STEPHENVILLE — It was vintage Goldthwaite Eagles football.
Control the clock with the running game. Three running backs in the Wishbone with about the same amount of yardage. Play stingy defense.
That formula has worked for Goldthwaite and Gary Proffitt, its 22nd-year head coach, for more than two decades, and it worked again Friday night when the Eagles were an underdog. Goldthwaite upended the No. 10-ranked Albany Lions 27-15 as halfback Wade Clifton rushed for two touchdowns, and his brother Walt Clifton rushed for 104 yards and threw for a touchdown on the Eagles’ only pass completion of the night.
The win in Memorial Stadium in the Class 1A Division II area playoff game advanced unranked Goldthwaite (9-2) to a regional-round game against Windthorst (5-6), tentatively scheduled back here at 7:30 p.m. next Friday night. Windthorst pulled another upset Friday, toppling No. 5-ranked Gorman.
“We had a lot of things (offensively) planned for them, but running right at them was just how it played out,” said Walt Clifton, the Eagles’ starting fullback who churned out 104 yards on 20 carries, mostly up the middle. Walt Clifton also alternates at quarterback, and he threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Trey Horton to stake the Eagles to a 14-0 halftime lead.
“I was surprised at how well we ran because they (Albany) have a big ol’ line,” Walt Clifton said. “But that didn’t stop our offensive line. They stepped up and moved ‘em out for me all night.”
Halfback Cory Baker added 93 yards rushing, including a 44-yard run that set up Goldthwaite’s first touchdown. Wade Clifton finished with 74 yards on 20 carries as the Eagles ran on 58 of their 63 offensive plays.
While Goldthwaite ran 63 plays and possessed the ball for 29:04 of the game’s 48 minutes, Albany had the ball for 39 plays and 18:56. In the second half, the Eagles’ two touchdown drives alone consumed 27 plays and 13:20.
“We like to line up and run over people,’ said Goldthwaite center Cody Stevens. “We (linemen) love this kind of game. We knew they had some big guys, but they couldn’t hang with us.”
Eighteen of Goldthwaite’s 20 first downs came on running plays. All 33 of the Eagles’ plays in the second half were runs.
Albany (9-3) threatened to make a game of it when it took the second-half kickoff and scored on Ben Bumguardner’s 26-yard pass to Bruce Hobson to get within 14-7.
But in the game’s only uncertain moment, Goldthwaite took the ensuing kickoff and methodically drove 67 yards in 14 plays to reclaim the momentum for good. Quarterback Michael Williams converted a fourth-and-1 from the Lions’ 5-yard line with a 2-yard run. Then, Wade Clifton’s 1-yard scoring run that finished the six-minute drive gave the Eagles a 20-7 lead with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
“We were pumped up about being the underdog,” Wade Clifton said. “We wanted to prove to everybody and prove to ourselves that we could do it. We stuck it to them for four straight quarters.”
The Eagles finished off the Lions with a 13-play drive in the fourth quarter to took 7:26. All 13 plays were runs, none longer than 10 yards. Wade Clifton’s 1-yard touchdown made it 27-7 with 2:10 to play.
Goldthwaite’s defense also logged a solid effort, limiting Albany to 189 total yards. The Lions’ two touchdowns came on Bumguardner passes to Hobson and a 39-yarder to Andy Henson with 36 seconds left in the game.
“On defense, we knew we had to stop No. 22 (Henson) as a receiver, and we had to stop their backs,” Goldthwaite linebacker Bo Lindsey said. “We had to keep hitting them hard the whole game. We played Eagle football tonight. We played smashmouth.”
Goldthwaite led 14-0 at the half as its two quarterbacks figured in both touchdowns. Williams’ 2-yard run finished a game-opening, 65-yard drive that staked the Eagles to an early 7-0 lead.
The Eagles’ other first-half score came when Walt Clifton, on his first snap as the alternate quarterback, threw the 69-yard touchdown pass to Horton, who had sneaked well behind the Lions’ secondary. The long-range touchdown finished a 93-yard drive and gave Goldthwaite a 14-0 lead with 5:20 left before halftime.
The Eagles’ defense limited the Lions to three first downs and 79 total yards in the first half. Half of those yards came on the Lions’ opening drive that ran out of downs at the Eagles’ 22.