The first time these two teams met, it wasn't pretty - for Clymer, at least.
Squaring off in early September for a Week One battle, Sherman held the visiting Pirates to a mere 72 yards rushing, and just 27 passing, to capture the easy victory, 32-0.
It was a loss, the third in as many years to their neighbors and rivals to the immediate north, that the Pirates didn't take lightly.
Clymer’s Jake Wiggers goes up high to try a one-handed reception in Friday’s Section 6 Class DD playoff game. Defending is Sherman’s Eric Horstman (3) and Ryan Robson (4). See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J?photo by Rob Tucker
In fact, they'd been hoping for a rematch ever since.
"This was the third year in a row we've come up short against them," Clymer coach Dave Bodamer said, "so we were grateful to get a second chance at them."
And given that rare shot at redemption under the lights and light rain at Charles A. Lawson Field, Bodamer's Pirates didn't disappoint.
Led by the two-pronged rushing attack of a punishing Connor Payne and a slashing Jake Wiggers, No. 3 Clymer nearly equaled its rushing total from Week One on the opening drive (it gained 70 yards on the ground in 12 plays), and piled up a whopping 324 yards on 58 carries to clinch the slim, 19-13 Class DD semifinal victory over second-seeded Sherman.
The victory propels the Pirates, now 7-1 overall and 6-1 in league, to a second straight trip to Ralph Wilson Stadium, where they will meet top-seeded Ellicottville - winners by a score of 42-8 over Panama - for the Class DD crown.
"That was our goal," Bodamer said of making another trip to 'The Ralph.' "It was goal No. 1. We're thrilled and I told them tonight that it may not have been our best effort, it wasn't the best play all the time, but it beats the heck out of losing."
Wiggers, who entering the contest was tops on the team with more than 700 yards rushing this season, gained a team-high 193 yards on 30 carries to go along with a pair of touchdowns; Payne, meanwhile, added 19 rushes, 98 yards and a touchdown.
Bodamer couldn't have been more thrilled with his running backs.
"You could tell from the first time Connor got the ball he wanted the ball," he said. "He wanted to go. And Jake has shown this all year. He's got big-play capability."
The two worked in perfect tandem during the game-defining drive in the fourth quarter.
Trailing by 13 heading into the final period, Sherman cut the deficit to seven, 13-6, when quarterback Andrew Graham capped a four-play drive by hitting receiver John Luden from 21 yards out in the end zone. Clymer, on the ensuing kickoff, got a big return from Garrett McAfoose into Wildcats' territory, but the play was called back due to a block in the back penalty, and the ball was placed at Clymer's own 18.
Early in the season, that negative play would have doomed the drive from the start, Bodamer said.
"We couldn't overcome mistakes the first game (of the season) or the second," he said. "We have learned to overcome those mistakes and that's been a big turning point because that would have killed us before. It would have ended the drive before it began."
Undeterred, however, Clymer leaned heavily on its runners.
Wiggers picked up a modest 4 yards on the opening play of the drive, then Payne took 7 more, then Wiggers another 9 and finally Wiggers finally broke a big run for 31 yards (he finished with three runs of at least 20 yards) to bring the squad down to the Sherman 30. Two more runs by Payne, and Wiggers, from the 1, plunged over the goal line to rebuild the 13-point advantage, 19-6, with a little more than six minutes remaining.
"We found something against their defense that we could block better," Bodamer said. ''We just found a hole that we could do better with, and once the kids got that confidence, they believed and that was it."
Graham led the Wildcats into the end zone on the ensuing drive when he scored from the 1, but it ate six minutes off the clock, and when the Sherman attempted the onsides kick the ball didn't travel the required 10 yards and Clymer quarterback Matt DeStevens simply kneeled down to run out the clock.
"They were the better team today," Sherman coach Bob Krenzer said. "I take my hat off to them and congratulate them. Our kids wouldn't quit, but in the end (Clymer) ran ball control against us and came up with more plays than we did."
NOTES: The Clymer defense held Sherman, whose leading rusher was Graham with 59 yards on 17 carries, to just 89 rushing yards. ... Dan Lictus led the way with 16 tackles while Payne and Caleb Clark had 11 and Tom Heiser nine. McAfoose intercepted a Graham pass in the second quarter to account for the game's lone turnover.
Clymer7 0 6 6 - 19
Sherman0 0 0 13 - 13
Cly - Wiggers 2 run (Dunnewold kick).
Cly - Payne 3 run (kick failed).
She - Luden 21 pass from Graham (run failed).
Cly - Wiggers 1 run (pass failed).
She - Graham 1 run (Graham kick).