By Travis Mounts
A 42-20 home win over the Rose Hill Rockets moved the Clearwater Indians to 2-0 this season.
It was a solid win for the Indians, but they saw plenty of room for improvement as they look ahead to their district schedule, which begins in a week.
Head coach Jeremy Scheufler saw plenty of positive things to build on, as well as things to focus on ahead of this Friday’s trip to Mulvane. The team played hard, he said, and made improvements from Week 1.
“Offensively, our execution was quite a bit better. We made a lot of big plays,” he said. “Defensively, we pressured the quarterback at times and had several players have really good performances. The main thing is the team improved from Week 1 to Week 2, and it was substantial.”
Clearwater jumped out to a 22-0 first-half lead over the Rockets. The Rockets were able to find some offensive success after halftime, although each Rose Hill score was answered by the Indians putting points on the scoreboard.
The Indians drove 66 yards on their first drive, after a Rose Hill punt, taking a 7-0 lead on Tanner Cash’s 1-yard run.
The defense stepped up next, forcing Rose Hill into a field goal attempt that was blocked by Brett Gibbs. The Indians then scored on the ensuing drive for a 14-0 lead, driving 80 yards. Cash connected with Brock Toothaker on a 22-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds left in the first quarter.
Rose Hill found itself in good position late in the first half, staring at the Indians’ 44-yard line following a Clearwater punt. They weren’t able to do much, and punted back to the Indians with 1:24 to play.
The Indians looked content to run out the clock, but a third-down pass from Cash to Toothaker turned into a 28-yard gain to the Rose Hill 49-yard line. On the next play, Cash found Lane Pierce open at the 11, who grabbed the pass and ran it in for a score with 14 seconds left. Clearwater then faked the kick as holder Tate Martin tossed it to Nick Warren for the 2-point conversion and a 22-0 halftime edge.
Clearwater was poised to ground the Rockets on the opening drive of the second half. The Indians drove 50 yards to the Rockets’ 24, but the drive stalled and Clearwater attempted a field goal. But the kick was blocked, and the Rockets scooped up the ball and returned it for a touchdown and a 22-7 score.
The Indians needed just four plays to respond, as Cash found Warren open over the middle, and he scampered 69 yards for a touchdown.
These were the first two of five touchdowns on consecutive drives. A good kickoff return helped the Rockets to a 55-yard drive that cut the score to 29-14. Clearwater answered with a 72-yard, five play drive and a 38-yard touchdown. Cash found Toothaker open in the left flat, and Toothaker did the rest for a 35-14 lead.
Rose Hill put together another scoring drive, going 70 yards for the game’s final touchdown. The point after was blocked by Cash.
Clearwater added an insurance touchdown with 4:17 to play, when Cash broke free on 2nd-and-12 for a 55-yard touchdown run.
The teams combined for nearly 900 yards. The Indians had 508 yards. Cash passed for 375, going 14-21. He rushed for 121 more and two touchdowns, and Toothaker ran for 33. Toothaker was the top receiver, with 197 yards, going 7-for-9 on receptions. Pierce was 3-for-5 for 85 yards, and Pierce’s lone catch was good for 69 yard. Rose Hill gained 380 yards, with 294 coming through the air.
The Indians go to Mulvane this Friday. The Wildcats are 0-2 and haven’t scored any points as they work to replace more than 20 seniors, but they did open the season against Collegiate and Andale, two of the state’s very best programs.
Scheufler wants the Indians focused in this game. Clearwater beat Mulvane by just a single point last year. And the coach is quick to point out that before last year’s game, the Indians had not beaten Mulvane since the early 1990s.
“They’re still Mulvane, and they’re still capable,” Scheufler said. Instead, he wants to Indians to put their attention on fixing the tings they could have done better in the previous two games.