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Feature story: Wellington falls to Clearwater 36-29 after erasing double-digit deficit

Wellington’s Dustyn Schettler scores a 57-yard touchdown run in the third sparking a big comeback.

by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow — For one evening, all the awfulness of 2020 didn’t matter.

For those lucky enough to get into Sellers Park, saw one of the best high school football games you will ever witness when Clearwater defeated Wellington 36-29 in overtime.

Not since 2016 has Wellington seen overtime. Wellington nearly pulled off a double-digit comeback in which it was down 17-0 in the second quarter. For much of that first 12 minutes, Clearwater dominated the game.

But Wellington showed incredible moxie after getting its first touchdown late in the second quarter and eventually tying the score and sending it into overtime.

Clearwater would score on its second play of the extra period. Wellington was nailed by a block-in-the-back penalty and failed to score on three incomplete passes. Berkley Wright’s throw, after nearly getting sacked, to a group of receivers and defenders tipped away in the endzone. 

What a game.

Wellington fell to 0-1 and it won’t be getting any easier for the Dukes the next two weeks. The Crusaders travel to Collegiate and Andale, the gruesome twosome of the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League Div. IV. Andale defeated Rose Hill 56-10 and Collegiate destroyed Mulvane 56-0 yesterday evening.

Statistically, Wellington should have lost this game. Clearwater racked up 395 yards of offense to Wellington’s 284. Tanner Cash, a one-man wrecking machine, would throw for 215 yards and rushed 122 yards. That didn’t account for his 26-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter that gave the Indians a 29-21 lead.

Jack Wright was a perfect 3-for-3 on PAT kicks.

Wellington’s defense, despite losing all but two returning starters, most certainly gave up a lot of yards Friday. But in the second half, Wellington held Clearwater scoreless in the red zone twice and allowed just one substantial scoring drive.

The Crusaders came into the game as underdogs and for the first 17 minutes it most certainly looked like this was headed for a blowout. Wellington did not get a first down until midway through the second quarter. On the other side, Clearwater would chip away with three drives that led to scores.

But Michael Cullens pulled off the first of his two huge kickoff returns that got Wellington into enemy territory at the Clearwater 30 for the first time. Wellington would not score thereafter, but the defense started to kick in and eventually the Crusader offense kicked in as well.

Wright would throw a screen pass to Cullens and then find Cope Henry for seven more. He then scored on a quarterback keeper. The Crusaders trailed 17-7 at the half.

In the third, Wellington’s newfound offense and defense turned this game into a thriller. After stopping Clearwater’s initial drive at the Crusader 12, Wellington would use a huge 57-yard Dustyn Schettler scramble to pull within four.

Michael Cullens takes off for a 70-yard kickoff return in second quarter.

After a Clearwater touchdown on the next drive, Wright would scramble to his right and unleash a 47-yard touchdown throw to Montel Tate to pull the Crusaders within two 23-21 early in the fourth.

Clearwater benefitted from two Wellington encroachment calls (Crusaders were penalized 11 times Friday),  and got down to the 2, before being stymied by the improving Duke defense. Wellington generated little yardage on the next drive and had to punt deep in its territory. That ended up being disastrous for the Crusaders, as Cash took off for a touchdown.

The PAT was blocked and that was significant because it was still a one-possession game: 29-21.

Then Wellington went to work. Schettler had a big return to the Crusader 40. After three plays garnering positive yardage, Wright connected with Cope Henry for a 30-yard reception to the 10. Wright then ran for two 5-yard carries, the second one a touchdown to make it 29-27.

Perhaps, the play of the game for Wellington. The Crusaders lined up with two receivers wide on both sides and Wright threw it to Jakob Lira in the middle to complete the PAT pass. We were tied at 29-all setting up the overtime.

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