With the District 24-6A title on the line, the Clear Springs Chargers got off to a fast start and were able to hold off an explosive Clear Lake Falcons team for a 35-27 win Friday at Challenger Columbia Stadium.
“Every time they got the momentum, we found a way to get it back on our side,” Clear Springs head coach Craig Dailey said. “That’s a good job of our kids not letting it go the wrong way.”
The win gives Clear Springs (7-2 overall, 6-1 in district) its second consecutive 24-6A championship, with Clear Lake (7-3, 5-2), Friendswood (7-3, 5-2) and Dickinson (7-2, 5-2) also representing the district in the playoffs.
Clear Springs hosts Pearland, Clear Lake hosts Richmond George Ranch, Friendswood takes on Pearland Dawson at The Rig, and Dickinson faces Alief Hastings at Crump Stadium at times and dates still to be determined.
Clear Springs drew first blood on the opening possession of the game with a nice kickoff return by Michael Gillaspia (five receptions, 31 yards) and a 1-yard QB sneak touchdown up the middle by Garrett Rooker (12-for-22, 230 yards, two TDs passing) bookending a meticulous 48-yard drive, for a 7-0 lead at the 8:40 mark of the opening period.
The Chargers padded their lead to 14-0 at the 3:27 mark of the first quarter with a 30-yard TD pass from Rooker to Peyton Sawyer (five receptions, 159 yards, two TDs) capping a similar scoring drive as the first.
“We preach about fast starts, that’s what we want to do — force people to play from behind,” Dailey said.
Clear Lake battled back with a long scoring drive of its own, with Brendon Holmes getting into the end zone on a 1-yard run to cut the Falcons’ deficit to 14-7 with 38 seconds left in the first quarter.
A 9-yard scamper to the end zone by the Chargers’ Todd Hudson II pushed the Clear Springs lead back to 21-7 at the 9:22 mark of the second quarter, but Clear Lake responded with two big plays.
First, the Falcons defense stuffed Hudson II on a fourth-and-2 run at the 30-yard line, and then a 66-yard pass from Shae Suiaunoa (16-for-28, 276 yards, three TDs, two interceptions) to Kris Mason (seven receptions, 113 yards, two TDs) got the score to 21-14 with 4:13 left in the first half.
Clear Lake made things interesting on a 71-yard pass-and-catch TD from Suiaunoa to Ja’Kori Morgan at the 7:37 mark of the third quarter, but a PAT kick wide right kept Clear Springs ahead, 21-10.
Just when it looked like all the momentum was flowing the Falcons’ way, the Chargers’ Seth Porter came through with an interception, and on the very next play, Rooker found Sawyer for an 80-yard TD reception for a 28-20 lead with 4:35 left in the third quarter to swing the game back in favor of the Chargers.
At the 8:50 mark of the fourth quarter, Clear Springs got the back-breaking scoring drive, capped by a 4-yard sprint to the end zone by Isaiah Bibb (filling in for Hudson, who reportedly suffered a sprained knee in the second quarter) for the 35-20 lead.
Clear Lake added a score on a 9-yard TD pass from Suiaunoa to Mason with 1:20 left in the game, but Clear Springs recovered the ensuing onside kick to put the game on ice.
“We knew it was going to be a war,” Dailey said. “They’re very talented on both sides of the football. And that’s the type of football you expect at this time of the year. It’s going to be a war every week now.”