CLINTON — As the remaining punch of Tropical Storm Gordon hit Central Illinois Friday, the weather lightened for the start of Shelbyville's visit to Clinton and the beginning of the Central Illinois Conference schedule.
But the weather and the game wouldn't remain pleasant for the Rams. Clinton's defense held Shelbyville to just one score and the Maroons won 23-6 to improve to 3-0 start to the season for the first time since 2003.
Clayton Welch, Clinton wide receiver and strong safety, played well on both sides of the ball. He hauled in two touchdown passes from Maroons quarterback Ty Berter in the first and third quarter.
Welch also picked off Shelbyville quarterback Emric Messado two times.
Linebacker Christian Reynolds and defensive back Isaiah Schultz picked off Messado as well.
Welch's first quarter 30-yard touchdown catch was quickly answered by Shelbyville on a 62-yard touchdown run from Messado.
As the rain returned in the second quarter, the game slowed and the only scoring was a 32-yard field goal from Clinton kicker Joao Cocenza as the clock ran out on the half, giving Clinton the 10-6 lead.
Even with the wet conditions, Clinton found success through the air again, to Welch, with 9:43 left in the third quarter.
Welch said the conditions actually helped his performance.
"The rain made the ball and grass a little more slippery, of course, but I think that is the best type of football," Welch said. "It's a lot more fun slipping and sliding."
The air attack for the Maroons wasn't expected.
"I was a little surprised our passing was working, but we are always trying watch the ball in all the way on passes and our line was giving Ty a lot of time," Welch said.
Clinton topped off its scoring with a 24-yard run by Tyrese Petty in the final seconds of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter saw the rain pick up again and the game slowed as a methodical Maroons' drive down the field took more than half the quarter.
While pleased with the 23-6 victory, Clinton coach Chris Ridgeway said he sees a lot of room for improvement.
"I've got mixed feelings about tonight," Ridgeway said. "Offensively there were a lot of mistakes that we made. The rain is not an excuse for turnovers and things like that. I'm happy to get win but I know we have a lot more work to do."
As Clinton prepares for a visit to Meridian in Week 4, Ridgeway said he won't let the Maroons have a letdown.
"We need to keep working on that balance so we aren't so dependent on one aspect on either side of the ball," he said.
The Rams' defensive performance was right there with Clinton, minus a couple of blown plays.
"We just need to execute better. I'm happy with our defense, we played pretty well," Shelbyville coach Bill Duckett said. "I thought we had some real good tackles and really I felt like there were just about only three or four plays that we gave up. But take them away and we would have been right there."
Shelbyville will face Sullivan-Okaw Valley in Week 4.
"We've got to get better execution and better as coaches and get people in the right spot next week for Sullivan," Duckett said.
As the Clinton players rushed from the field and into the crowd near the stands, it was obvious that the Maroons' start to the 2018 season was something to celebrate.
"We are having a great time and you can tell," Welch said. "You can feel the vibe throughout the whole high school."