Junior running back Xai’Shaun Edwards’ 6-yard touchdown run with 1:25 left in the game capped a stunning second-half comeback by the Clear Springs Chargers, who defeated the Dickinson Gators 38-35 Friday night at Sam Vitanza Stadium in the teams’ District 24-6A opener.
“I’m just extremely proud of our guys — our resiliency, how hard they fought, the way they played,” Clear Springs head football coach Anthony Renfro said. “That’s an outstanding football team, and coach (John) Snelson does a great job.”
An 18-yard TD run on a QB keeper by Dickinson’s John Soloman gave the Gators a 35-21 lead at the 4:39 mark of the third quarter, but the Chargers took advantage of three fourth-quarter turnovers to help fuel their comeback, which began with a 46-yard burst up the middle by quarterback Brendan Malloy on Clear Springs’ ensuing possession to cut the deficit in half at 35-28.
Dickinson’s defense held firm early in the fourth quarter after the offense lost a fumble, but were unable to turn the Chargers’ offense back after muffing the ensuing punt.
After taking over near midfield, a 25-yard run by Malloy helped get place kicker Xander Fraga in range, and the senior blasted a 37-yard field goal to pull Clear Springs within 35-31 with 4:31 still left to play.
A three-and-out possession saw Dickinson punt from deep in its own territory to set Clear Springs’ offense near midfield again, and a 15-yard defensive facemask followed by a 26-yard reception by Ashton Schumann preceded Edwards’ game-winning run.
An interception by Jason Doswell, who also had a sack that stalled a promising Gators drive at the end of the third quarter, on Dickinson’s final possession sealed the win.
“Our coaches did an outstanding job at halftime of making adjustments and challenging our kids to not lose focus when things weren’t going our way,” Renfro said. “Our kids never panicked, and our coaches did a great job.”
The Gators scored two touchdowns inside the first half’s final 2 minutes to take a 28-14 advantage into the halftime break.
First, Dickinson capped a six-play, 72-yard scoring drive with a 26-yard passing TD connection from Soloman to Jeremiah Scoby for a 21-14 lead at the 1:54 mark of the second quarter.
Then, after three straight Clear Springs incomplete passes and a punt only ticked 30 seconds off the game clock, the Gators used a 38-yard screen pass to KJ Williams to set up a powerful 26-yard TD run on the QB keeper by Soloman for the 28-14 lead with 8 seconds left in the first half.
Each team scored on their first offensive possessions of the second half. A 5-yard Malloy TD run ended a meticulous 10-play, 63-yard Clear Springs scoring drive to open the second half before the Gators answered with Soloman’s aforementioned scoring burst.
The two teams also traded TDs back and forth to start the contest.
Dickinson took advantage of a short field after a Chargers muffed punt recovered by Mason Williams, capping a 43-yard scoring possession with a 3-yard TD run on fourth-and-goal from Soloman for a 7-0 advantage at the 7:30 mark of the first quarter.
Clear Springs answered back almost immediately by reaching deep in the playbook, as the receiver Schumann took a pitch, dropped back to pass and found a wide-open Jarius Williams for a 54-yard TD pass and a 7-all score.
A 37-yard rumble by Soloman sparked a quick Dickinson TD drive, which ended with a 6-yard TD run by Williams for a 14-7 lead 1:07 into the second quarter.
The Chargers caught Dickinson’s secondary off-guard again to set up their second TD, as a 52-yard pass from Malloy to an open Schumann netted 52 yards to help set up a 3-yard TD run by Edwards that tied the score 14-14 at the 5:45 mark of the second quarter.
Clear Springs’ (3-2, 1-0 in District 24-6A) path doesn’t get any easier against another tough opponent 7 p.m. next Friday versus Clear Falls (4-1, 1-0) at Challenger Columbia Stadium.
The Gators (3-2, 0-1) will have a bye week to recover before facing Clear Falls themselves in two weeks.