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CLEARWATER - It was a night of firsts for the Dunedin Falcons. It was their first shutout. It was their first cheerful bus ride home. It was their first victory. It was the first time since Week 1 at Largo that their defense took the field with their leader, senior linebacker Ali Cheaib.
“One word: Ali,” coach Mike Anderson said. “Just having Ali back. He was out for five (games), and we missed him.”
Cheaib announced his return on the first Tornadoes drive of the second half when he stripped the ball from quarterback Ryan Hagen and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown, one of five turnovers forced. On the following series, junior linebacker Kyle Kunnen recovered a fumble and returned it 40 yards for a score, sealing the 35-0 Falcon victory.
“(Coaches) had them well prepared,” coach Mark Everett said. “Finally. It’s been a long time, so I’m just really proud of the kids. They played great tonight.”
The Falcons forced five fumbles and intercepted Hagen three times. The first came on the first Tornadoes drive of the game when junior Trevonte Anderson returned a pick 47 yards for the first Falcons touchdown.
In the second quarter, senior quarterback Ryan Singer hit junior Allen Battle for 42- and 40-yard scores on back to back drives.
“Allen’s a threat,” Everett said. “He’s a legitimate threat. We thought we had a couple of mismatches here tonight and we took advantage of them, and (Singer) put it right where it needed to be.”
The Falcons improve to 1-1 in the district, while the Tornadoes fall to 0-3.
“It was painful,” Clearwater coach Tom Bostic said. “We didn’t show up tonight. Dunedin did. They played hard. We need to get ourselves back on track and ready to play football.”
The Tornadoes will look to sort things out during their bye week, while the Falcons host district foe Palm Harbor next week.
Paul Mueller, Times correspondent