By Craig DeVrieze
For the Herald
The Clinton River Kings turned the concept of a twin backfield on its ear Friday night at Brady Street Stadium.
The Kings lined up virtually indistinguishable junior running backs Dustin and Alex Caldwell in the Wildcat formation and left it to the Davenport West Falcons defenders to decipher who was coming at them and how.
Dustin (who lists in the program at 5-foot-9 and 166 pounds) ran for 67 yards and a pair of first-half scores in a 34-7 River Kings victory. But southpaw Alex (also 5-9, but a whole pound lighter) put the exclamation point on the season’s second victory by taking a third-quarter snap, sprinting left and finding his pal Eric Maddasion wide open along the sideline for a 31-yard TD pass.
“I was really excited when we got the play call,” the left-hander said of his touchdown toss. “I was pretty sure he was going to be open. I just had to get it to him. “
The double-Caldwell Wildcat wasn’t Friday’s only successful debut. Making his first varsity start, sophomore defensive end Thomas Smith paced a five-tackle-for-loss, five-sack night by the Kings defense with three of the former and one of the latter.
After allowing the host Falcons (1-6) an early 7-0 lead and 91 yards of first-quarter offense, the River Kings used a back-‘em-up attack to limit West to a sum total of 34 yards the rest of the way.
“I just played hard, just kept going,” the sophomore Smith explained. “I just ended up in their backfield a lot.”
The Falcons went forward early, and when the Kings fumbled the ball away on their first snap after a 29-yard touchdown run by host quarterback Josh Thiessen, trouble appeared to be brewing for Clinton.
But then tackle Rafael Ramirez got the ball back by recovering a West fumble on the next play and the tables truly turned. Maddasion hit Tyler Thacker behind the defense for a 42-yard gain on third-and-9 and, five plays later, Dustin Caldwell scored from 6 yards out.
The Clinton defense followed with a three-and-out stand as the first quarter concluded, and then Cody Collender took a punt back 75 yards for a score to stake the Kings to a 14-7 lead. Dustin Caldwell’s 1-yard run took them to halftime with a 21-7 edge, and the visitors were in control the rest of the way.
“We moved the ball,” coach Lee Camp said, crediting the offensive line for a night that saw the Kings rush for 157 yards and throw for 107. “Eric (Maddasion) did a good job moving the ball down the field, and then we would jump in with Dustin and Alex Caldwell.”
The Wildcat formation previously had been the domain only of Dustin Caldwell, but with the lanky Maddasion playing QB with senior Will Carr sidelined by a hamstring problem, Camp and his coaches saw an opportunity for the left-handed Alex to get the ball to Maddasion, who lined up on the left sideline at receiver while the Caldwells manned the backfield.
Maddasion completed six of his 10 passes for 76 yards, and Ryan Driscoll tacked on a 10-yard scoring run late in the fourth to complete a win that gives the River Kings a puncher’s chance at a playoff berth with home games the next two weeks vs. Mississippi Athletic Conference heavyweights Pleasant Valley and Bettendorf.
“If we didn’t win, we had no chance,” Dustin Caldwell said of Friday’s outcome. “Yeah, that’s two tough teams coming up. But we are not going to back off.”
CLINTON 34, DAVENPORT WEST 7
Clinton 6 15 7 6 — 34
West 7 0 0 0 — 7
West — Josh Thiessen 29 run (Moises Espinsoa kick) 3:43
Clinton — Dustin Caldwell 6 run (pass failed) :51
Clinton — Cody Collender 75 punt return (Tyler Thacker pass from Eric Maddasion) 11:32
Clinton — D. Caldwell 1-run (Jeremy Peters kick) 5:19
Clinton — Maddasion 31 pass from Alex Caldwell (Peters kick) :22
Clinton — Ryan Driscoll 10 run (kick failed) 2:54
RUSHING — Clinton, D. Caldwell 14-67, Collender 6-40, Driscoll 6-26, Maddasion 15-13, A. Caldwell 2-11. West, Deontrez Overstreet 24-83, Carter Thompson 4-14, John Hardiek 2-0, Thiessen 9-2.
PASSING — Clinton, Maddasion 6-10-76, A. Caldwell 1-1-31. West, Thiessen 4-16-26.
RECEIVING — Clinton, Thacker 1-42, Jaylen Broadenaux 2-13, Maddasion 1-31, Collender 1-17, D. Caldwell 1-5. West, Ronnie Smeltzer 1-10, Hardiek 1-12, Daniel Belz 1-0, Seth Stoube 1-4.