Harding Clear Fork

Marion Harding senior defensive back Marquis Adams leaps to knock away a long pass intended for Clear Fork freshman receiver Jay Jackson on Friday night at the Colt Corral.

BELLVILLE -- The scorebook shows Marion Harding rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final four minutes Friday night to claim a 23-21 win at Clear Fork.

But Colts' coach Dave Carroll acknowledged too many mistakes by his team in the first 44 minutes were the biggest cause for the loss.

Clear Fork struggled with the shotgun snap throughout the evening, losing 53 yards rushing largely because of the issues. The Colts had six fumbles, losing two of them, and committed five penalties for 53 yards.

Just as importantly, according to Carroll, was a lack of blocking execution in the rushing game, putting his team behind the sticks when the game plan was to run the ball and control the clock.

"We have struggled with it all year," the veteran coach said. "We have tough kids. It's not for a lack of effort. But our discipline is not where it needs to be. Harding is a good football team. But we did so much to hurt ourselves.

"If you're going to be a champion, you have to live like a champion. You can't just show up and expect to be a champion," he said. "Our kids practice hard. Again, it's not a lack of effort. But we have to be more disciplined. We just make too many mistakes."

The loss against the Division II Presidents snapped Clear Fork's four-game winning streak and dropped the Colts to 6-3 overall and 4-1 in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference. Harding improved to 6-3 and 3-2 in the conference.

FURIOUS FINISH: Despite the mistakes, Clear Fork led 21-10 with just about 240 seconds left to play.

The Presidents cut the lead to 21-16 when senior quarterback Brady Wink (15-31, 204 yards, 3 TDs) connected on a 35-yard scoring pass to senior wide receiver Wesley Stokes (4 catches, 88 yards) with 3:52 left in the fourth quarter.

The Colts recovered the ensuing onside kick, but were unable to move the ball. A low snap on fourth down led to the Clear Fork punter's knee touching the turf, setting Harding up at the Colts' 47-yard line with still 1:32 left.

It took the Presidents six plays to score the game winner, the TD coming on a 6-yard swing pass from Wink to junior running back Trinity Keith (19 carries, 88 yards) with 30 seconds remaining.

Clear Fork moved the ball to its own 45 yard line before time expired.

Making the loss tougher was the fact the Colts rallied from a 10-0 deficit early in the second quarter to take a 21-10 lead early in the fourth.

Keying the offensive success against a larger Presidents' team was a ground game that ran the ball 40 times for 150 yards, even with the 53 yards in losses.

"We felt our best bet against (Harding) was to run the football," Carroll said, "and then play-action pass off that. For the most part, it was a good plan. But if you are going to run the football, you can't make mistakes and keep getting behind the sticks."

Sophomore Luke Schlosser led Clear Fork with 102 yards on 16 carries and one TD. Junior Chris Grove added 52 on 12 attempts.

Junior quarterback Victor Skoog completed six of 15 passes for 59 yards and two scores to freshman receiver Jay Jackson on tosses of 2 and 27 yards.

UP NEXT: Clear Fork still has a shot at a share of the MOAC title next Friday when the Colts travel to play Shelby (7-2, 5-0). The Whippets earned at least a share of the league title in week nine with a 47-20 win at River Valley.

The Colts remain in contention for a Division IV playoff berth, though both the MOAC crown and the postseason were not on Carroll's mind after the loss to Harding.

"This one is gonna sting a little bit for at least the next 24 hours," he said. "But we tell the kids, when you face some adversity, you have to be able to pick yourself back up."

Harding hosts Ontario (3-6) in the regular-season finale. The Warriors defeated Marion Pleasant, 24-21, in week nine.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"

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