By Travis Mounts
The Clearwater Indians made a long road trip west to face the Holcomb Longhorns, but the trek home was a happy one after a 31-15 win in the Class 3A football playoffs.
The Indians kept the Longhorns fenced up and out of the end zone through three quarters, building a 25-0 lead.
Clearwater kept its attack focused on the ground and was willing to give up some passing yards to Holcomb, which outgained Clearwater 343-273 in total yards.
“We were willing to give up some yards,” said Clearwater head coach Jeremy Scheufler.
Holcomb threw for 272 yards but ran for just 71 yards. Meanwhile, the Indians ran for 226 yards against Holcomb, which had lost just once to another Sedgwick County team, falling 31-28 to Cheney last month.
Brock Toothaker got Clearwater’s first score on a 9-yard run in the first quarter. Tanner Cash added a defensive score on an interception deep in Longhorn territory that he ran back for a 14-0 lead.
Toothaker’s second touchdown run, an 18-yard carry in the second quarter, helped the Indians to a 20-0 halftime lead.
A 22-yard catch-and-run from Cash to Lane Pierce put Clearwater ahead 25-0, a lead they held until the final five minutes of the game.
Holcomb scored on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter, the second on a big pass play that covered 52 yards. That cut the Indians’ lead down to 25-15.
Cash put an exclamation point on Clearwater’s win with a 70-yard touchdown run. Cash ran for 158 yards and Toothaker added 69 more on the ground. Cash was 9-for-19 passing for 54 yards. Pierce had 37 yards on two catches, and Toothaker added 17 more.
Clearwater mistakes late in the game helped out Holcomb. There were back-to-back penalties on one drive, and a pair of turnovers inside the 20-yard line. The Indians also were without their kicker, who also is a member of the Campus Colts soccer team as part of an agreement that between the schools in Clearwater and Haysville that gives Clearwater students a chance to play high school soccer. (Campus lost 1-0, so the Indians will have their kicker back.)
Scheufler said the Indians were able to establish their run game on their opening drive, and there was no reason to turn away from it as they built a big first-half lead.
Clearwater’s defense was impressive, giving up only 101 total yards in the first three quarters of shutout football. The Indians forced Holcomb into five turnovers, including four interceptions. The Longhorns’ quarterback had only two interceptions all season.
“The defense played really, really well. It was at all three levels, the linebackers, the line and the secondary,” Scheufler said. “It’s a big road win.”
Clearwater’s offense didn’t have a big night, but that wasn’t the primary goal as the Indians wanted to chew up the clock and keep Holcomb’s passing game sidelined.
This week brings a huge but familiar challenge – another game at the No. 1 Andale Indians. It seems a little unfair for a 7-2 team to face the top team in the 3A West, but that’s how the district playoff format works. Teams are not seeded by record, other than to determine their positions within each district.
“We know who they are. I don’t think they’ll surprise us,” Scheufler said. “They do not lower their level for any competition. You are getting their best shot every single time.”
To pull off the upset, Clearwater will need to match Andale’s physical nature and not make mistakes. Andale does as good a job as any team of cashing in on an opponent’s errors.
Kickoff is 7 p.m.