SHEFFIELD TWP. — With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Clearview’s Gerrell Williams was hit after a short kickoff return. The ball appeared to come loose and Amherst appeared to fall on it, but the officials ruled that Williams was down by contact.
On the next play, Lance Billings broke loose for an 86-yard touchdown on an end-around, giving the Clippers new life.
Clearview rode that wave of momentum through the second half, taking the lead on a Roger Engle 1-yard sneak with 7:20 remaining and holding on for a hard-fought 27-24 non-conference victory over the rival Comets on Friday night at Tom Hoch Field.
The Billings touchdown, and subsequent 2-point conversion when holder Treval Mitchell bobbled the snap and threw a jump ball that Williams came down with, turned what had been a 17-7 Amherst lead into a 17-15 lead at the half. From that point, the Clippers (2-1) outscored the Comets (0-3) 20-7 to score their first win over Division II Amherst in what coach Mike Collier simply said was “a long time.”
“Lance is a phenomenal athlete and we’re blessed to have him,” Collier said.
“Before the game, I was talking to some reporters and I told them I believe we have the best receiving corps in the county. These guys are phenomenal athletes and it’s tough for opponents to double-cover any one of them.
“That particular moment with Lance, we brought him on a sweep and he made some moves and made some guys miss, and he also had some pretty good blocking on the edge. It was a big play for us.”
Collier believes that play changed the game.
“That was a huge momentum shift for us going into the half,” he said. “I’m very proud of the way our kids played tonight and it’s a tribute to their persistence. They did a great job and they just kept hammering away. Give credit to Amherst for running the ball well, but our kids came up with some big plays at critical times.”
Amherst coach Chad DiFranco believed the officials made the wrong call on the kickoff return.
“It was definitely a fumble, but they said it wasn’t,” he said. “There’s really not much I can do. The ball was out. They said that his forward progress was stopped and they changed their mind. Obviously, that’s a critical play in the game.
“But, like I told the guys at halftime, there’s no excuses. Instead of being a three-touchdown or two-touchdown game, it ends up being a two-point game at halftime. We just can’t give up those big plays, especially in those situations.”
Amherst jumped out to a 14-0 lead thanks to its running game, which rolled up 314 yards. A 32-yard field goal by Jared Sciarrotta with 1:57 left in the first half gave the Comets a seemingly comfortable 17-7 lead.
While the Clippers had trouble stopping the run, they did a great job against Amherst’s passing game.
The defense made two key interceptions in the second half. The first came early in the third quarter by Billings, which led to a seven-play, 50-yard scoring drive. A 38-yard touchdown pass from Engle to Williams on third-and-9 gave the Clippers their first lead of the game, 21-17.
Amherst answered right back with a five-play, 61-yard drive, capped by Derek Eibon’s 1-yard plunge. Eibon finished with 90 yards on 13 carries and two scores, while fellow senior Logan Mahar gained a game-high 153 yards on 26 carries.
“We’ve got to find a way to get over that hump,” DiFranco said. “That’s three close football games we’ve been in and three losses, and that doesn’t make anybody feel any better. That’s not what we’re trying to do. Give Clearview credit. Their kids made plays when they had to and we just came up a little short.”
Amherst clung to its 24-21 lead into the fourth quarter, but Engle and the Clippers put together an eight-play, 87-yard drive. Engle completed three of four passes for 82 yards during the winning drive, and he capped it with his 1-yard sneak.
“It’s a huge thing for me,” said Engle, who finished 18-for-30 passing for 245 yards and two touchdowns. “I went to Amherst from first grade through eighth grade before transferring over to Clearview. All the people started hating and talking a bunch of junk. To come out here and beat them, now they have to respect us.”
Amherst, relying on its run game, answered by moving the ball from the 50 to the 10 in 11 plays, melting five minutes off the clock.
But on third-and-goal from the 10, Alex Pearson jumped the route and picked off an Anthony Eliopoulos pass a yard deep in the end zone. He returned it 41 yards with 2:59 remaining.
“Alex Pearson made a great break on the ball,” Collier said. “I think people are going to hear a lot more from that young man throughout the year.”
TWO-SPORT STANDOUT: Williams is known for being a standout basketball player, but he showed he can be a tremendous weapon on the football field as well. Using his 6-foot-2 frame and his speed and leaping ability, Williams caught seven passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns, adding a 2-point conversion reception.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.