Rangers fall late in opener; Friday night scoreboard
Momentum is a precious commodity for a team trying to turn its fortunes around.
The Sterling High School Rangers football team had it Friday night and had a chance to start a campaign with a complete 180-degree turn.
Yet, when the proverbial dust settled it would be Clear Creek’s Wildcats that survived with a 28-13 win on week one of the football season at Stallworth Stadium in front of a crowd of 1,500.
Still consider the Rangers opener a 140-degree almost flip of the script from a year earlier when Clear Creek ran past them in a 48-28 win.
In this rematch, Sterling held a 13-7 lead after three quarters, trailed by a point early in the fourth quarter and were within a possession until late in the ball game when the Wildcats finally put the game away.
But it wasn’t easy.
“We had the momentum at one point and time and we didn’t capitalize on a couple of plays,” Sterling head coach Robert Toomer said. “I am proud of them because we battled all night. We just ran out of gas and that’s conditioning. But it’s still night and day from last year. We had spring ball and they have learned to battle through adversity.”
Sterling was led on offense by EJ Hawkins who finished with 87 yards on 13 carries and 69 yards on two receptions. He was also backed by quarterback Jacob Landry who went 8-for-22 with 113 yards passing.
Clear Creek scored first on an Andrew Dry run after Sterling’s offense stagnated out of the gate. The disciplined Wildcats marched down the field with relative ease before finally punching the game’s first score in.
Then the Sterling defense got serious.
Neither team threatened in the second quarter although some untimely penalties on the Rangers defense allowed Clear Creek to get into field goal range, but that attempt ultimately missed and the teams went into the break with Clear Creek still holding a 7-0 lead.
Clear Creek fumbled the opening second half kickoff and within two-plus minutes the Rangers tied things on a Landry one-yard run with 9:35 left in the third quarter at 7-all.
Signs of the Sterling turnaround became more apparent when the Wildcats threatened to score following a long kickoff return by Lane Brewster put Clear Creek on the doorstep of the host’s end zone. But Sterling’s defense kept up the heat and forced another field goal attempt that the Wildcats again missed, and the game remained tied.
Then came the play that gave Sterling it’s highest peak of hope.
Landry unleashed a pass against heavy pressure to wide receiver Hawkins who went up against one-on-one coverage, outleapt the Wildcat defensive back and broke free for a 64-yard touchdown catch and run.
After a missed point-after conversion, the Rangers looked up and saw themselves leading with 4:08 left in the third quarter.
“We have definitely improved, but we have to learn from our mistakes,” Hawkins said. “We have to get this right. We felt confident coming in that we were going to win, but things happen. We’re going to bounce back though
“We need to stay focused during the game and keep our intensity.”
That precious momentum the Rangers captured quickly slipped from their fingers as the Wildcats seized the lead a minute into the fourth quarter on Dry’s second touchdown run – an eight-yard variety – and the successful PAT gave the visitors the lead for good at 14-13.
A key Sterling fumble when it was driving again into Clear Creek territory would lead to another Wildcat touchdown, a 31-yard scoring pass from Dry to Jeremiah Cams – who made a shoestring catch - and a 21-13 edge with 6:14 left to go.
“That turnover was huge,” Toomer said.
Toomer also noted younger players get fatigued and that’s when mistakes happen.
“But they have the will to not give up,” he said. “We were definitely better tonight.”
A King Ketchum 57-yard scoring run with four minutes left clinched the margin of victory for Clear Creek.
The Rangers head coach noted the solid play of his defense and his special teams, especially Alejandro Padron.
Toomer can see his team improving every day and it’s world’s apart from a year ago at the same time.
“Last year we were coaching these kids on the fly and if people paid attention to our scrimmage last week against Barbers Hill we have improved tremendously,” Toomer said. “I told the kids to not get comfortable with losing. You didn’t see anyone moping and they were energetic and excited to play.
“This was a one possession game, but we have to make plays when there is time to make plays. We have to do a better job to get prepared.”
Sterling travels to Aldine Nimitz for a 7 p.m. next Friday kickoff. Nimitz beat Channelview, 21-17 to open its season.
CLEAR CREEK 28, STERLING 13
CC 7 0 0 21 = 28
RSS 0 0 13 0 = 13
CC - Andrew Dry 1-run (Christian Hernandez PAT), 5:38
RSS - Jacob Landry 1-run (Alejandro Padron PAT), 9:35
T EJ Hawkins 64-pass from Landry (PAT failed), 4:08
CC - Dry 8-run (Hernandez PAT), 11:05
CC - Jeremiah Cams 31-pass from Dry (Hernandez PAT), 6:14 shoestring 3rd
CC - King Ketchum 57-run (Hernandez PAT), 4:00
OTHER SCORES of INTEREST
C.E. KING 15, New Caney Porter 0
BEAUMONT UNITED vs. St. Pius X, tba
LA PORTE 42, Clear Brook 10
DEER PARK 25, Port Arthur Memorial 20
WEST BROOK 55, Bellaire 35
District 9-5A I
C.E. King 15, NEW CANEY PORTER 0
Deer Park 25, Port Arthur Memorial 20
NEW CANEY 28, Crosby 8
Angleton 38, KINGWOOD PARK 7
District 12-5A II
BAYTOWN LEE 52, Houston Westbury 0
Magnolia 35, BARBERS HILL 10
New Caney 28, CROSBY 8
Friendswood 42, DAYTON 0
PORT NECHES GROVES 48, Silsbee 35
West Orange-Stark 21, NEDERLAND 20
District 12-3A I
Tarkington 53, ANAHUAC 28
Little Cypress-Mauriceville 21, Woodville 7
WARREN 27, Huntington 17
Newton 76, KIRBYVILLE 0
EAST WINNIE CHAMBERS 58, Kountze 0
BUNA 34, Cleveland 7
HARDIN 33, Beaumont Legacy Christian 7
ORANGEFIELD 58, Houston KIPP 0