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Clement gains confidence leading Locos’ offense

The ball comes out of Chase Clement’s right hand with purpose and decisiveness. More often than not, it hits its intended target.

That’s what comes with job security and experience. Clement, the Locomotives’ starting quarterback, has no need to fear being benched. He has earned his spot as coach Jim Fassel’s go-to guy, and it has been that way since training camp.

“Yeah, I’ve seen the difference,” said Clement, who leads the Locos (1-0) against Virginia (1-0) in the Destroyers’ United Football League home opener in Virginia Beach today. “Going into a second year of an offense is huge. You know the playbook. You know the guys you’re working with. There’s a trust that gets built up over time as you work together. I’m making decisions quicker. I’ve grown a lot, no question.”

Clement, then the third-string quarterback, took over in late October after starter Tim Rattay was lost for the season because of an Achilles tendon injury and backup Drew Willy proved ineffective. Clement led the Locos to the UFL championship game and was the Most Valuable Player after throwing for 237 yards and two touchdowns as Las Vegas beat the Florida Tuskers 23-20 to win their second straight title.

The Tuskers are now the Destroyers, so they have a history with the Locos. With Marty Schottenheimer having taken over from Jay Gruden as coach, Fassel isn’t sure what the Destroyers will do tonight in an attempt to slow Clement and the Locos’ offense. Las Vegas racked up 336 total yards during last week’s season-opening 23-17 win at Sacramento.

“They were in their base defense (against Omaha) and didn’t deviate much from it,” Fassel said of the Destroyers. “Once again, we’re probably looking at making adjustments as we go along. But that’s where having an experienced quarterback who knows your system really helps. Chase does a great job of preparing. He’ll be ready for whatever they throw at us.”

Clement, who played at Rice, has handled the faster pace of the UFL. What he’s trying to do is stay patient.

“Last year, I would look at my first and second reads, and if nobody was open, I’d take off and try to make a play using my legs,” he said. “This year, I’m trying to stay in the pocket more, look for the third or fourth options. Our (offensive) line is better, so I’m getting a little extra time, and that makes a big difference.”

Clement has most of his weapons back from last year and said the Locos expect to score on every possession.

“Realistically, you’re not going to score a touchdown every time,” he said. “But that’s our mindset. No matter where we start a drive, we’re thinking end zone.”

If the Locos find the end zone enough times tonight, they’ll take a huge step toward getting a chance to go for a third straight title. A win would make them 2-0 with three of the final four regular-season games at Sam Boyd Stadium.

“It’s a critical game,” Clement said. “They’re a team we have a history with, and we know it’s going to be a competitive situation. But we have a lot of leaders on this team who understand the importance of a game like this. We had a good week of practice, and I know we’ll be ready.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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