The Clippers (5-2, 4-2 district) won the game without their quarterback, Robbie Hiser, who dressed but was sidelined by a shoulder injury. Hiser was able handle his responsibilities on the homecoming court and was named king during halftime festivities.
By that time the Clippers led 16-0. Dylan Bartells (21 carries, 184 yards, two touchdowns) and Marcus Spearman (six carries, 97 yards, one TD) were already on their way to big nights rushing.
Their running and the line's blocking kept first-time starter Jett Johnson (4-of-11 passing, 70 yards) from having put too much on his shoulders at quarterback. And a Grafton defense that produced six turnovers and limited the Lions (3-3, 3-3) to 70 first-half yards relieved Johnson of some pressure, too.
"We came together as a defense tonight," said defensive back Colby Underwood, who had two of the Clippers five interceptions. "We shut down that quarterback (Brett Guminsky) in every way."
The Clippers secondary benefited from great play up front from the likes of Josh Cooke, Jarod Goodman, Peter Park and Dylan Stallings, the all-state defensive end who was lights-out all game. In addition to several quarterback pressures, Stallings had at least five tackles that stopped the Lions for three yards or less.
"Warhill had a good line with good size," Stallings said. "I did my best to do anything positive.
"I think we're going in the right direction with a much more positive attitude."
Johnson gave the Clippers a lift on the game's first series, completing passes of 25 yards to Jesse Santiago and 22 yards to Cole Swartwood. That set up Brian Anderson's 23-yard field goal that gave the Clippers an early 3-0 lead.
Warhill was in the same boat as Grafton, with starting quarterback Seth Thompson sitting out with injuries. Spearman gave Guminsky (6-of-16, 70 yards, four interceptions), a harsh early welcome by tipping a pass that Swartwood intercepted and returned 25 yards to the Lions 5.
A play later, Bartells ran 5 yards untouched on a sweep right to give Grafton a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Underwood's first interception halted a Warhill drive at the Grafton 16.
The Clippers covered the 84 yards in two plays — a 26-yard run by Bartells and a 58-yard touchdown run by Spearman on an inside reverse — to give Grafton a 16-0 halftime lead. Underwood halted another Warhill threat late in the third quarter by cutting in front of Reggie Lipscomb to intercept a pass in the end zone.
Six plays later, Bartells zigged and zagged through the Warhill defense en route to a 50-yard touchdown run that pushed the Grafton lead to 23-0 with 9:55 to play. A 6-yard touchdown run by Lipscomb (19 carries, 102 yards) kept Grafton from pitching its second shutout in as many weeks.
But the Clippers got what they needed, a leg up on the Lions in the battle for a first-round bye and a home game in the semifinals in the Region I Division 4 playoffs.
"We needed this game to stay at the top of Division 4 and hopefully get home-field through the (regional) playoffs," Spearman said. "We were all excited and wanted it."
Grafton coach Jared Van Acker said, "It's a big win looking down the road, but we don't want to look too far down the road with a rivalry game next week against Tabb.
"You hate to have Hiser on the sideline, but the kids stuck together and said, 'Hey, we've got to up the ante now.' "
GRAFTON 23, WARHILL 6
Warhill 0 ;0 ;0; 6 – 6