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July 26, 2014

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Clark finds victory in battle of winless teams

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Amanda Finnegan

Clark celebrates after defeating Durango 26-15 Friday night. The night brought Clark its first win of the season.

Clark at Durango

Durango and Clark captains meet for the coin toss at the beginning of Friday night's game at Durango High School. Launch slideshow »

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Compared to the 42-game losing streak Clark High School's football team snapped last year, a four-game drought to begin this season might not have seemed like much.

To the Chargers, though, it was four games too many and Friday's 26-15 victory over the Durango High Trailblazers in a battle of winless teams was a long time coming.

"It feels good," Clark coach Don Willis said of the team's first victory in 2008. "We thought it was going to come earlier in the season. The kids worked hard, and we needed it."

The Chargers (1-4) — who had given up leads in their first two games of the season — staked themselves to a 14-0 advantage after one quarter thanks to a strong running game. Senior Aaron Arlt scored on a 54-yard run on the team's opening drive, and added a 1-yard scoring plunge on Clark's next possession. The team's defense didn't hurt, either, allowing just 36 yards in the period.

Durango stepped up its own defense in the second quarter, allowing Clark past midfield just once, and finally got something going on offense on the team's final possession of the period. Romell Maxwell rushed for 30 yards on the first play of the drive, Chase Roberts found Christian Rodriguez for 42 yards two plays later and then, after an incompletion, hit Rodriguez again for a 15-yard touchdown, cutting the halftime deficit to just eight points.

The Trailblazers (0-5) kept the momentum after the break, forcing a three-and-out by the Chargers on the opening drive of the third quarter. Anthony Ramirez drilled a 25-yard field goal on the ensuing possession to pull Durango within five points before Clark turned the ball over on downs.

A quick three-and-out by Durango wasted the defensive stop, though, and Clark quickly marched down field on the legs of Arlt and junior Andre Clay, who combined for 42 yards on five carries as the Chargers marched to the 1-yard line. Clay fumbled while being hit on the next play, but tight end Alec Kolinoski fell on the ball in the end zone for a 20-9 lead.

Maxwell wasted no time countering, rushing for 52 yards on the first play of Durango's next drive, and Amean Galindo followed with a 15-yard run up the middle to cut the gap back down to five points, 20-15.

Another quick strike play — a 67-yard kickoff return by Quincy Hatcher — put Clark within scoring reach, but Jonathen Brandt's 38-yard field goal was blocked four plays later, giving Durango the ball with more than 11 minutes left in the final quarter.

Back-to-back first downs moved the Trailblazers into Charger territory, but Clark linebacker Jon Shogren recovered a fumbled snap on third down two plays later, ending the drive.

"We couldn't push it in," Durango coach Gary Maki said. "We kind of shot ourselves in the foot, and they took full advantage. We're a young team that doesn't know how to win yet."

With nearly 10 minutes left in the period, there was plenty of time for the Trailblazers to force a punt and get the ball back with a chance to take the lead. However, the Chargers finally got their running game back on track, methodically moving the ball on a 14-play, 72-yard, eight-minute drive culminating in a 2-yard run by quarterback Anthony Lotta that sealed the victory.

"Everybody just started picking it up and seeing it was our chance to get back the intensity we had in the first quarter, and we got the job done," Arlt said of the game-clinching drive.

Arlt finished with 202 yards on 26 carries, and Clay added 138 yards on 22 rushes. Lotta had five rushing yards on eight carries, and completed three of seven passes for 34 yards.

Maxwell carried the ball nine times for 124 yards, and Roberts finished 13-of-23 passing for 169 yards. Julio Mora had four catches for 43 yards, and Rodriguez caught three passes for 75 yards.

Clark will try to keep its winning ways going next week against defending state champion Bishop Gorman (5-1).

"That's a tough matchup for us," Willis said. "We've just got to keep fighting."

Durango will face Pahrump Valley in a homecoming game that will give one of the two teams its first victory of the season. Despite the lack of a win this year, the Trailblazers are still optimistic.

"If we can win four of the last five games, we're a playoff team," Maki said, "and if we win three we're in a tiebreaker, and we think we can do that. We just have to learn to win and take advantage of our opportunities."

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