BELLVILLE — It was a like a punch in the gut. Or a Staab in the heart.
Two lightning-quick touchdowns — the result of back-to-back fumbes — helped Ontario erase a 14-0 second quarter deficit Friday night in the valley. But just as quickly, Clear Fork sophomore Thomas Staab untied it with a 90-yard kickoff return and the Colts went on to a 42-24 victory to help commemorate Hall of Fame weekend at the school.
Even though Ontario took its first lead in the opening minutes of the third quarter, it barely had time to breathe. Staab answered again, this time countering Trevyian Jordan’s 5-yard TD by slicing 30 yards down the left side and diving the final two to put Clear Fork(1-1) back in front 28-24.
“I knew I had to answer back and make plays for the team,” Staab said. “We work in practice on getting good blocks and I can’t stress enough the blocking I had from this team. They created perfect creases for me.”
Ontario had converted a gusty fourth-and-two from its own 20 in taking its first lead, but was stopped on another critical fourth-and-short in the fourth quarter when secondary mates Jacob Lowe and Christian Reed dropped quarterback Alex Vredenburgh for a loss near midfield. With Staab doing a lot of the damage on the ground, the Colts tacked on an insurance TD, capped by quarterback Jarrod Smith’s two-yard run.
A deflected interception by Camden Robinette set up the final score, with Smith tacking on his third TD on a four-yard run. Smith also had a scoring pass on a night where he and the rest of the offense overcame those two costly fumbled exchanges — forced by defensive penetration — in the first half.
“They were blitzing their linebackers and we couldn’t stop it at first,” Smith said. “We figured out what was happening and ran the ball on them in the second half.”
The Warriors (0-2) barely kept Staab from taking the opening kickoff all the way, but his return to midfield set up Smith’s seven-yard TD keeper to give Clear Fork the early lead.
That was all the scoring until the 8:21 mark of the second quarter when Smith ducked pressure at the line of scrimmage and threw back to his left to a wide-open Zach Newlon for a 22-yard score.
“I saw the safety go off to the right and drop down into linebacker territory,” Smith said. “So even before I got pressured, I knew (Newlon) was going to be there, and I saw him out there wide open.”
That connection triggered a flurry of four touchdowns over the next four minutes, with the Warriors vaulting back into contention because of Clear Fork miscues.
Both turnovers happened deep in Colt territory. Lineman Sam Zimmerman picked up the first fumble and rumbled 29-yard for a score to put Ontario right back in the game. Clear Fork had barely processed what happened when another fumble set the Warriors up at the 5. They immediately capitalized on a TD run by Alex Schiffer to pull even with 4:46 left in the half.
That’s when Staab again put the special in special teams. And on this kickoff he would not be caught. He slipped one tackle at midfield and then another at the Ontario 5 to blunt Ontario’s momentum.
The Warriors weren’t done, though, either. Even though their ensuing drive stalled at the Clear Fork 11, Hunter Plew drilled a 28-yard field goal just before time expired in the first half.
In the second half, the Colts answered Ontario’s only lead with 21 unanswered points to pull away from trouble.
“We’ve adopted Urban Meyer’s rallying cry at Ohio State — E + R = O (event plus response equals outcome),” Clear Fork coach Dave Carroll said. “It’s all about responding to adversity. Same thing happened last week (in a 17-14 loss at Fredericktown). We were down 14 but came back and scored 14.
“It’s neat to hear the kids say ‘We’ve got to respond. OK, they scored. Now it’s our turn.'”
Clear Fork starts no seniors on offense and only one on defense.
“Our young guys on the offensive line picked up the (blitzes) in the second half and stopped them for the most part,” Carroll said. “I knew if we could get some penetration (from the OL), we’d get some yardage.”
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