Indians extinguish the Dragons

Tate Martin celebrates a first-half touchdown for Clearwater during the Indians’ victory over the Halstead Dragons.

By Travis Mounts

The Clearwater Indians scored 24 unanswered points to beat the visiting Halstead Dragons 31-20 last Friday, improving the Indians’ record to 3-2.
Clearwater has rebounded well from a two-game losing streak, winning its past two games by a combined score of 82-20.
“We felt pretty confident the whole game. We knew we’d be able to move the football,” said Clearwater head coach Jimmy McDowell.
But the Dragons kept hanging around after halftime. McDowell said the Indians could not finish off the Dragons until late.
Mistakes hurt Clearwater down the stretch, with a pair of fumbles in the fourth quarter. One came after a bad snap that the Indians could not pick up. Another drive went inside the 30-yard line but fizzled out.
Despite that, however, the Indians got the win, thanks in part to back-to-back-to-back touchdowns.
Trailing 12-7 in the second quarter, Clearwater’s Tyler Fugarino tossed a short pass to Cole Keesling, who did the rest of the work with his feet on a 57-yard score. Fugarino and Keesling connected again before halftime, this time on a 41-yard touchdown, as the Indians went up 21-12 at halftime.
Fugarino threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game in the third quarter, with Nick Warren catching it for a 23-yard touchdown. Connor Walcher made a 26-yard field goal later in the quarter to put the Indians ahead 21-12.
Halstead scored on a 63-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.
The Dragons got on the board first with a special teams play. The Indians muffed a Halstead punt in the first quarter, and the Dragons were able to grab the ball and score for a 6-0 lead. Clearwater went up 7-6 when Tate Martin caught a pass from Fugarino for a 34-yard touchdown. Still in the first quarter, Halstead regained the lead on a 10-yard touchdown run. The Dragons went for 2 points on both of their early touchdowns, and were stopped both times by Clearwater’s defense.
Clearwater gained 282 yards to 248 for Halstead, but the teams’ offenses were polar opposites. The Indians passed for 249 yards and ran for just 33, while the Dragons ran for 237 yards but passed for only 11 yards.
Fugarino was 10-for-30 with four touchdowns and an interception. Keesling was the top receiver with 114 yards and two scores. Tate Martin had 55 more yards and a touchdown. Four other receivers had catches. Aidan Brockman led the running game with 27 yards.
The victory puts the Indians in a good spot for making the playoffs; the top four teams in each six-team district advance to the 3A playoffs.
Now the Indians are fighting to host a first-round game. The challenge is a big one, as the Indians face Collegiate and Andale in consecutive weeks.
Clearwater will play at Collegiate this Friday. The Spartans are undefeated and ranked No. 2 in Class 3A. They rolled past Trinity Academy 56-7 last week.
McDowell said Collegiate’s defense looks to stop the run first, but unlike Clearwater’s last two foes, the Spartans try to do it without loading the box.
“Offensively, we’ll have to be well-balanced to keep their defense on its heels,” he said. Defensively, Clearwater needs to be assignment sound. Collegiate will show multiple looks and try to find the Indians’ weaknesses.