it.  "Jeff" that is the name they gave me at birth, May, 11, 1965 and I haven't changed it.  I like Tom Petty, but not enough the change my name.

          As I make it though the parking lot, I always park behind the baseball field, I notice there aren't any cars there like usual, that's odd I think, and then I can't get in the school because it is locked.

          I sigh, that's right, the basketball season is over... at least at Clear Fork and I need to face that.

          This year I committed a sin a sports reporter should never commit.  I became too emotionally attached to Clear Fork Lady Colts basketball team.  They teach you that you are just a reporter and you should be like an official and not care who wins.  After all I am not employed by Clear Fork Schools like Matt Underwood is by the Indians.

          Well, I let it happen anyway, and I don't feel bad about it.  I kind of always become attached to a lot of teams I have covered no matter what the school, but this one was different somehow.

          First of all I am from Clear Fork, it's my alma mater, and this year's senior class at Clear Fork would have been eighth graders when I started "SwankonSports.com" in February of 2011.  So, it has been in business their entire high school careers.  I do a live show on Friday night, so I can't be there live for football or boys' basketball games and the timing of things just allowed me to be at girls' games more often.

          I will miss this year's seniors.

          Deijah Swihart may not be the best basketball player in the history of the school, but she is on the starting five.  When I first saw her as a freshman I could see the athleticism she possessed even as a 14-year-old.  She has gotten better too.  Her jump shot more consistent and understanding of the game improved and that is because she worked at it.  It is not just her scoring, or steals, but the half court bounce pass from her knees or hustling around to Shelby players to tip the ball in bounds to herself.

          Like Deijah, Morgan Bailey, was a varsity player as a freshman, and she has grown so much in four years.  She has always been a good rebounder because she is not just 5'11", but she jumps and that alone separates her from lots of players.  However, she became a lot better perimeter shooter.  I will mish her shy smile as she gives "Howie" a high five.

          Remember now, I have seen Lady Colts basketball since about its infancy and I can remember very few players that played with the consistent intensity of Mattie Van Orman.  That is why she is among the top 10 rebounders in the history of the school not because she is blessed with great God given athletic talent and I respect that more than anything.  Hard work and effort are the key to life.  Woody Hayes once said "I can beat Jesse Owens in a 100 yard dash if you give me enough of a head start."

          Sometimes Erika Farst looked a bit unorthodox and she was so thin you thought an opponent was going to break her in half, but I loved her aggressive nature.  My friend Pat Durham, who was the head boys' coach at Clear Fork many years ago, always said that Colts are always hard nosed.  Erika was never afraid to stick her nose in and was always on the floor scrambling after loose balls or tipping balls away that would end up in steals.  Plus, she has scored a lot of big baskets these last two years.

          Audra Delaney may not be the most athletic player on the court, but in most cases she had the highest basketball "I.Q" no matter who Clear Fork was playing and it showed even to a novice like me.  I understand she wants to be a coach someday, if that is true, she will be a damn good one.  Clear Fork girls basketball will miss her leadership.

          Finally, I feel bad for Maddie McDonald.  Her improvement from her junior year to her senior year was tremendous.  Last year, I don't recall her getting into games much, but she worked so hard to improve her skills in all areas of her game that she became a starter.  Everything seemed bright for her until the knee injury against Fredericktown.  Yet, despite being on crutches she always seemed to be smiling and encouraging her teammates.

          As far as underclassmen, I'll see you next year.        

 
 

Clear Fork Can be Better

 

          Clear Fork meets Willard in the girls' division two district semi-finals on Thursday night at Ashland High School.

          Willard handled them rather easily back on the second week of the regular season winning (58-38) in game played at Willard.

          Since that time the Lady Colts have won 18 of their 21 games and coach Heidi Roush says they maybe haven't peaked yet, but the she is pretty happy with how they have executed.  "I do feel pretty good about where we are.  I didn't feel we played out best basketball against Sandusky, but we  have had a great week of practice, the girls have been really focused.  As long as we go out and execute and do the things we have talked about I think we will put ourselves in position to win," she said.

          Clear Fork (19-4) beat Sandusky (54-38) in their tournament opener last Thursday.  Roush says initially she was a little concerned, but after looking closer she was more happy about how things went.  "Looking back, once I looked at the stats and the book we did handle Sandusky much more as the game went on.  Probably because of the tournament, and I was probably just as guilty as the girls of having a little a bit of jitters there at first.  You are probably looking at things a little harsher .  After going back and seeing how we competed we played a good game against Sandusky.  There is always room for improvement.  Obviously we had our moments and our possessions where I wasn't pleased with the outcome, but for the most part I thought we did a nice job," said Roush.

          Clear Fork knows they are going to have to be much better to have a chance at competing with Willard.  Roush says in the first meeting they didn't do hardly anything that was up to their standard.  "We have been watching the film and that was a our second game of the year and I don't think we looked like the same team. We didn't use our speed as much as we would like to, we didn't shoot as well,  we didn't play our defense as well," she told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "There were too many breakdowns in that game and still there were points where we were within striking distance, but a few things went the other way and it went from being down three to being down nine, being down six to being down 12.  I think if we play our game and play the way we are capable of we can really make a game of it."

          Willard (18-3) has tremendous height, they are the biggest team in this area.  Roush says they are an excellent passing team and their height helps them in that regard.  "I think they know where everyone is going to be it seems to be pretty much automatic.  When you have that size I think it really gives you and advantage when it comes to passing because you can look over the top of people and throw it over the top.  They do a great job of moving the ball against the zone.  They do a really good job of finding their posts with a lot of high low action.  We are going to really have to step up our game and try to get our hands in passing lanes," she said.

 

Published 3/04/15

(C) Swankonsports.com

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Clear Fork Must Recognize Against Norwalk

 

          Clear Fork faces Norwalk in a division two sectional semi-final on Tuesday night at Mansfield Madison High School.

          The Colts (7-15) lost their final regular season game to Mansfield Senior (81-45) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play last Friday. 

          Griffen Robinette scored 22 points and Kadin Chrastina had 21, but coach Steven Bechtel says the Tygers made them work hard for what they got.  "You have to give Senior High a lot of credit, they do that to a lot of teams.  They did a great job of making Kadin and Griffen work for all of their points and they didn't let our role guys get going at all and that really hurt us.  Them throwing every athlete at us just wore us down.  I didn't say a whole lot to the kids after they game.  I just said we have to come in Saturday morning ready to go getting ready for the tournament game now," he said.

          Norwalk (11-11) returns one starter from a team that won a division two state title last year in Breck Turner.  Bechtel says what impresses him the most is the Truckers understand how to win.  "What they do have is they have that experience, whether they got a lot of playing time or not.  They watched those kids last year and they know how to win, especially in the tournament.  To go along with Turner they also have the Jordan kid inside.  They have a great point guard that executes really, really well with what coach Gray wants him to do and then they have a shooter as well.  They can score from a lot of different areas.  Sometimes during the year they have struggled a little bit scoring, but so have we," said Bechtel.

          They lost (50-48) to Northern Ohio League champion Ontario on Friday night and Bechtel says the Truckers really know how to defend.  "I am very impressed with their defense.  It is one of the best defenses I have seen in a long time.  They can guard the basketball really, really well.  They try to take you out of exactly what you want to do.  We expect them to come out and try and do that with us and hopefully we can have some more success against them so we can come away with a "W," he said.

          Norwalk coach Steve Gray is known for changing defenses a lot, including various combination defenses, and Bechtel says they have to be able to figure out what they are in and execute against it.  "I think the biggest thing is we just have to recognize.  Defensively, I think coach Gray is going to throw a lot of things at us.  We have to make sure we recognize and get into what we need to do against that certain defense.  Obviously we have to take care of the basketball.  I think rebounding is going to be huge.  Those are two things that go hand in hand in every game, but in a tournament game there is no tomorrow, so we have to do a great job with those two things," said Bechtel.

 

Published 3/02/15

(C) Swankonsports.com

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Lady Colts Advance With Win Over Sandusky

 

          Seniors Deijah Swihart and Erika Farst combined to score 38 points as Clear Fork beat Sandusky (54-38) to win a division two sectional championship Thursday night at Mansfield Senior High School.

          It was not there best performance on offense, but the Lady Colts (19-4) didn't allowed Sandusky to get into any rhythm when they had the ball as the Blue Streaks shot less than 30 percent for the game.  "I was really happy with the way our man to man defense went.  We did a nice job of keeping the ball out of the paint and also getting a lot of ball pressure.  My posts did a nice job of helping out.  It was good to see that be affective," said Clear Fork coach Heidi Roush.

          Leading by nine at the break, Clear Fork began the third quarter with a (10-3) run to talk control of contest (35-19) with 1:15 left in the third quarter.  "Sandusky did a nice job of staying close and staying within reach.  I felt like in the third quarter they had some kids get in foul trouble and maybe had to layoff a little on the defensive end and that allowed us to get some easy buckets," said Roush.

          Swihart had 21 points and Farst added 17 for the winners.

          They shot only 36 percent for the night from the field (13-36) and Roush says they need to do a better job of executing in the half court.  "We had breakdowns where maybe something didn't go quite right and instead of adjusting and getting into what we know we were sort of just freezing.  We need to work on that a little bit over the next week and I think just making better choices," she told Swankonsports.com after the game, "We talked at halftime about being in control.  There is a difference between expecting to get fouled and expecting to get fouled and finishing the shot.  Those are a couple of things that we want to work on heading into our next game."

          Like they have done for most of the season, Clear Fork was solid at the foul line, cashing in on 26 of 33 attempts (79%) for the night, 13 of 16 in the fourth quarter.  They did an outstanding job in their spread offense in the later stages to take time off the clock and get to the line.  "The girls did a nice job of moving the ball around.  They made it difficult for Sandusky to foul they were moving the ball around so well.  We did a nice job of stepping up and making some free throws there in the fourth quarter to put things on ice," said Roush.

          Taia Parker paced Sandusky scorers with 18 points.

          Clear Fork will play Willard (18-3)in the district semi-finals next Thursday at Ashland High School.  The Lady Flashes handed Clear Fork their most lopsided defeat of the season (58-38) at Willard on December 4.  Roush says they must do a better job finding shots.  "They are a big team.  They are a well coached team.  The have a lot of solid, solid all around players.  I don't think they are team that you can try and take away one of their scorers because someone else will pick it up.  We just have to play good team defense and we need to do a better job scoring this time around," she said.

 

Published 2/27/15

(C) Swankonsports.com

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Clear Fork Looking to Find a Way Against Mansfield Senior

 

          Clear Fork gets another chance to have some success against Mansfield Senior as they play at Pete Henry Gym against the Tygers in Ohio Cardinal Conference action on Friday night.

          They are coming off one of the of their better offensive performances of the season in a (72-59) win at Centerburg on Tuesday night in non-conference action.

          They shot 68 percent from the field (28-41) against the Trojans.  Coach Steven Bechtel says that's because their passing was getting them great looks at the basket.  "Offensively we moved the basketball, we got a lot of player movement, and ball reversal, and the guys were very unselfish.  I think we had 11 assists on our 28 made baskets.  We were finding the open guys and fortunately we were knocking down a lot of open shots," said Bechtel.

          Griffen Robinette had 22 points and Kadin Chrastina added 21 for the Colts, but Bechtel says a big factor for them was the contributions they got from other kids on the floor.  "Lee Snyder (14) had a nice night.  Chase Barnett (6) got off to a hot start there at the beginning.  We got some scoring out of Matt South (4) .  Clay Leedy hit a perimeter jumper for us.  We need that extra help.  We know what Kadin and Griffen are going to bring each night and when we get that extra help we are a lot better basketball team," said Bechtel.

          Mansfield Senior (14-6,10-3), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, is again an athletic team that has a lot of weapons.  Bechtel says you have to handle the pressure and try to keep them off of the glass.  "They can do a lot of different things.  Obviously they do what they do and they do it very well.  They have done it over the course of this season and many years as well," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "They are really athletic, they rebound the basketball very well.  Their pressure, you have to do a great job of handling that and try to limit their second shot opportunities."

          Clear Fork (7-14,3-10) had Mansfield Senior down in the fourth quarter at their place in January before losing (70-65) to the Tygers.  Bechtel says Mansfield just wears on you and you have to show great focus.  "Their pressure just consistently coming at you throughout the game and then in the fourth quarter your legs aren't as strong as what they were.  You are getting a little bit tired.  Their pressure gets to you and you have to really stay focused because one of their runs can go from 6-0 to 16-0 and then the lead of theirs is large and in the fourth quarter that is hard to come back from," said Bechtel.

 

Published 2/26/15

(C) Swankonsports.com

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Lady Colts End Regular Season with Win

 

          Clear Fork made nine of 10 free throws in the final three minutes and held off Mansfield Senior (48-44) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game at Les Hauenstein Gym on Monday night.

          The game was originally scheduled for Pete Henry Gym last Thursday, but was postponed until Saturday and then proponed again and the venue changed.  Clear Fork finished 10-0 at home this season.

          The Lady Colts shoot 69% from the line on the year and made 14 of 19 overall on Monday night.  Coach Heidi Roush says they handled the pressure.  "We missed some early in the game and I didn't want to see those come back and bite us, but the girls did a nice job of stepping up and hitting them when it was really important," she said.

          In what has become a staple of the Clear Fork attack they put the game with the ball handling of guards Deijah Swihart, Montana Walker and Erika Farst in a delay offense, which resulted in no turnovers and five trips to the charity stripe.  Roush says they did what they needed to.  "We did a nice job of executing that.  There were a few times when I wish we had given the ball up just a little bit quicker.  My posts (Morgan Bailey and Mattie Van Orman) did a nice job of coming and helping when they needed to.  I thought we got a little bit close to the half court line a couple of times.  We were able to take some time of the clock and we did end up at the free throw line," she told Swankonsports.com after the game, "We were lucky to survive this one.  We didn't win it very pretty.  We told the girls it was great that we got to play.  I'm so glad we got to play this game heading into the tournament to kind of get our legs back and feel what it's like to be in the game again."  Clear fork had not played in 11 days.

          Swihart, who established a new Clear Fork record for steals in a career on Monday night, had 24 points and 10 rebounds to pace the Lady Colts.  Farst added 14, including a perfect five for five from the field. 

          The game was tied at 10 after one quarter, but Swihart scored six points and Farst four has part of (12-2) run to start the second quarter.  They ended up with 13 steals for the night and Roush felt they were able to keep the Lady Tygers off balance a little with their half court zone trap.  "We tried to use that to our advantage and put some pressure on their guards.  They adjusted well and started to hit some shots in the second half.  It really got us through a tough stretch there in the second quarter when they kind of got themselves back in.  I think it was 10-10 after the first quarter and we were able to give ourselves a little bit of breathing room," she said.

          Mansfield Senior (10-12,5-9) was able to cut it to the Clear Fork lead to three twice in the fourth quarter.  "I liked the way we played the second half.  We kind of went in and challenged the girls at halftime to go out and fight the fight and I think they did a lot better in the second half," said Mansfield Senior coach Todd Krill.  The were paced by 17 points from Jeryn Reese, who went over 1,000 points for her career.

          They play Findlay at Toledo Central Catholic in a first round division one tournament game on Wednesday night.

          Clear Fork (18-4,11-3) finishes second in the "OCC" this season and Roush says that was important to them.  "We knew that if we let this one slip away Orrville had a chance to tie us.  Second place, as a runner you think it's not first, but for this program and these girls to continue to improve each year to keep moving up in the ranks of the league it says a lot about the time they put in and I am really proud the have achieved a lot of the things they set forth for themselves," she said.

          The Lady Colts will play either Sandusky or Mansfield Madison, who play each other Tuesday night, in a second round tournament game in division two at Mansfield Senior.

 

Published 2/23/15

(C) Swankonsports.com

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What is Clear Fork's Future

 

          The last couple of week's the Clear Fork Valley has been a buzz over rumors that the school intends on leaving the Ohio Cardinal Conference as soon as possible sighting a fear of not being able to compete, whether real or imagined, and a lack of visiting fans gate receipts.

          High schools officials says they have investigated every possible alternative in an attempt to find a solution to those concerns.

          At the forefront of those attempts seems to be a hope to be included in the Mid-Buckeye Conference, a league comprised of smaller schools, only three of whom play football, a fourth down the road in Crestline, at the invitation of Loudonville.

          Although administration sources at Clear Fork told us their interest in the "MBC" was over because "We don't think they will let us in."  However, Swankonsports.com has been told by sources within the "MBC" that there will still be discussion over the possibility of adding Clear Fork during a meeting of the league.  Whether Clear Fork officials would be directly involved in those discussions is unclear.

          So, we did a little study of our own.  Swankonsports.com covers 75 schools in region from Lake Erie to Delaware and Wooster to Tiffin.  We believe that is a pretty good cross section of conferences that might include Clear Fork or schools that could form a new league.

          We are using boys enrollment numbers only for this particular study because let's be honest this is a football driven issue.  No different than the break up of the former North Central Conference.  We are not saying it is the football coach that is forcing the issue, like has been said by others in the social media, because we don't know that, but it is mostly football, this is Ohio after all.

          Of the 75 schools we cover Clear Fork stands 16th in enrollment with an official OHSAA count of 237.  Marin Harding is the largest school we cover (503) and Fostoria St. Wendelin the smallest (31).  I think many in the valley would be surprised that Clear Fork would rank that high.

          Here are the schools that rank closest to the Colts in boys' enrollment.

 

                                      11.     Lexington              299

                                      12.     Buckeye Valley      294

                                      13.     Clyde                    285

                                      14.     Shelby                   255

                                      15.     River Valley           252