Unbeaten Silver Eagles top Chargers
Aaron Clinton-Earl finished with 219 yards rushing, and Sussex Hamilton gave unbeaten Monona Grove its toughest challenge of the season, but Hamilton fell to the host Silver Eagles on Tuesday, 40-19.
The Chargers finished their year 7-3 after the loss in the opening round of the WIAA Division 2 playoffs.
Three turnovers in the first half led to 20 Monona Grove points, and the Chargers never drew even before the second-seeded squad put the game out of reach.
"Every team is good in the playoffs," said Hamilton coach John Damato. "I don't care what your seed is or your ranking. If you turn the ball over, it's going to haunt you. The last two games, we haven't turned the ball over and have been plus-5 (in turnover ration). It's hard to win when you're in the negatives."
A bad Hamilton snap on fourth down led to a blocked punt, giving the Silver Eagles possession inside the Chargers' 5-yard line, leading to the first points of the game. Hamilton answered with a 15-yard run by quarterback Dan Jaskolski to tie the score at 7-7, but Hamilton fumbled twice more to set up Silver Eagles scores.
Clinton-Earl scored to pull the Chargers within 20-13 early in the second half, and he later added a second touchdown, but Monona Grove pulled away in the final 24 minutes.
"He's a special player, one of the best I've coached and quite possibly the best running back to come out of Hamilton," Damato said of Clinton-Earl. "He will be missed, and he ran his tail off tonight. He was the catalyst for our offense and I couldn't be more proud of how he ended his career."
Monona Grove's touchdowns in the second half were the result of sustained drives, as Hamilton didn't commit a second-half giveaway.
"I don't know what their success rate was on third down, but it had to be over 70 percent," Damato said. "They had a couple third down strikes and a coules backbreakers. Just when you think you've got them where you want them, they end up converting. They're a well-coached team with fine athletes and they made some plays."
Monona Grove (10-0) allowed only 13 points during the nine games of the regular season.
Senior Mike Kelty sustained a knee injury but battled back to finish the game. Damato also credited senior linemen Dave Tran and Nick Ferschl.
"The senior class in general is a unique group," Damato said. "They have a big heart and great character and it's great what they left the Hamilton program with."
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