Late in the third quarter, Pete Henderson's 16-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Fassnacht tied Tarpon Springs with Clearwater 14-14 and the game loomed as a battle to the end.
The end came quickly. Clearwater scored four touchdowns in the final period to blast the Spongers 42-14 Friday night in an important Class 5A, District 7 game.
The Tornadoes move to 3-1 in the district (6-1 overall), tied for first with Tarpon (3-1, 5-2) and East Lake (2-1, 4-3). If all three teams win the remainder of their district games, they will meet in a tiebreaker on Nov. 14 to determine which two teams advance to the state playoffs.
Down 7-0 at halftime, Clearwater used the combination of quarterback Tondrick Robinson and Tarpon turnovers to take control.
Robinson threw bull's-eyes, completing 10 of 13 for two scores and 237 yards. Two incompletions were batted away, the other was dropped. His performance followed a five-interception night two weeks ago in a loss to East Lake.
"Everybody was down on me after that," Robinson said, "but I came out and showed them."
Robinson said his new contact lenses helped. So did his toughness. He missed only one series when he sprained his left wrist.
It soon became apparent that Clearwater couldn't run on Tarpon (Jermaine Clemons was held to 61 yards). And the Tornadoes fumbled twice in the first half, including one to set up Henderson's 29-yard touchdown pass to Adryan Higgins.
"We came out tight the first half," Clearwater coach Tom Bostic said. "We wanted it too much. In the second half, it was just a matter of finding what's working, and the passing game was working."
On the first play of the half, Robinson hit Chris Daniels 15 yards downfield. After a blasting block from Toby Kosiewska, Daniels broke free for the 80-yard tying score.
Led by Hank Murray (21 carries, 107 yards), Tarpon marched to the Tornadoes' 14. But Otis Dixon picked up a Spongers fumble and returned it 48 yards. After a third-and-14 completion to Kosiewska, Robinson released a 9-yard touchdown toss to Clemons.
Clearwater later lost its third fumble, and Henderson capitalized with his pass to Fassnacht.
Robinson then completed five consecutive passes, setting up Clemons' 5-yard touchdown run (21-14). Tarpon drove again but Donnell Barnes returned an interception 44 yards to the 6. Robinson sneaked in (28-14). Tarpon fumbled. Clemons scored from the 2 (35-14). Barnes stole another pass and scored from 35 yards (42-14).