The Tigers’ hopes of rebounding from two successive tough losses evaporated Friday night when the University Sharks scored the go ahead touchdown with only 13 seconds remaining in the game.
It was a big district win for the Sharks and a tough pill to swallow for the Tigers who failed to score when given the opportunities and gave up three big plays for touchdowns.
Clewiston won the toss but deferred and the strategy seemed to work as linebacker Maurice Murphy picked off a pass from Sharks quarterback Henry Columbi at the University 45. A quick completion from quarterback Davis Witt to wideout Anthony Walker for 22 yards got halfway to a score. Flanker Reginald Henderson then pulled in a 16 yard pass from Witt and the Tigers were first and goal at the 5. The Sharks defense stiffened and forced a 27 yard field goal attempt which they blocked.
The Tigers got the ball back at their 34 with 4:50 remaining in the opening period. With the normally punishing running game not working, Witt had completions of 33 and 14 yards to tight end Andre Taylor to get the ball to the Sharks’ 9 yard line. It took Clewiston five running plays, delayed by a penalty for illegal procedure, to finally score with fullback Maurice Murphy getting the final yard with 42 seconds left in the first. Kicker Colt Flynn nailed the first of three successful point after kicks.
The Sharks came right back with a 41 yard kickoff return near midfield. On the second snap, junior quarterback Henry Columbi rolled left to pass, saw an open running lane down the middle and raced untouched for a 55 yard touchdown.
The Tigers broke the tie late in the half after linebacker Teandre Johnson pounced on a fumble at the University 31 with 4:59 remaining. On the third play, Henderson raced into the end zone and outjumped the defender for a 30 yard scoring pass from Witt. After six exchanges of possessions in the remaining time, the Tigers went to the intermission nursing a 14-7 lead.
Clewiston could not move the opening second half kickoff and punted. On their third down, Sharks’ freshman running back Kenny McIntosh broke loose and scampered 68 yards for a score. The extra point knotted the game at 14.
The Tigers then put together an 8 play, 70 yard drive and scored with tailback Isaiah Jackson getting the final yard with 4:42 left in the third. Jackson contributed hard runs of six and 24 yards in the drive and Witt had completions of 7 yards to flanker Tyrin Summers and 19 to his tight end Taylor.
With a 21-14 lead and feeling as if perhaps they had regained some momentum, the Tigers quickly learned otherwise. It only took four plays for the Sharks to pull the game back to even when Columbi connected with wide receiver Darnell Fleury who raced down the Tiger sideline for a 58 yard touchdown. The play came on a fourth down and three yards to go situation with the Sharks simply trying to get a first down.
The final period began with the Sharks driving for a score when safety Reginald Henderson picked off his second pass of the game and gave the Tiger offense the ball at their 9 with 7:37 left in the game. A pass interference call kept the drive alive and then Witt connected with Henderson on another leaping catch near midfield. Aided by another 15 yard penalty, Clewiston reached the Sharks’ 16 before running out of downs. Colt Flynn lined up for a 34 yard field goal attempt and again a University defender broke through and deflected the effort.
The Sharks got even a bigger bonus on the blocked field goal when Joshua Sanguinetti picked up the live ball in the end zone and raced down the far sideline on a 54 yard return. With only 1:40 left, the game seemed to be heading for overtime. But the Sharks kept moving the ball with a mixture of short runs and timely passes to get the ball to the Tiger 3. Columbi then connected with McIntosh slipping out of the backfield for a 3 yard pass and giving the Sharks the lead for the first time all night.
Clewiston got the ball back with 5 seconds but the best they could muster was a 31 yard scramble by Witt after he was forced to run the ball. The Tigers’ season record is now 2-3 and 0-1 in district play. University improved to 4-1 with a 2-0 district record.
In his talk with the team after the game, Tiger coach Pete Walker was obviously disappointed but told the team, “you played hard, you didn’t quit, we were playing a good team and hold your heads up.” He singled out Andre Taylor for a solid performance. Taylor pulled in five passes for 75 yards and held on to three catches despite crushing tackles by the Sharks just as he caught the ball.
At his defensive safety position, Reginald Henderson had two interceptions. On the other side of the ball, he had five catches for 88 yards and the touchdown. Linebacker Teandre Johnson led tacklers with 7 solos, an assist and the fumble recovery.
Statistically, the game was evenly matched. However, allowing three Sharks touchdowns on long plays, two blocked field goals and the inability of the Tigers to consistently run the ball were the differences in the game. The Tiger running game was not helped by leading rusher Menta’ Jones having to sit out the game due to symptoms from a lingering head concussion injury. Clewiston intercepted three passes and had a fumble recovery and had a three takeaway advantage but only got points off one of the turnovers.
Clewiston 7 7 7 7 – 21
University 7 0 14 7 – 28
1Q: Clewiston: Maurice Murphy 1 yd run, Kick Colt Flynn; University: Henry Columbi 55 yd run, Kick Jesse Miot
2Q: Clewiston: Reginald Henderson 30 yd pass from Davis Witt, Kick Colt Flynn
3Q: University: Kenny McIntosh 68 yd run, Kick Jesse Miot; Clewiston: Isaiah Jackson 1 yd run, Kick Colt Flynn;
University: Darnell Fleury 58 yd pass from Henry Columbi, Kick Jesse Miot
4Q: University: Kenny McIntosh 3 yd pass from Henry Columbi, Kick Jesse Miot
Rushing: Clewiston: Isaiah Jackson 8/44; Tyrin Summers 16/37; Maurice Murphy 6/40; Davis Witt 4/26; Keshawn Davis 2/8;
Markevious Terry 1/5
Passing: Clewiston: Davis Witt 28/13/1 200
Receiving: Clewiston: Reginald Henderson 2/88; Andre Taylor 5/75; Tyrin Summers 2/15; Anthony Walker 1/22