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Riverview tops Clearwater to take over first in district

The fourth quarter began and Clearwater High's players followed their new tradition, each holding up four fingers. The signal meant to signify that the fourth period would be the Tornadoes', but it was Riverview's Rams raising their hands at the end. Waiving their index fingers.

Riverview is No. 1.

The sign could also signify the Rams' dominance in the first quarter. Riverview scored two touchdowns in the period and went on to beat Clearwater 21-9 Saturday in the Ram Bowl.

With their victory, the Rams are at the verge of a third-straight Class 5A, District 9 title. Riverview (5-2, 4-0 in 5A-9) needs to beat either Pinellas Park this week or Countryside the next to clinch the championship.

Clearwater's hopes are slim. The Tornadoes (6-1, 3-1) must beat Dunedin and Largo and hope Riverview gets upset twice.

Upset was on the Tornadoes' minds Saturday. They held Riverview's running game to 2{ yards per carry. But Clearwater turned the ball over six times, and could not capitalize when Riverview bobbled the ball.

Things went badly from the start for Clearwater. On the game's first play, a 40-yard run by Ragen Gregory was called back because of an illegal-use-of-hands penalty. On play No. 2, the Tornadoes fumbled, Riverview recovered at the 19 and drove in from there.

Clearwater's second drive went nowhere, and Riverview drove 54 yards for a 14-0 lead seven minutes into the game.

"We gave them 14 quick points and you can't do that against this bunch," Tornadoes coach Tom Bostic said. "We were out of our game a little. Once we settled down, the kids played good defensively."

Riverview threatened a third time, but was forced back by penalties and poor plays and faced a fourth-and-53 yards from its 28. After a short punt, Clearwater took over at the Tornadoes' 39.

Driving to the 10, Clearwater quarterback Anthony Evans connected with Lenard Hayes on a slant pass for a touchdown _ breaking a 13-quarter Tornadoes scoreless streak against the Rams.

Clearwater drove one more time in the first half, following Duane Bodette's interception, stalling at the 22, where a field-goal attempt failed.

"We took advantage of their mistakes early," Rams coach John Sprague said. "When it settled down, boy did it change. We had to fight the whole day."

The fight intensified in the third quarter. Clearwater threatened and threatened, but it was Riverview that counter-punched and took control.

Bodette recovered a Riverview fumble at the Rams 34. But Evans threw on interception on Clearwater's first play.

Ernest Starker ran back Riverview's next punt 15 yards to Riverview's 26. But the Tornadoes gained only six yard on four downs.

Clearwater set up again on its 29 and the Tornadoes fumbled on their first play. From the 34, Riverview bulldozed its way in _ using three third-down conversions _ with quarterback Luke Bencie scoring from the 3, for a 21-7 fourth-quarter lead.

Clearwater's next four possession resulted in one punt, an unsuccessful fourth-down pass and two interceptions.

"Our offense just didn't click in the second half," Starker said. "We couldn't get anything going."

The Tornadoes got two more points when Riverview set up for a punt, but snapped the ball out of the end zone with 15 seconds left. Fifteen seconds later, Riverview players were dousing Sprague with water.

"This was a big win for us," Sprague said. "Clearwater always plays us tough, always hits us."