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Coach Mike Donnelly and his Clay Eagles couldn t help but wonder if they were headed for a repeat of last week s overtime disappointment.
After the Eagles failed to convert on fourth down with 3:26 left in the fourth quarter, host Springfield and its dynamic senior quarterback Eric Page were just eight points down and 69 yards away from potentially forcing overtime.
A week earlier at Anthony Wayne, Clay fell 52-46 in five overtimes. This time, the 2-1 Eagles held on for a 43-35 victory in regulation!
It s always a better feeling when you re on the other side of that, but I can t take many more of these, Donnelly said. Our defense came up with some big [late] stops. Our offense made some mistakes tonight, and our defense was able to respond at the right time.
The bottom line in this win was that Clay had two primary offensive weapons to offset the dangerous Page, and the Eagles defense rose to the challenge down the stretch to preserve the victory.
Workhorse Clay running back Mike Toth carried 32 times for 190 yards and scored five touchdowns, including one on a 40-yard pass from quarterback Drew Kuns.
Toth is a great running back, Kuns said. He s a power guy, and he won t let anyone blow him back. He ll run you over. I had a few third-down conversions that helped the game go our way.
We re a very clock-oriented team. We like to keep the ball in our hands so the other offense can t manage our games. We did a great job of that. It s great to get a win against a great player like Eric. We were a little down after last week, but we stepped it up this week.
Kuns completed 17 of his 23 passes for 222 yards and two scores. His other TD pass was an 11-yarder to Jeremy Jago in the first quarter. Kuns is 58 of 77 for 720 yards and five TDs in three games.
It s always nice to be able to run and pass, Donnelly said. If you can mix it up and keep defenses off balance, you re going to be able to move the ball. Against a great player like Eric Page, and a feisty team like Springfield, if we didn t have that balance, we probably would not have won tonight.
Clay s balance was enough to keep a step ahead of Page, who ran 26 times for 227 yards and scored four TDs, one on a 62-yard punt return to get the Blue Devils (2-1) within 33-27 with 3:08 left in the third quarter.
They did to us what we wanted to do to them, Springfield coach Dave Connelly said of Clay s 30:40 to 17:20 edge in possession time. I give credit to Mike and his coaches and the kids from Clay. They played hard all game long, and they executed better than we did. You deserve to win when you do that.
Page, who rushed for 2,039 yards and passed for 1,137 as a junior, now has 794 rushing yards, 400 more passing, and has scored 14 TDs this season.
Toth answered Page s punt return TD with a six-yard scoring run 1:18 into the final quarter, and Clay extended the edge to 43-27 on Jimmy Dunsmore s 26-yard field goal with 8:53 to play.
But Page kept Springfield s hopes alive with five runs covering all 52 yards of the Devils final TD drive. His one-yard plunge and subsequent two-point conversion run with 6:41 remaining got Springfield within striking range.
The Devils got past midfield on their final drive, but a personal-foul penalty backed them up, and Clay s Tyler TenEyck sealed things by intercepting a Page pass at the Eagle 25 with 1:20 to play. Matt Row had two earlier interceptions for Clay against Page, who was 3 of 11 passing for 24 yards.
Page and Toth each scored a pair of rushing TDs in the first half, which closed in a 20-20 tie.
My line blocked for me, and Drew opened up the run game with his passing, and the receivers caught the ball, Toth said. We did what we needed to do.
But I ll give the credit to our defense. They stepped it up at the end.
The Blue Devils other first-half TD came when Kuns was sacked for an eight-yard loss and fumbled. Springfield s Patrick Hartman scooped up the loose football and ran it 31 yards to the end zone 7:59 before the break.
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