BELLVILLE — Dave Carroll doesn’t normally hand out game balls, but Clear Fork’s veteran coach made an exception Friday night.
Collin Crider earned it.
An undersized senior, Crider rushed for 44 yards and a touchdown and intercepted a pass late in the fourth quarter to help preserve a stunning, 30-21 win over state-ranked Bellevue at the Colt Corral.
Clear Fork (3-1) trailed 21-3 late in the first half before mounting a spirited comeback — scoring 27 unanswered points.
The 5-foot-7, 150-pound Crider found himself matched up against 6-foot-6, 205-pound Bellevue wideout Caleb Marshall much of the evening. Marshall got the best of the matchup early, hauling in touchdown passes of 53 and 13 yards in the first quarter.
“When I went to the locker room (at halftime) I was down a little bit, but my teammates and coaches picked me up,” said Crider, nicknamed Lil Sweet for his resemblance to the character in the popular Diet Dr. Pepper commercials. “I knew it was coming all week. I prepared for it and did my best. I knew what I had to do and I did it.”
The Colts trailed 14-0 after the first quarter and 21-3 after Bellevue quarterback Keegan Ray scored on a 2-yard run with 4:23 remaining in the opening half. Clear Fork quarterback Brennan South jump-started the comeback with a nifty, 25-yard scramble for a touchdown with 53 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
“We just weren’t on our game at all in that first half,” Carroll said. “To get down 21-3 and to climb out of it like we did … those games are a hundred times better than blowing somebody out. When you have to fight that adversity, that’s what football is all about.
“I can’t be prouder of these kids.”
Two of Bellevue’s three first-half touchdowns came after Clear Fork turnovers. The Colts botched a punt snap that set Bellevue up deep in Clear Fork territory, then lost a fumble that led to Ray’s short TD run.
“We shot ourselves in the foot. It’s not like they were physically out-playing us,” Carroll said. “We gave them two of their scores.”
Clear Fork’s Ashton Lyon returned the second-half kickoff 67 yards to the Bellevue 21-yard line. Crider capped the abbreviated drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 21-16 with 9:53 remaining in the third quarter.
The Colts took the lead for good less than seven minutes later when Elijah Hughes scored on a 3-yard run, Hughes would add another 3-yard run early in the fourth quarter to make it 30-21.
Bellevue responded with its best drive of the second half, but turned the ball over on downs at the Clear Fork 19 with 7:11 remaining. Bellevue’s final two drives ended in interceptions by Lyon and Crider.
“I gave (Crider) the game ball and we don’t even do that. I just made it up,” Carroll said. “He played a great game. He had some nice runs and some nice blocks. He’s mightier than what his weight says.”
South completed 14 of 29 passes for 209 yards. Lyons caught five passes for 84 yards.
Defensively, Crider led the way with nine tackles. Hughes had four tackles and a sack.