The winning streak that carried Andale into the Class 4A football playoffs gained another game and even more credibility on Tuesday night.
Andale rocked Clearwater 42-7 in the first round of the playoffs, avenging a loss earlier in the season. Andale coach Gary O'Hair suspected his team's turnaround was for real, but Wednesday's game made it official.
Less than five weeks ago, Andale lost to Clearwater 36-31 to drop to 0-5. Now Andale is 5-5 and has a chance to get even with another previous foe when it meets Rose Hill in the second round on Saturday. The Rockets took down Andale 43-7 in Week 2.
"We were kind of wondering how much we have improved and how much was the schedule that we had at the end of the year," O'Hair said. "This is a team we saw in game five that put up 36 points on us, so without a doubt we've improved."
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Andale had four touchdown drives of shorter than two minutes, but its superiority Wednesday was most evident in its ability to sustain lengthy series.
On the opening drive, Andale wiped out more than five minutes with a 14-play drive, capped by quarterback Jared Smarsh's four-yard touchdown run.
To start the second half, Andale extended its lead to 28-7 with a 17-play, 95-yard drive that erased more than seven minutes. Smarsh finished it with a 29-yard run.
"That just gives you so much momentum because it's so demoralizing to the other defense not to be able to get off the field."
Smarsh's presence has been perhaps the most significant cause for Andale's surge. He missed the start of the season with a broken collarbone suffered during the summer and shared time briefly before taking over full-time midseason.
Wednesday, Smarsh rushed for 106 yards and three touchdowns while passing for another score.
"We kind of threw him into the fire right off the bat," O'Hair said. "He made some mistakes early but he kept getting better. He's a weapon, definitely, that people have to worry about now."
Clearwater (8-2) 0 7 0 0 — 7 Andale (5-5) 7 14 7 14 — 42
A—Smarsh 4 run (Cole kick)
A—Ungles 34 run (Cole kick)
A—Smarsh 1 run (Cole kick)
C—Nickelson 90 kickoff return (Hamilton kick)
A—Smarsh 29 run (Cole kick)
A—L. Elpers 24 pass from Smarsh (Cole kick)
A—Jones 68 run (Cole kick)
Rushing—Clearwater, True 5-36, Vaughn 1-23, Terwort 2-14, Becker 3-9, Nickelson 9-8, Campbell 1-0, Hoover 3-(-13). Andale, Ungles 13-114, Smarsh 21-106, Jones 1-68, May 13-62, Beckman 3-14, Harp 3-13, Horsch 4-11, Burwell 2-8, L. Eck 1-3, Kear 1-0.
Passing—Clearwater, Hoover 5-13-36-1. Andale, Smarsh 2-4-29-0, May 0-1-0-0.
Receiving—Clearwater, Terwort 3-16, True 2-20. Andale, L. Elpers 1-24, Harp 1-5.