Cloverleaf's Brody Stallings carries the ball against Keystone's Nick Gregory in the second quarter of Friday's game at Cloverleaf High School. (NICK CAMMETT/GAZETTE)
WESTFIELD TWP. — Cloverleaf football coach Justin Vorhies came back to his alma mater promising a change in culture. While it’s early in the season, this could very well be the year of the Colts.
In the first two weeks, Cloverleaf has kept fans on the edge of their seats and pulled out wins at the end. The latest came Friday in a 38-32 non-conference slobberknocker against Keystone.
“It really started two years ago,” Vorhies said. “As funny as that sounds, we were 0-10, but that group kept fighting and battling. Last year, we knew we were in every game. We had great senior leadership that believed we could win every game even if we were losing.
“It really came through at the end of the season when we won those games (70-20 over Field and 42-9 over Streetsboro). That had a huge carryover effect. We have juniors and sophomores that are used to winning with great senior leadership that holds those guys to a high level of expectation.”
Given their performance against the Wildcats (0-2), the expectation is to win for the Colts (2-0).
“Everyone has a fighting mentality,” Cloverleaf quarterback Brody Stallings said. “They’re never going to give up. If you give up, you’re letting down your teammates, and no one on this team wants to do that. You just keep pushing. It’s great.”
The push in this win came up front, as Zach Greer, Logan Henderson, Jordan Smith, Jake Kemp and Nate Clingan did pretty much whatever they wanted in the trenches for a team that gained 441 yards, including 350 on the ground.
That led to huge nights by Stallings (25 carries, 146 yards, 4 TDs; 7-for-9 passing, 91 yards) and running back Eli Haynes (22 carries, 159 yards, TD).
“Oh, man, our offensive line is really something else,” Haynes said. “I really love to run behind those guys because I always feel safe. They’re so big, I feel like I can hide behind them. Before we come out here, we say be us and do what we do. With a line like that it’s really easy to do what we do.”
That was evident in the fact the Colts had 13 plays go for 10 yards or more and registered 28 first downs. They averaged 13.0 yards per reception, 10.1 yards per pass, 6.5 per play and 5.9 per carry.
“It was great,” Stallings said. “The line blocked awesome. When we got down to the goal line, huge holes opened up.”
Keystone wasn’t going to go down without a fight. Quarterback Jacob Shackleford ran 10 times for 231 yards and a touchdown, while Dylan Naylor rushed 17 times for 61 yards and three scores.
Add a 16-for-25, 163-yard evening through the air for Shackleford that also included a touchdown and it looked like whoever had the ball last — it was Cloverleaf — was going to win.
As strange as it sounds, the biggest play of the game may have come from Smith late in the third quarter.
With Keystone facing second-and-15 from its own 47, an errant snap hit Shackleford at the feet and Smith recovered. The Colts scored four plays later to make it 35-25, giving them the cushion they needed.
“Our D-line we feel is the best around,” Vorhies said. “We knew we were going to get something from them. We knew they had a shifty quarterback. We knew we had to contain them.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cloverleaf 38, Keystone 32
KEYSTONE 6 12 7 7 — 32
CLOVERLEAF 0 14 14 10 — 38
K — Dylan Naylor 2 run (run failed), 5:01.
C — Eli Haynes 52 run (Logan Tierney), 8:33.
K — Cory Hartle 32 pass from Jacob Shackleford (pass failed), 3:37.
C — Brody Stallings 1 run (Tierney kick), 2:11.
K — Naylor 2 run (run failed), :37.4.
C — Stallings 2 run (Tierney kick), 5:47.
K — Naylor 2 run (Zac Marsh kick), 5:25.
C — Stallings 6 run (Tierney kick), 2:01.
C — Stallings 21 run (Tierney kick), 11:52.
C — Tierney 33 field goal, 5:57.
K — Shackleford 60 run (Marsh kick), 4:33.