Not every rivalry game is exciting. Last year’s Slippery Rock-Clarion matchup ended with The Rock hoisting the Milk Jug after a 75-0 win. In the game, they crossed the goal line 11 times. To put what the game looked like into perspective, the Golden Eagles had just 81 total yards of offense, compared to Slippery Rock’s 588.
Last year went about as badly for Clarion as a year can go. They went 0-10 and they were shut out three times. They didn’t score more than 33 points all season. On the other side, the PSAC title loss and first round playoff exit were considered a bad year.
This time around things are a little different. The game is being hosted at Memorial Stadium in Clarion and it’ll be the first time the rivalry game has returned there since 2018. Clarion has won two of their last three games. But they’ll face a team in The Rock that hasn’t experienced a misstep since their 20-12 loss against Indiana (Pa.).
“Because they’re a newer team and they have a new coach, who does a great job, we need to start quick,” head coach Shawn Lutz said.
The Rock is coming into the game riding a three-game win streak. But the story has been the play of both the offensive and defensive lines. They’ve been able to dominate in the trenches, which has sparked The Rock’s run game more than they’ve seen in a while.
“Our offense line, they’re the unsung heroes and Coach Conrad has done a great job,” Lutz said. “The best part is, they’re all coming back for another year.”
After last week’s performance through the air, Slippery Rock will prove to be a tough test for Clarion. Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, they face The Rock when they’re in what Lutz has described as playoff mode.
In order to get their way into the NCAA playoffs, they have to win, but not only win, they need to win convincingly. But after blowing out Clarion last year, the Golden Eagles will look to upset the No. 13 team in the country.
To do that, they’ll rely on their defensive line to shut down Clarion’s mobile quarterback, Zach Benedek. He has proven to be dual threat quarterback with 322 yards on the ground and five touchdowns and 814 yards and three touchdowns.
“They’re going to rush the football and their quarterback is their leading rusher,” Lutz said. “We have to get him to turn the football over, because he’s like a running back playing quarterback.”
For The Rock, they have an offense that can do both. Lutz knows it and so does everyone else.
“Last week we won our one on ones, but it’s to the point where we’re kind of a two-headed monster,” Lutz said. “If you try to stop the run, we’ll pass it, and if you try to stop the pass, we’ll run it.”
With the end of the season inching closer and closer, the last three games are going to be extremely important. A loss at any point could mean the end of the season will come a lot sooner than they want it to. Everyone knows that, especially Lutz and at this point he says that every game is a rivalry game.
“For us every game is a rivalry game, because everyone wants to beat us,” Lutz said.