Warren Fitzgerald's Jalen Crawford looks to shed off a tackler during a 38-36 Sept. 6 win over Clinton Township Clintondale. Crawford ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns in the game.

Warren Fitzgerald's Jalen Crawford looks to shed off a tackler during a 38-36 Sept. 6 win over Clinton Township Clintondale. Crawford ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns in the game.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

High-scoring MAC crossover contest sees Fitzgerald football outlast Clintondale

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Online Only | Published September 6, 2019

 Photo by Erin Sanchez

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Clinton Township Clintondale's Jerry Whitehead hits the corner on his way to an 80-yard kick return touchdown in a 38-36 Sept. 6 loss to Warren Fitzgerald. Whitehead scored two touchdowns in the game.

WARREN — You can expect fireworks whenever the Warren Fitzgerald and Clinton Township Clintondale football teams meet.

The Spartans and Dragons met four times from 2014 to 2017, with all four matchups being decided by a touchdown or less.

The Sept. 6 meeting was no different, as Fitzgerald was able to outlast Clintondale 38-36.

“This is what happens when we play,” said Spartans coach Gary Skop, whose team sits at 2-0 on the young season. “It’s two hard-working football teams that have some guys who can make some big plays.”

What would prove to be the game-winning score came after the Spartans defense got a big stop on fourth down deep in their territory. The Fitzgerald offense helped the unit out by extending the lead to 38-28 with 6:43 left in regulation on an 18-yard touchdown run from senior running back Jalen Crawford run, which was followed by a 2-point conversion.

Crawford finished the game with 137 yards and three touchdowns.

“I don’t really worry about yards when I’m on the field. I just try to do what I can to help the team win,” he said.

It took Fitzgerald a few drives to get going, and on that third possession, junior quarterback Thomas Lewis found the end zone on a 5-yard rush just as the buzzer sounded to end the first quarter. A successful 2-point conversion gave the Spartans an 8-0 lead after the first quarter.

Clintondale coach Dave Schindler likes to focus on the run game. That ground attack worked well for the Dragons for much of the night, including on a short, four-play second quarter drive that ended with senior quarterback Darrell Walker scoring on a 1-yard plunge to cut the Spartans lead to 8-6 with 6:08 left in the half.

Fitzgerald answered right back, as Crawford capped off a 12-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with 3:13 left in the first half. Crawford shortly thereafter converted a 2-point try to put the Spartans up 16-6.

Down 10 points at halftime, the Dragons didn’t waste any time trimming the Spartans lead. Clintondale senior wide receiver Elijah Muhammad took the opening kick of the second half back 80 yards for a score. A 2-point conversion cut the Fitzgerald lead to 16-14 early in the third quarter.

After the Dragons defense forced a Spartans three-and-out, Clintondale once again used its ground attack to take its first lead. The Dragons recorded runs of 18, 15 and 11 yards on the first three plays of the drive before punctuating the possession with a 2-yard score from junior running back Eddie Higgenbotham put Clintondale up 20-16 with 7:29 left in the half.

Not to be outdone, Fitzgerald used its run game to retake the lead on its next possession. The Spartans ran the ball eight times for 51 yards on the nine-play, 73-yard drive, which ended with a 10-yard score by Lewis to give Fitzgerald a 22-20 lead with 4:10 left in the third. Lewis on the night ran for 150 yards and three scores.

The Dragons answered quickly, with a three-play, 46-yard drive capped off by a 23-yard touchdown run from sophomore running back Jerry Whitehead with 2:49 left in the third quarter. That was followed by a 2-point conversion to put Clintondale up 28-22.

The scoring barrage continued, as the Spartans on their next possession went 65 yards in nine plays to tie the game at 28-28 on a 10-yard Crawford touchdown run with 28 seconds left in the third. Fitzgerald took a 30-28 lead into the fourth quarter following a successful 2-point conversion.

The Spartans defense on Clintondale’s next possession got a big stop on fourth down deep in their territory. Crawford's final score put Fitzgerald up 38-28 with 6:43 left.

The Dragons kept fighting, though, as on their next possession Whitehead scored his second touchdown of a game on a 2-yard run with 3:52 left in the fourth quarter to cap a nine-play, 55-yard drive. Clintondale converted a 2-point try to trim the Fitzgerald lead to 38-36. Whitehead in the game ran for 96 yards and a touchdown.

Clintondale had a chance to win late, as its defense forced a fumble with 1:13 left in regulation. The Dragons could not convert on the extra possession.

“(Fitzgerald) just made more plays that us,” Schindler said. “We had our chances. We just couldn’t get over the hump.”

The Spartans win puts their series with the Dragons at a 7-7 tie. Fitzgerald has won five straight meetings.

Fitzgerald opens MAC Gold play against St. Clair Shores Lake Shore at 7 p.m. Sept. 13 on the road.

Clintondale in Week 3 opens MAC Bronze play against Warren Lincoln at 7 p.m. Sept. 13 on the road.