Rangers head to finals! Houston Clear Lake falls to Smithson Valley 18-10

John Kastner

The script has been written. The thrilling saga is ready to unfold this Saturday afternoon in Irving, as Coach Larry Hill and his Smithson Valley Rangers put a Class 5A Division II state title berth on the line against powerhouse Southlake Carroll. The chance at the state championship game comes via a stunning 18-10 triumph over Houston Clear Lake Saturday, December 11, in the Alamodome.

Before an estimated 10,000 fans, Texas high school football didn't take a backstage seat as the "air-circus" rampage of two outstanding signal-callers, Zach Bailey and Scott Oswalt thrilled the huge well wishers. When the final whistle sounded, Bailey out-bombed Oswalt both on the ground and in the air as he racked up 59 yards passing and 46 yards rushing.

"What a team effort our team displayed here once again," lamented Bailey. "It was truly awesome ­ players doing their part, just going that extra mile to make sure that the job gets done."

Bailey was pleased with the final outcome.

"I was well under my usual passing yardage and rushing," he said, "but no doubt it was the big plays that really mattered this time."

"There is no doubt that these kids did an outstanding job in containing the Clear Lake offense," injected Coach Hill. "And our line really stood up to the test, that's for sure. Joe [Pawelek] played one heck of a ball game again. He's just so aggressive and strong."

"These kids want a state title so bad and they have proven that all season long," added Hill.

The Rangers dented the tally board first when David Sweet connected on a 33-yard field goal with 5:56 remaining in the first stanza.

Then with 8:11 blinking in the second quarter, Clear Lake finally tied up the contest with a 24-yard field goal by Tim Ellingsen.

The rangers stormed back to punch ahead with 4:14 before the locker room break as the biggest play of the contest unfolded when safety Ray Corona returned a 65-yard fumble recovery and danced into the end zone. With a Sweet connection for the extra point, the Rangers led with a 10-3.

"I think after halftime, we really cranked down and put things together," stressed Corona." "We knew what we had to do and Coach Hill knew that he could count on us once again to get the assignment done."

The stout Ranger defense put the clamps on the Falcon offense in the third quarter as Clear Lake could not generate any potential scoring drive. Oswalt found the airways foggy and dangerous. He had to detour to the ground, but that also proved way too stiff as sheer Ranger defensive power quickly closed the holes.

Smithson Valley put an eight-spot on the scoreboard in the third frame and from that point on the game no doubt was well out of reach for the Falcons. With 9:34 left, Clear Lake snapped the ball over its punters head and out of the end zone. Then with 6:04 remaining, bulled in from the one-yard line. However, the extra point try fizzled and the score was 18-3.

The Falcon's wanted revenge. They quickly planted their final touch down in the end zone with 1:52 left in the final stanza as Falcon halfback, Gino Blow, crashed into the zone on a six-yard pass from Oswalt.

Then with only minutes remaining, Clear Lake somehow stormed back once again. They recovered the ensuing onside kick and drove to the Ranger 13-yard stripe before Oswalt drilled an incomplete pas into the zone. The rest was history.

"No doubt that play was the biggest turning point of the ball game for us," said Hill.

On the afternoon's worksheet, the Rangers rushed for 151 yards and passed for 59 yards. On the other hand, the Falcons out managed the Rangers in first downs, 17-13, 234 yards rushing and 60 yards passing.

"It's hard to believe that we got 234 yards rushing and didn't win this ball game," said Falcon Head Coach Troy Aduddell. "But you've got to give credit to this Smithson Valley team. They played hard and deserved to win."

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