Clifton beat Eastside, 17-6 on a night of light rain that became heavier in the fourth quarter. Much of the scoring was done early and both teams stayed on the ground after that.
First Quarter: Clifton opened the game and drove approximately 72 yards, scoring on a Jacob Maldonado run of 8 yards. The key play on the drive was a 41-yard completion from Kyle Vellis to Michael Kristof to the 12.. After an Eastside punt, Clifton was in good shape when Vellis found Luke Ceneri for approximately 40 yards to the 9-yard line and a first-and-goal. Ceneri caught the pass in front of defenders, turned, and raced past them. The Eastside defense stiffened and Clifton kicked a 24-yard field goal to make it 10-0 with three minutes left in the quarter. Eastside answered back with a kick return to their 45 and a Clifton facemask penalty added 15 yards. A completion to Jair Stewart and a run by Albert Canty gave the Ghosts first down on the 11. Eastside kicked a field goal, but a roughing the kicker penalty gave them a first down on the 5-yard line. Canty scored from a yard out two plays later. The extra point was blocked and it was 10-6, 32 seconds into the second quarter.
Second Quarter: Ceneri returned the ensuing kickoff to the Eastside 25, but Eastside’s defense held their ground, with Clifton turning it over on downs. After an 18-yard run by Amir Smith brought the Ghosts past midfield, Wymeir Reed was sacked by Shaquaye Brimley, causing Reed to fumble with Clifton recovering on the Eastside 32. An Eastside sack by Nyreek Clyburn put Clifton in a fourth-and-14 on the 22. A completion to Kristof gave the Mustangs first-and-goal on the 9 and Eastside’s defense held again, taking over the ball on downs.
Third Quarter: After an Eastside punt and Bryan Feliciano return to the 29 of Eastside, Clifton was in good shape once more. They made it count when Caleb Boneparte took the handoff and went across the field and beat Eastside defenders past the right pylon for a 15-yard touchdown. Ahsin Jacobs took the ensuing kickoff to the 41 of Clifton and he caught a pass to give the Ghosts a first down on the 31. A 9-yard run by Smith made it second-and-one, but Clifton’s defense would not allow any more with Eastside turning it over on downs.
Fourth Quarter: A high punt snap by Eastside deep in their territory forced the punter to run, but he was tackled on the 14 and Clifton had an opportunity to blow the game open. The Eastside defense did their job again, stopping the Mustangs on downs.
Conclusion: Clifton jumped out early and did enough to win. I thought their defense was the story of the game denying Eastside. In fact, their defense looks like a team strength. After the first quarter, there weren’t many big plays for either team and most were on kick and punt returns. The weather may have had something to do with that, but both teams played good defense much of the evening. Eastside’s defense had difficulty early, but got stronger during the evening. Clifton is an established team and will be hard to beat, while Eastside is a rising program and will be heard from in the future.