CHILLICOTHE — It can be easy for turnovers to get into a team’s head, especially when that team — Amanda-Clearcreek — committed four in the first 26 minutes of a non-league game.
And that’s why Amanda-Clearcreek coach Steve Daulton called his team together and gave them a message at the end of the third quarter.
“Coach Daulton told us to forget about what happened during the first three quarters and clear our heads,” A-C senior quarterback Peyton Madison said. “He told us we just needed to go out, play hard and trust each other.”
Judging by 15 points and three takeaways in the fourth quarter on Friday, the message was acted upon in a 32-14 win over host Unioto.
“I don’t care who you are. At some point during the season you are going to face adversity and have to respond to it,” Daulton said. “We obviously made a lot of mistakes in the first three quarters, but it was telling that our kids stuck together and responded with a good fourth quarter to take control of the game.
“I’ve said it a lot, but that goes back to the chemistry we have on this football team and how unselfish our kids are.”
The Aces rushed for 235 of their 336 yards of total offense, paced by Madison churning out 157 of those yards and scoring three touchdowns.
But before Madison and the offense could go to work in the fourth quarter, the defense had to make a stop.
Trailing 17-14, Unioto drove down to the Aces’ 31-yard line, but a fumbled exchange on a run was recovered by Anthony Buckley.
“Our defense really stepped up in the fourth quarter when we needed it and they were lights out,” Daulton said. “They made some big plays and also came away with some big takeaways.”
The Aces took possession of the pigskin and used seven plays to cover 66 yards.
A 19-yard screen pass to Alex Fairchild ignited the drive and a 26-yard connection to Jeff Bolin two plays later put the Aces into the red zone.
“Honestly, I didn’t throw the football that well tonight, but my receivers had my back and made some nice catches,” Madison said.
That’s where Madison took over, using four carries to cover the last 20 yards, with the final tote coming on a one-yard plunge over the goal line on third-and-goal. A two-point conversion run by Jayse Miller put the Aces ahead 25-14 with 8:49 remaining.
“Our offensive line controlled most of the game, but we kept getting in our own way by screwing up and fumbling the football,” Madison said. “Once we regrouped, we had holes to run through and we ran hard.”
Miller shutdown the ensuing Unioto possession by intercepting a pass by Isaac Little to set the Aces up on the Shermans’ 48-yard line.
The Aces weren’t able to do much with the football, but a quick kick by Madison pinned the Shermans back on their own 19-yard line.
Unioto (1-1) moved the football to its own 42, but then started going backward, highlighted by Little fumbling while under duress by Jesse Connell for a 14-yard loss. A desperation toss on fourth-and-29 fell incomplete, giving the Aces the ball just 24 yards from pay dirt.
Madison put the game away three plays later with a physical 15-yard touchdown run with 2:02 remaining. The third extra point of the night by Jonathan Weaver made it 32-14.
“We didn’t have to use Peyton that much last week, but we needed him more tonight and he made those athletic plays that you expect Peyton to make,” Daulton said.
Bolin added an interception on the final Shermans’ possession of the evening.
Amanda-Clearcreek seemed prime to runaway with the game in the first quarter.
Madison converted the opening possession into a touchdown when he held onto the pigskin on an option play, rolled left and went 56 yards to the end zone.
The Aces doubled their lead later in the quarter with an 11-play drive that spanned 64 yards, capped by Fairchild taking a pitch from Madison five yards for a touchdown.
A gift from the Aces helped the Shermans start to turn their fortune in the second quarter, when Tim Diamond recovered a fumble on the Aces’ 28-yard line.
The Shermans wasted no time, with Little connecting with Jamarcus Carroll on the next play for a touchdown.
Unioto put together its most impressive drive of the night on its second possession of the third quarter, using nine plays to cover 73 yards. Carroll capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14-14.
The Aces regained the lead on their next possession, which was capped by a 23-yard field goal from Weaver with 1:53 remaining in the third quarter.
Little completed 11 of 21 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown, and also added 65 yards rushing on 18 carries. Carroll chipped in 48 yards rushing and a score.
The Aces (2-0) are back in The Pit next week when they host Fairfield County rival Liberty Union (0-2), which is coming off a 31-7 setback to Bloom-Carroll.