At the moment of Clemmons’ comment, it was unknown how his team’s region would line up due to other games still in progress. But he was prepared for either eventuality.
“Whether or not we make it (to the playoffs), the conference is the icing on the cake,” Clemmons said. “The playoffs is more like the cherry, and if we don’t get that, this is still a great season.”
Similar to most of the season, it was a pair of junior running backs, Wade Phillips and Elijah Williams, who led the way for the Cougars. The duo combined for 49 of the team’s 56 total offensive plays and all but two of Edgewood’s total yards.
Phillips began the scoring just three minutes into the contest, breaking free on a 49-yard touchdown run to give the Cougars the early 7-0 lead. Phillips averaged over seven yards per carry Friday, tallying 173 yards on 23 carries to go along with three TDs.
His second touchdown came early in the second quarter, a 9-yard rush, to push the Edgewood lead to 14-0.
“Our backs, Elijah and Wade, they take a lot of pride in what they do,” Clemmons said. “Congratulate the offensive line for what they do up front, but those two run hard and patient.”
Phillips and Williams complete their junior campaigns as the first- and third-leading rushers in the SWOC, respectively. Phillips’ 1,358 yards were over 200 yards better than the next-highest total (Harrison’s Ben Scott).
• Franklin 24, Brookville 21
• Week 10 Scoreboard
Mount Healthy (4-6, 4-2), conversely, had very little in the way of offense Friday. The Owls scored on a pair of big plays, but finished the game with just six first downs and 115 yards of total offense.
“We have a lot of growing up to do,” Mount Healthy coach Arvie Crouch said. “There were some things that went on this year that didn’t help the program, and that just comes down to maturity.”
The Owls, 8-2 and Division III playoff participants last year, found themselves in a season where very little went their way, including an 0-3 start.
“We faced some growing pains and played some good teams early,” Crouch said. “I think it hurt us losing those close games at the beginning of the year, not building early momentum and positive energy. I think it cost us in the long run.”
Jamal Kelly provided a spark of momentum and hope for Mount Healthy when he returned the kickoff that followed Phillips’ second touchdown run 80 yards for a score. Despite being dominated to that point, Kelly’s run cut the Cougar lead down to 14-7 early in the second quarter.
The quick score also put the EHS offense right back onto the field just seconds after they completed their nine-play scoring drive, and the Cougars picked right back up where they left off. Eleven plays and 72 yards later, Edgewood pushed its lead to 21-7 when Williams scored his first touchdown from a yard out.
Williams led all players with 26 carries, rushing for 105 yards and a pair of TDs.
Unable to stop the Cougar offense and needing to play catchup, the Owls attempted to attack through the air. Six of the seven Mount Healthy pass attempts were intercepted.
“We had some really nice spots, we thought, to throw the ball,” Crouch said. “But we have a sophomore quarterback throwing in the rain. There are no excuses, though, because it’s Week 10 and we should be playing better.”
Owls quarterback Brandon Lanier rushed for 33 yards on six attempts, but failed to connect on any of his five pass attempts, throwing four interceptions. JuAries Montgomery led the Owls with 85 rushing yards, most of which came on a late 63-yard touchdown run. His lone pass attempt was intercepted by Troy Watson to end the game.
Senior defensive back D.J. Whiles had three interceptions and Ben Boyd added a pair of his own, putting an exclamation point on the end of their prep football careers.
“We’re going to miss them,” Clemmons said of his departing senior class. “Each year, different groups of young men bring different things to the table. This was a very coachable class, and they came to work every day and did what they needed to do.”
The Owls and Cougars are similar in the respect that they will both be returning many starters. Both teams expect to be challenging for conference supremacy in 2018.
“The good news is that we’re bringing everybody back,” Crouch said. “Last season we were an older, yet inexperienced, team. This year we were both young and inexperienced. It was a double-edged sword, but we’re not going to quit.”
For Clemmons, 2017 was a year where roster turnover did not have so much of an adverse effect on the team’s record. A large core of returning players set up the Cougars for an opportunity to chase a three-peat.
“Early in the season, everyone was sort of second-guessing this team after we lost a lot of seniors,” Clemmons said. “But we had a great group seniors come back this year who were used to winning, and a great group of juniors underneath them. That’s what we talked about (after the game), Edgewood is winning championships and carrying forward a tradition of winning.”
Mount Healthy 0-7-0-7—14
E: Wade Phillips 49 run (Julian Pletz kick)
E: Phillips 9 run (Pletz kick)
M: Jamal Kelly 80 kickoff return (Delmont Goodloe kick)
E: Elijah Williams 1 run (Pletz kick)
E: Williams 1 run (Pletz kick)
E: Phillips 4 run (Pletz kick)
M: JuAries Montgomery 63 run (Goodloe kick)