Clear Creek Amana senior Cory SidersBy Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
TIFFIN – Three games into last season Clear Creek Amana overhauled its offense.
After three straight losses to open last season, head coach Matt Hughes adjusted his offensive philosophy turning the Clippers into a power running team.
On the other side of the ball Hughes has never wavered from his plan to build the program around defense.
Now in his fourth season the Clippers are reaping the benefits of that commitment. .
Clear Creek Amana has relied on a rock solid defense that is holding opponents to less than a touchdown per game while starting 3-0 for the first time under Hughes.
“The kids have really bought in to the 11 to the ball philosophy,” Hughes said. “We have guys that are doing their jobs and coach (Mark) Mitchell and the rest of the defensive staff are doing an unbelievable job as far as coaching them up during the week and then guys are coming out and executing.”
Three games into the season Clear Creek Amana is executing as well as any team in Class 3A on defense.
The Clippers are holding opponents to 6.7 points and 203 total yards per game this season while forcing seven turnovers.
Clear Creek Amana has also registered 14 sacks in three games, third among Class 3A teams.
“Coach Mitchell always talks about 11 to the ball,” senior linebacker Jared Eckrich said. “That’s what we try to do is get 11 guys to the ball on every play and interceptions, turnovers, sacks that is all about just getting to the ball.”
Eckrich has been at the center of the Clippers’ strong start on defense.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound linebacker has made a team-high 26 tackles this season including four for loss.
He’s had plenty of help from his teammates on the defensive line.
Three lineman rank among the top five tacklers on the team as tackle Ethan Taylor and ends Max Moore and Cole White all have at least nine stops this season.
“Both offensively and defensively it starts in the trenches,” Hughes said. “Our defensive line is a group of guys that are playing extremely well together. They are playing hard and they are doing their responsibilities and it’s shown to be a really productive unit.”
The defensive line has helped Clear Creek Amana hold opponents to a meager 103 rushing yards per game this season.
Through three games opponents are gaining just 2.7 yards per rushing attempt against the Clippers.
Hughes touted added depth up front this season for the increase in production from the defensive line.
White leads the team with four sacks and eight different Clippers have logged a sack.
“At every position we have one more player than we are playing,” Hughes said. “At defensive tackle we have three to play two spots and at defensive end we have three to play two spots. That depth has been important.”
The play of the defense hasn’t come as a surprise.
Clear Creek Amana allowed more than 14 points just once in its final seven games last season.
The Clippers have taken it to a different level this season.
Clear Creek Amana allowed just 181 total yards in a week one win over Mount Pleasant and gave up just 192 total yards in shutout of Independence in week two.
It was the first shutout for the Clippers since blanking Davenport Assumption 27-0 on Oct. 10 of 2014.
“We had a lot of players coming back and I think we all believed we could have this type of defense this season,” Clear Creek Amana senior cornerback Cory Siders said. “We knew we were capable of playing like this.”
The toughest test for the Clipper defense lie ahead.
Week five opponent Center Point-Urbana is averaging 31.6 points per game and meetings with West Delaware (44.3 points per game) and Assumption linger.
Still, the Clippers are confident.
“Defense is all about emotion,” Hughes said. “It’s about emotion and doing your job and that’s what these guys are really bringing to the table this year.”