From the opening kickoff Tuesday afternoon, the Clawson Middle School Mustangs were on a mission: to end the game with the first undefeated season since 1989. And they did.
"I knew we could do it," Clawson head coach David Custer said. "I could feel it all week."
The Mustangs led each quarter against Page Middle School of Madison Heights and cruised to a 43-8 victory.
Clawson's 22 eighth-graders played in their final middle school game at Clawson City Park and each of them were given the honor of serving as a team captain.
The Mustangs scored on their first three possessions, with running back Jacob Sami scoring two touchdowns for Clawson. "We all wanted to do our best," said Sami, an eighth grader. "I tried to work my hardest so we'd have no mistakes."
As the seconds wound down, Clawson Middle School celebrated its victory, pouring a cooler of ice cold water over Custer. The cold shower was worth it for Custer, who had a feeling his team would be poised to win.
From their first possession, the Mustangs hit paydirt for a 6-0 lead. The Clawson defense then held and the Mustangs quickly marched 50 yards in four plays to find the end zone once more on a 40-yard run by Sami. The two-point conversion put the lead at 14-0.
Page couldn't muster anything offensively and gave the ball back to Clawson only 38 yards away from the end zone. Working the short field, the Mustangs cashed it in on a 21 yard pass play and two-point conversion and were in full control -- 22-0 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
"We didn't let anyone think this was going to be an easy game," said Matt Anderson, a Clawson middle linebacker. "We were all ready to step up. We knew what was at stake."
In the second quarter, Page's offense stalled again after only four plays, giving the ball back to Clawson at the Page 44 yard line. Even though Clawson didn't score there, it changed field position and after another defensive stop, Clawson added another quick Sami touchdown to go up 29-0.
"The defense really did a good job," Custer said. "They filled gaps and the cornerbacks and linebackers worked hard to contain them all night."
Taking the kickoff to their own 40-yard line, Page finally put together a six-play drive capped by a 22-yard touchdown pass to running back RJ Kilburn and a two-point conversion to cut the Clawson lead to 29-8.
"We made sure that we were going to win," Clawson defensive end Miguel Chene said. "They had beaten us in the past and we knew what had happened last year. We kept playing."
With second team players giving it their all in the second half, Clawson stopped Page on its opening drive after only four plays. Working close to the goal line only 36 yards away, the Mustangs found paydirt in only three plays, finishing with a reverse 36-yard run and a two-point conversion, padding its lead to 35-8.
Each team then swapped possessions, but then running back Connor Lehman rambled 70-plus yards to the end zone and put the score at 43-8 with the added two-point conversion.
With the eighth-graders leaving for high school and only one seventh-grader, Jesse Harlan, left on the roster, Custer will have his work cut out for him next season. Yet he expects the team to be talented and believes this season may have helped build a long-term winning tradition.
"You never know till the season gets here as to what we'll have," Custer said. "But these guys have laid a winning foundation for us to build on."
The 2010 team includes Team Manager Bryce Harris, and players Elvis Martinez, Cameron Williams, Jesse Harlan, Khemoni Slaton, Ricky Zeiter, RJ Kilburn, Connor Lehman, Jordan Opria, Cody Sarvello, Jacob Sami, Anthony Pizzo, Cameron Campana, Nick Stepnitz, Matt Anderson, Geo Negret, Aaron Brisson, Alfonzo Buckner, Miguel Chene, Jack Branch, Evan Deciantis, Paul Lama, Jahir Harris and Oni Tesho.