League City–Star player C.J. McElroy could hardly contain his joy.
McElroy was devastated and in tears last Friday after crosstown rival Clear Springs routed Clear Creek 44-21, forcing his Wildcats into a must win situation for a playoff berth in the season’s final week.
C.J. felt no pressure–he savored the moment.
McElroy rushed for 228 yards on 19 carries and had 3 rushing TD’s to go along with 1 receiving TD as Creek defeated arch-rival Clear Lake 38-17 Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium to clinch a playoff spot for the 8th time in the last 11 seasons.
“It feels good,” McElroy said with a smile he couldn’t help but to express. “We have a great club with great chemistry on this team and we overcame adversity and we showed up well to beat Lake.”
The Wildcats (7-3, 4-3), who will play in the 5A Division II bracket, will await results from 23-5A action Saturday night that will determine the team they will play in the first round. They will be the second seeded team from District 24-5A by virtue of their loss to Dickinson, the other Division II representitive who also finshed 4-3 in district play. Undefeated district champion Pearland and Clear Springs will represent 24-5A in Dvision I.
“Our team worked hard and diligently all summer long and all through the year and they came out to do what they had to do tonight [to clinch a playoffs spot]” Creek Head Coach Darrell Warden said, still partially soaked from a Gatorade shower the team gave him in the closing seconds.
The Wildcats never trailed and led by double digets for almost the entire night but for one brief second half stretch Lake (4-6, 2-5) appeared ready to spoil Creek’s postseason bid and keep their faint playoff hopes alive. After a 21 yard TD run by Falcon runningback Justin Jordan with :16 seconds left in the third quarter that cut the Creek lead to 31-17, Lake went for an onside kick. The kick was initially retrieved by Roburt Laskoskie at the Creek 45 but the Wildcat linebacker was blasted immediately by the Lake defense, causing him to fumble it away and the Falcons recovered the ball at the 50 yard line.
The Falcons began driving, looking to cut their deficit to single digets for the first time since the latter half of the first quarter but Lake halfback Michael Bernay was bottled up one yard short on an option pitch by the Creek defense on 4th down and 3 to go, turning the ball over on downs.
After taking over, Colby Davis, who finished the night with 123 yards on 16 carries, and McElroy methodically helped Creek chew up time and yardage before McElroy scored his fourth and final TD of the night on a 9 yard carry to put the game away.
“This team has been fighting all along but I take off my hats to them for the way they played with their backs against the wall,” said Falcon Head Coach Troy Aduddell. “Creek was the better team tonight and their coaches did a good job but I’m proud our kids–we played hard, we had a chance to make it at the end and there’s no more you can ask for.”
The Wildcats took the opening drive of the game into the red zone but it stalled at the 8 yard line with 10:54 remaining in the first quarter after an unsuccessful throw into the end zone on fourth down. Lake couldn’t capitalize on it and punted to receiver Tevin Jones, who sifted through the right side of the Falcon punt return coverage team to score the game’s first TD with 8:47 remaining in the first quarter.
“We got stopped on the opening drive and we had to find a way to get our rhythm back,” said Jones. “I scored a touchdown, it got the team hyped up and we scored more and more points,” he said.
Lake started the ensuing drive drive off well and a few plays into it Bernay ran past the secondary for a 15 yard gain but had the ball knocked loose at the 50 yard line, allowing Creek to recover at it’s own 45. Tanner Graeber eventually kicked a 25 yard field goal to make it 10-0 with 4:16 remaining in the first quarter. Undeterred, the Falcons again began methodically moving the ball down the field but running back Sean McCraney fumbled inside the Wildcats 30 yard line, where the Wildcats recovered late in the quarter. McElroy ended the drive with a 33 yard TD run with 10:51 left in the second period.
“Anytime you get a turnover it’s good because it stops the momentum of the other team,” Warden said. “Both of the turnovers we got we capitalized on and we’ve been real good about that all year,” he said.
McElroy added a 5 yard TD run with 6:02 remaining in the first half before Lake drove down the field and scored on a Jordan 3 yard TD run to make it 24-7 just before halftime, allowing the Falcons to keep some hope alive headed into the lockerroom.
In the losing effort, Lake quarterback Karson Roberts ran for 103 yards on 21 carries, Jordan ran for 67 yards on 9 carries and scored the Falcons only TD’s while McCraney ran for 61 yards on 17 carries. Bernay finished with 46 yards on 8 carries.
Clear Lake………0 7 10 0–17
Clear Creek…..10 14 7 7–38