By DR. DAVID DAVIS
There was excitement in the air at the new Clear Creek ISD 10,000 seat Challenger Columbia Stadium that was hosting their first game ever between the Clear Springs Chargers and the Pearland Oilers.
The game was everything they had hoped for between two quality teams. The only disappointment was the home team didn’t win, but they put up a battle and proved they are a very quality team as the 2016 football season unfolds.
Pearland was the favorite to win the game, but it didn’t come without the unexpected fireworks, injuries, and mistakes.
“It was a game full of big plays and one full of mistakes,” Pearland head coach Tony Heath said. “We certainly didn’t plan on the quarterback (Connor Blumrick) going out on the third play of the game.”
Blumrick suffered a left ankle sprain and didn’t return. Fortunately for the Oilers, senior QB Jacob Whitehead stepped in and did what he was supposed to do as he has done in past years.
“He’s day-to-day,” Heath said of Blumrick. “We fully expect him to be back. We just put him in a boot for precautionary reasons.”
Meanwhile, Whitehead stepped in and was 15-of-20 passing for 54 yards and he carried the ball 11 times for 25 yards.
It was a see-saw game and it wasn’t decided until Pearland defensive back Colton Johnson picked up a Clear Springs fumble with 6:43 left in the game and returned it 52-yards for a touchdown giving the Oilers a 28-24 lead that eventually stood as the final score. But there still were some tense moments down to the last tick of the game clock.
The Oilers opened up the game with a 7-0 lead with 6:16 left in the opening period when Evan Burgess scored on a 3-yard blast. Jacob Keller added the PAT.
But Clear Springs tied up the game 7-7 on an 82-yard blocked field goal return with 1:07 left in the first quarter.
The fireworks continued as the Oilers produced a big play of their own when Justin Guy-Robinson gathered in the kickoff at his own 10 and then found an open lane to return the ball 90-yards for a sensational touchdown that brought the Pearland crowd to their feet in celebration. It gave Pearland a 14-7 lead with :53 seconds left still in the opening 12 minutes.
Clear Springs added a 33-yard field goal with only :13 seconds left in the first half to narrow the gap to 14-10.
The Chargers scored first in the second half on a 1-yard Todd Hudson plunge for a brief 17-14 advantage at the 2:36 mark of the third.
With only :29 seconds left in the third, Burgess scored his second touchdown on a 3-yard blast to give the Oilers a 21-17 lead.
However, the Chargers answered quickly with an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown of their own for a 24-21 advantage with :16 seconds still left in the third period.
Clear Springs held on to the lead until Johnson scooped up the Clear Springs fumble and sprinted 52-yards for the game-winning 28-24 score.
But the Oilers had to come up with a last minute defensive stand at their own four-yard line to come away with the hard-earned victory.
The Chargers weren’t going to go down easy and after Pearland scored on the fumble return, Clear Springs set up their offense at their own 6-yard line.
Clear Springs QB William McBride led the 14-play drive, completing four passes covering 48 yards while sophomore Todd Hudson gained 37 yards on the ground.
McBride tried to connect on a slant route to the end zone on fourth down from the nine yard line, but Pearland’s Debione Renfro made the play of the game with a deflection to allow Pearland to consume the remaining seconds.
“Debione did a great job of playing loose coverage, showing the slant, disguising it and then biting on it at the end,” Heath said. “That’s a great job of coach (Patrick) Sanders coaching him up.
“We were just blessed to get out of here with a victory. Coach Dailey has got those guys going in the right direction. That’s a good football team that’s going to have a great season.”
Pearland finished the game with 228 total yards. Burgess led the ground attack with 76 yards on 19 carries and Jaelin Benefield added 60 yards on 17 totes.
The Oilers defense came up with some key plays including three fumble recoveries by Colton Johnson, Eric Singleton, and Chase Keasler. Pearland also got a pass interception by Auston Deason.