By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
TIFFIN – Clear Creek Amana has played some significant games since Matt and Ronnie Hughes took over the program prior to the 2013 season.
There was a watershed 27-0 win over perennial power Davenport Assumption in 2014, a district title-clinching win over Vinton-Shellsburg the next week and first-round playoff games each of the past two seasons.
None of those compare to what awaits the Clippers on Friday.
Class 3A No. 10 Clear Creek Amana (5-0) hosts fifth-ranked West Delaware (5-0) on Friday in a Class 3A, District 4 clash being billed as the biggest regular season game in program history.
“I would think that it would definitely be one of our biggest games, it would be hard to think of another one that is any larger than this,” Matt Hughes said. “Both teams have put themselves in a great position for the district and I can’t imagine having a bigger game.”
There is good reason those around the Clear Creek Amana program are calling Friday the biggest game of the Hughes era and one of the most anticipated in school history.
At stake in Friday’s 7:15 p.m. kickoff at Clipper Field is the first 6-0 start in school history.
The top spot in the district standings and a win over one of the most successful 3A programs in the state in the last decade are also up for grabs for Clear Creek Amana.
“It’s pretty exciting with people talking about this being the biggest game ever for our school,” senior Jared Eckrich said. “I would have never guessed we would be 5-0 and going against another 5-0 team.”
Along with a chance for a historic 6-0 start and a spot in the District 4 drivers seat, Friday offers a chance for the Hughes-led Clippers to show they’ve arrived as a threat in Class 3A.
Clear Creek Amana won a District title in 2014 and is 12-8 over the past three seasons but is 0-2 in postseason games over the past three seasons.
On Friday the Clippers will see how they stack up against a West Delaware program that is annually in the thick of the 3A title hunt.
“They are very good this year and they’ve been good every year,” Clear Creek Amana junior Matt Brimeyer said. “If we give our best effort I think we can play with anyone.”
West Delaware is coming off a 12-1 season that included a state semifinal appearance and have reached the playoffs eight straight years, winning at least seven games in each of those seasons.
West Delaware has reached the state quarterfinals four times and the semifinals twice in the past six seasons.
“You look at their tradition since 1986 they have been in the playoffs 21 years, that’s crazy,” Matt Hughes said. “That’s unbelievable tradition and on the flip side Clear Creek Amana doesn’t really have that reputation at this point so what a great opportunity for our kids.”
Clear Creek Amana has never been 6-0. The Clippers opened the season 5-0 one other time back in 1999.
A sixth straight win this season would open a lot of eyes around the state.
With all the factors thrown in Friday might just be the biggest football game in Tiffin since many of the current Clippers were able to walk.
“I don’t know of any game that feels bigger,” Eckrich said. “The only thing I know of is the 1999 and I obviously don’t remember that.”
How have the Clippers prepared for the biggest game in program history?
Simple, the same way they have prepared for the last five games that set up the battle of unbeatens.
“It’s just like every other week, that’s kind of been our mentality all year is just go 1-0 every week,” Hughes said. “Every week is an opportunity to go 1-0 and these guys have had that mentality all year and they haven’t done anything different than normal this week.”
That mentality has worked well for Clear Creek Amana so far.
The Clippers have been as impressive as any team in 3A during its 5-0 start.
Clear Creek Amana has posted three shutouts and is outscoring opponents 143-22 this season.
“We heard at the beginning of the season that a lot of people didn’t think we were going to go very far but we just focused on being 1-0 every week,” Brimeyer said. “We never look too far ahead we just focus on what’s happening right now and go one game at a time.”
The defense has been dominant for the Clippers all season.
Clear Creek Amana enters Friday allowing just 4.4 points and 159 total yards per game.
The Clippers are holding opponents to 88 rushing yards per game and 2.6 yards per carry but will be tested by a West Delaware offense averaging 321 yards per game on the ground.
“They are a very good team we just have to do our own jobs and get the job done,” Eckrich said. “We are just focused on getting better every day. Getting better as a team and just focusing on ourselves.”