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December 18, 2014

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high school football:

Eldorado’s Mike Williams a difference-maker in Cleat Game victory

Senior defensive end has several tackles for a loss, seals win with an interception for a touchdown

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Sam Morris

Eldorado High School football players Darion Ashley, Ty Nihipali, Fraser Tauaivale and Mike Williams.

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Determined to make up for lost time, Eldorado High defensive end Mike Williams was unstoppable Friday night in the Sundevils' most important game of the season.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Williams, who returned to the Eldorado lineup last week after missing the entire season with an enlarged spleen, was in the Chaparral backfield all night and sealed the Sundevils' 48-21 victory in the annual “Cleat Game” with a 13-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Eldorado trailed 14-7 at halftime, but scored 27 unanswered points in the third quarter thanks to a solid rushing attack to win their third straight game in the series. Since the late 1970s, the schools have played for a cleat that former Los Angeles Rams great Merlin Olsen donated for the rivalry. It’s bronzed and sits on a 2-foot base.

Eldorado players raced the cleat around the stadium in celebration. A few players had tears of joy in their eyes, forgetting about the Sundevils (3-5 overall) injury-plagued season and enjoying their part of the celebration in one of Nevada’s most storied rivalry games.

Then there was Williams, a three-year varsity starter whose frustration was obvious in dealing with injury all year. At least for one night, that didn’t matter. His smile from ear to ear told the entire story.

“This is an emotional game, plain and simple,” Williams said. “I was just making plays, man. Doing what I have to do out there to help this team win.”

Eldorado needed just five plays to score on its first possession of the second half, rushing the ball on all five plays and scoring on a 9-yard run by Zaccheus Davis to tie the game at 14. They simply overpowered Chaparral on each run.

“We wanted to give our studs the ball,” Eldorado coach Vernon Brown said. “We had some success running the ball in the first half and I got away from the offense. (The running backs) went to work and it opened up the passing.”

On Chaparral’s ensuing possession, Williams essentially won the game with one tackle. He easily got past Chaparral’s offensive line on a fourth down play, stopping the ball carrier for a loss of yards to give Eldorado the ball in great field position at the Chaparral 42-yard line.

And, within the blink of an eye, Eldorado had scored 27 unanswered points in the quarter. The game went from being competitive to a blowout.

Williams isn’t the only Eldorado player of significance to miss time this fall. Starting quarterback Nick Blackmon missed three games after dislocating his elbow, essentially forcing Eldorado to rearrange its playbook with no threat of a passing game.

During the third quarter outburst, Blackmon had long touchdown passes of 30 yards to Justin Brown and 50 yards to Odarius Mitchell. It’s how coach Brown envisioned his team playing all season.

“Honestly, if Mike Williams plays all year, we make the playoffs,” Brown said.

Blackmon was intercepted three times in the first half by Chaparral’s Michael Shields — the first of which was returned 17 yards for a early 7-0 Chaparral lead — before settling down in the second half. A transfer from Silverado, Blackmon spoke with great pride about being part of the “Cleat Game” history.

“It’s all for the team. As long as the team got the win, I was happy,” said Blackmon, who also had a short touchdown run in the first half. “We wanted to bring that cleat back here to stay.”

Some 20 minutes after the game, players and their families stayed on the field taking pictures with the cleat trophy. After all, it’s a moment worth savoring.

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