Football: Hot start propels Clear Creek
Looking back at what can only be described as the greatest season in Clear Creek football history, Wildcats coach Darrell Warden saw plenty of positives early on, and he wasn't really surprised this team went three rounds into the playoffs.
"I started seeing something special while we were winning our first three games against Pasadena Memorial (49-14), Kingwood (31-0) and Deer Park (40-7)," Warden said. "Those were big wins for us, and it gave the players a lot of confidence, and with the experience we had back, I thought we had a shot at being a good team."
Clear Creek closed with a 9-4 record after falling to Cy Woods 52-34 in the Class 5A Division II Region III semifinals last week at Turner Stadium, but that came after the Wildcats posted multiple playoff wins in the same season for the first time ever.
The record-setting postseason run started with a 37-34 win against Fort Bend Travis and continued after a 16-0 blanking of La Porte for the program's first area triumph.
"I saw that if we were going to make the playoffs, we were going to go small school (Division II), and the bottom line, not having to face Hightower in the first round," Warden said.
Following the 3-0 start, the Wildcats lost to Dickinson 37-14 in the District 24-5A opener, and after beating Brazoswood 41-21 and falling to Pearland 35-28, they were looking up with a 1-2 league mark.
But after earning a playoff berth with a 4-3 district finish, the Wildcats got hot at the right time.
"After we came back from the 1-2 (district) start, we could see this was a mature team," Warden said. "They were able to overcome adversity, and we're going to lose some outstanding players among our 30-or-so graduating seniors.
"One of the biggest hits comes on the defensive line, where we lose all our starters, and we'll also have to replace three of the five on the offensive front, but we have some young kids who played key roles for us returning, and we'll have to see how everything develops in the offseason and the spring and summer."
Clear Creek came into the season picked sixth in the eight-team 24-5A lineup, but Warden and his staff took the Wildcats to their fifth playoff in six years.
"The old Wildcats are never expected to do too much, but as long as we continue to exceed the expectations, we'll be okay," Warden said.
The Wildcats lose a ton of production from a trio of seniors including running back-wide out C.J. McElroy (1,523 rushing and 339 receiving yards and 28 touchdowns), quarterback Chris Collins (117-of-216 for 1,431 yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions, and 298 rushing yards and a touchdown), and wide receiver Tevin Jones (34 receptions, 610 yards, six touchdowns).
"I saw us as very competitive with a lot of sophomores and juniors starting and playing last season, and we were right in the race until C.J. was injured and missed the last two games (both losses)," Warden said. "We missed the playoffs, but we were excited about this season, and the players made it happen, along with the great support from our school and community."
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