On a clear night with gusting winds that put field position at a premium, Clearwater and Augusta played a physical, chippy football game Friday night.
John Becker proved to be the difference maker for the Indians. He scored every which way for four total touchdowns as the Indians routed the Orioles 45-19.
Both teams played physical, smash-mouth football as the running games dictated play early. Augusta had an unsportsmanlike penalty, but Clearwater had a few and finished with 101 penalty yards.
"Up front, we're still challenged," coach Roger Robben said. "We are what we are and we have to try to make things happen with the skill we have on our team. Our guys have got to continue to work to get better up front."
Augusta's offense got on the scoreboard after Tristan Finch connected with Chaydon Carter for a 14-yard score to cut the Orioles' deficit to 13-6 with 8:50 left in the second quarter. Clearwater later scored with 1:58 left to go up 19-6.
The Orioles tried to get something going before halftime. Trae Goken had a 19-yard rush, and Connor Hurst made a 14-yard catch as the Orioles got down to Clearwater's 23.
That's when Becker made a pick-six, returning an interception 90 yards to take a 25-6 lead into the locker room and completely change the complexion of the game.
Becker scored one touchdown each on the ground, through the air, on defense and on a punt return for Clearwater. He broke tackle after tackle and made big play after big play. Becker finished with 83 yards rushing on just six carries and had three punt returns for 118 yards.
"We've got to do a better job of tackling in the open field, but you know, hats off to them. They're a good football team," Robben said.
Anytime Augusta tried to start a rally, Clearwater answered. The Orioles recovered a fumble on Clearwater's opening play of the third quarter, then drove 22 yards for a one-yard score by Finch to cut it to 25-13.
The Indians got a big return into Orioles territory on the ensuing kickoff, then drove 45 yards on just four plays to go up 32-13.
The Orioles recovered another fumble deep in Clearwater territory early in the fourth quarter, and Carter punched it in from six yards out to cut it to 32-19, but Clearwater went right back down the field with a big run by Becker and scored on a one-yard quarterback keeper.
Goken led the Orioles with 73 rushing yards on 17 carries. Finch had 58 yards. Hurst had three catches for 34 yards. Anthony Castillo had three receptions for 20 yards.
Defensively, Hurst led the Orioles with nine tackles. Anthony Castillo, Dakota Thompson and Caleb Faulconer all had six tackles. Chase Hull chipped in with five tackles.
Page 2 of 2 - It doesn't get any easier for Augusta, which has to travel to play the Andale Indians next Friday night.