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Published: Friday, 11/16/2007

Clyde's defensive unit poised for Sunbury Big Walnut

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Clyde Fliers soared over the opposition for 10 straight weeks before passing a stiff test last week against Napoleon.

Now Clyde (11-1), which has won 11 in a row, faces its toughest test of the season tonight in the Division III regional championship. The Fliers have not lost since Aug. 24 and had outscored their foes 428-70 before edging Napoleon 19-13 last week.

Clyde takes on No. 1 seed Sunbury Big Walnut (11-1) at Tiffin Columbian High School at 7:30 p.m.

Clyde coach Marc Gibson, who was named the Division III district co-coach of the year, said the battle with Napoleon should help against the fourth-ranked Golden Eagles.

"It helps immensely because we had not been in a close game since week one," Gibson said. "This proves they have the fortitude to finish and withstand an opponent with momentum."

The Fliers lost to Eastwood, which also is still alive in the postseason, in the season opener by a score of 28-24. The Fliers then rattled off 10 straight wins, outscoring foes by an average margin of 42-7.

"We found the kids have the character and heart to play all the way through," Gibson said.

Although the potent Clyde offense, which averages 39.3 points a game, gets most of the attention the Flier defense has yielded 8.9 points and just over 200 yards per game.

"The defense is the story," Gibson said. "They've gotten us here."

Clyde has been led by senior linebackers Jacob Andrews, Joel Meyer and Ethan Ott. Jacobs, an all-district player, has a team-high 98 tackles. Junior LB Drew Bebbe has 70 tackles, including five sacks against Tipp City in the playoffs.

"That's our cornerstone," Gibson said.

Senior defensive end Aric Thurn, senior safety Danny Michaels, junior end Jarad Bransky, senior safety Nate Caudill, and senior cornerback Darrin Paul have dominated.

Junior quarterback Alex Gillett, who has thrown for 2,552 yards and 37 touchdowns, earned the Division III district offensive player of the year.

Caudill has 53 catches for 945 yards and 18 touchdowns and senior Justin Cook 746 yards (9 TDs). Senior running back Kyle Birkholz has rushed for 1,243 yards and 20 scores.

The Golden Eagles have scored 364 points (30.3) and limited the opposition to 121 (10.1). BW is led by versatile QB Ethan Wetzel (all-Ohio honorable mention last year).

"He is their cog," Gibson said. "They also are very balanced. It will be a defensive struggle."

Contact Mark Monroe at:

mmonroe@theblade.com

or 419-724-6354.



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