2-A-DAYS: Clifton Cubs

CLIFTON, Texas (KWTX) If the Clifton Cubs end up repeating a perfect regular season like what they produced in 2018, the defense will need more of the consistency that was evident during their run to the playoffs.

The Cubs won 11 consecutive games but were stunned by a 24-21 overtime loss to Holliday in the second round of the playoffs. With a big senior class returning, any kind of similar early postseason loss would be a letdown.

"There's a high ceiling for these guys," head coach Chuck Caniford said. "We expect a lot out of them, not just with the work they put out here, but on Friday nights. The success they've had in the past, they've kind of created that animal themselves. I think that's the only difference -- our expectations are even higher than they normally are."

Clifton's current senior class was in seventh grade when Caniford took over as the Cubs' head coach in 2014.

They've got plenty of the skill positions returning, and their defense is capable of stifling opponents similar to what they did a season ago in which the Cubs allowed 28 points total in their first six games, including three shutouts.

"I'm feeling really confident," senior right tackle and linebacker Jake Sparkman said. "We've got a lot of the guys back. It's probably our biggest senior class we've had in a while. The sky's the limit."

Offensively, Clifton will rely on senior Mason Brandenberger, who passed for 1,504 yards and 21 touchdowns along with only three interceptions. The dual-threat quarterback also rushed for 882 yards and 14 scores.

His most reliable offensive teammates from last season are returning. Senior Riley Perry led the Cubs with 1,038 yards on the ground and 14 touchdowns, while TJ Ferch led the way with 681 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.

"They've been in those playoff games. They've felt the glory, they've felt the heartbreak and they know how special that is," Caniford said. "They're a super hungry group of kids. I think the key to our success is them really taking on that leadership role, helping those young guys that we need to step in to fill some of those voids we had from graduation to get over the hump and achieve our goals for this year."

Clifton will begin the season Friday, August 30, at Valley Mills.