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Published: Saturday, 9/11/2010

Eagles hold off Devils: Another tight finish for Clay

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

For the third straight week, Clay went right down to the wire and, as the old saying goes, "Two out of three ain't bad."

The visiting Eagles held a 17-6 lead Fridaynight but had to hold on in the closing seconds as Springfield junior Leroy Alexander did his best to pull off a miracle finish before Clay prevailed 17-14 in a nonleague football game.

James Huss tackled Blue Devils receiver Jordan Takats at the Eagles' 30-yard line as time expired to preserve the win and lift Clay to 2-1.

Takats had caught a 15-yard pass from Alexander after the latter's mad scramble to elude the Clay pass rush.

Clay quarterback Josh Utter looks to pass against Springfield as Kyle Steveson provides protection in the backfield. Utter completed 5 of 13 passes for 102 yards. Clay quarterback Josh Utter looks to pass against Springfield as Kyle Steveson provides protection in the backfield. Utter completed 5 of 13 passes for 102 yards.
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"Our kids didn't ever quit," first-year Springfield coach Rob Materni said. "They kept playing hard, and they fought their way back into that game. They tried to give us a chance to win, but we just came up short."

Alexander - who rushed 15 times for 173 yards and completed 5-of-11 passes for 55 yards - had driven Springfield from its 8-yard line with 1:06 remaining.

"I'm about tired of the 'Cardiac Kids' for three weeks in a row," Clay coach Mike Donnelly said. "But I'm glad we came away with the win.

"Offensively, we need to start getting better. We're not doing the little things right now, and we're letting other teams stay in the game."

Springfield's Leroy Alexander gets past Clay's Nick Roman (6) and Cody Kish in Friday night's game. Springfield's Leroy Alexander gets past Clay's Nick Roman (6) and Cody Kish in Friday night's game.
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Clay beat Northview 14-7 in overtime in Week 1, then lost 21-14 to Perrysburg last week on a Yellow Jackets touchdown pass in the final 10 seconds.

The Eagles prevailed this time despite being outgained 343-250 in total offense by Springfield, which dropped to 1-2 entering Northern Lakes League play.

Clay struck first in the game. On third-and-14 from his 33, Eagles quarterback Josh Utter (5-of-13, 102 passing yards) hit Bobby Hoffman on a 67-yard TD pass down the left sideline for a 7-0 lead with 1:57 left in the first quarter.

The Blue Devils had a golden scoring opportunity midway in the second quarter after Alex Grogg's 15-yard run to the Clay 12. But, one play later, Alexander lost a fumble at the Clay 8.

Late in the half, the Eagles' kicking game was responsible for a 10-point halftime lead.

Clay junior Ross Achter bailed the Eagles out of poor field position by booming a 74-yard punt to the Springfield 5 with 3:17 left in the half.

Unable to earn a first down, the Devils punted, and Clay was able to set up Jimmy Dunsmore's 42-yard field goal 15 seconds before the break.

"The kicking game was huge, and that's one thing we always concentrate on in practice," Donnelly said. "That's the one thing I think we can take advantage of with our [lack of] size."

Alexander got the Devils on the board with 6:37 left in the third quarter, breaking off a 71-yard TD run down the right sideline.

"Leroy Alexander is the real deal, and he might be 'Page Light,'" Donnelly said, referring to former Springfield All-Ohio QB Eric Page, now a superb wideout at Toledo. "He's a strong kid and very tough to defend. He played a great game tonight."

The PAT kick was blocked, and Springfield trailed 10-6. Clay scored what proved to be the winning points on the next possession.

Kevin Gaskins' 48-yard run set up Utter's one-yard TD sneak for a 17-6 Clay lead with 4:20 left in the third quarter.

"All three of our games have been like this, and our defense stood on their heads again," Utter said. "We lost to Perrysburg late, but tonight made up for it. It's good to go into City League [schedule] with a positive attitude.

"Special teams is one third of the game, and tonight it was more than that."

Springfield got back within striking distance early in the fourth quarter when junior Jared Williams covered the final eight yards on a TD run with 10:33 remaining in the game. Alexander's two-point conversion run got the Devils within 17-14.

"Leroy has matured," Materni said. "I've seen him grow up in our program, and tonight he made some great strides toward becoming the player that we think he's going to be.

"The way he took the team on his back a little bit tonight speaks for itself."

Contact Steve Junga at:

sjunga@theblade.com

or 419-724-6461.



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