Football: Clear Creek, Clear Lake meet in pivotal 24-6A contest
When Dwayne Lane examines his opponent this week, the Clear Creek head football coach need look no further than his own football team to realize the sometimes gloomy similarities.
Clear Lake will provide a stern test for the Wildcats when the squads meet at 7 p.m., Friday night in Challenger Columbia Stadium, but what each team will bring to the table is anyone’s guess.
Injuries at both campuses have caused a massive reshuffling of personnel almost on a weekly basis.
“What are they going to do? We’ll see,” Lane said of the Falcons. “They’ve had their quarterback (Shae Suiaunoa) play a little more receiver lately - almost a 50-50 split - but now that they’ve had a week off, I hear that they might go back to running the football more.
“They’ve been without their best back (Brendon Holmes) for the last couple of weeks, but we’re going to prepare as if he’s ready to go.”
Even Christian Marullo - Holmes’ replacement -- has emerged as a concern for Creek.
“Their backup (Marullo) is pretty dang close to Holmes,” Lane said. “He’s a good, hard-nosed football player, and when Holmes is healthy, he may be the best running back in the district. Against Dickinson, he made some really good runs.
“With Shae and those other two, they’re pretty salty, and we’ll have our work cut out for us.”
Clear Creek (4-3 overall, 2-1 in District 24-6A) hopes to take a big step toward the playoffs with a victory. However, Clear Lake (2-4, 1-1) can certainly do the same if it prevails.
Lane isn’t always sure who will play where for Creek - on offense or defense -- but will do what’s best for the Wildcats.
Creek has lost starting wide receivers Chris Whisler and Matthew Etzel for the year due to injuries, but that just touches the tip of the iceberg where the Wildcats are concerned.
“We get a couple of kids back this week, but after the Deer Park game was when we had to make some adjustments,” Lane said. “And it’s something we’ve done every week.
“We moved Emilio Allison from defensive back to wide receiver, and he’s caught a couple of touchdown passes. We moved (Chad) Lindberg from tackle to guard…and we had to sell him on that, too.
“Pete Miller has taken the reins and done a great job at wide receiver. Doss Plunkett, a kid that was backing up, has caught a couple of TD passes the last couple of games.”
Even the distribution of those scoring tosses hasn’t come from one hand.
“Both quarterbacks (Hunter Smith and Andrew Dry) are playing well,” Lane said. “We even put Hunter on defense the other night. We put him in at cornerback because we had some mental mistakes there.
“I told him ’At 10 yards deep you turn your butt to the sideline. You’ve got pass first, and when you know for sure it’s a run, then you fit on the outside.
“I said ‘Don’t anybody say another word to him.’ Not too long after that, he intercepted a pass. Hunter’s got a pick now, and he’s also caught a couple of touchdown passes because he’s got a big height advantage. Dry will play receiver, too.
“With all that going on, we’ve got a pretty good chemistry right now. The injuries have been crazy. We’re getting the concussion kids back, but the knee injuries have killed us.”
Following this week, Clear Creek still has to play Clear Falls and Clear Springs. The Falcons have Falls, Springs and Clear Brook remaining on their schedule.
Much is still undecided about the 24-6A race, but Lane knows you can only improve your situation with a victory.
“Four wins gets you in - guaranteed,” the first-year Creek boss said. “Three wins and you’re still on shaky ground.
“They’re all big, but whoever wins this one is kind of in the driver’s seat. Not in, but in the driver’s seat. Lake will be tough. We already know that. Nothing’s been easy for us. We’ve had a lot of nail-biters.”
Dickinson and Clear Springs are projected to take the top two spots in the district, and both of those schools would enter the large school division of the Class 6A playoffs.
The remaining four Clear Creek ISD teams are battling for the two remaining playoff berths. Winless Alvin is the lone team not expected to contend for the postseason.
“Clear Lake…I feel like they haven’t really jelled yet,” Lane said. “You don’t beat them on alignment. I know they have a lot of guys playing both ways.
“I think they’re still trying to move the pieces to puzzle around to see what works best. They went several rounds in the playoffs last year, and their goals were high this year -- and still are.
“Defensively, we feel like we’re getting there. Statistically, our defense had been ranked last in district, and we’ve moved to third from last now.
“Sometimes I feel like we’ve improved, but we’ll give up some big plays. We still have to eliminate the big plays, and Clear Lake has people that can make big plays on you. Come Friday night, I guess we’ll sort it all out.”