As Ty Flanagan sat on the field Friday at Clark, he was angry.
The Mojave senior running back had just been tackled after a short gain with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter and his team clinging to a two-point lead.
Flanagan thought he had been grabbed by the face mask, and lobbied for a penalty to no avail.
On the next play, he took the handoff and ran angry.
Flanagan burst through the middle of the line and rumbled 33 yards for a touchdown to clinch a 28-18 victory for the Rattlers, ending a three-game losing skid.
Flanagan, who finished with 210 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries for Mojave (5-3, 3-3 Division 1-A Sunset), was decidedly more upbeat after his team came away with the win. But after breaking away from Clark tacklers in the secondary all night, Flanagan said his motivation most of the game wasn’t anger.
“I did it for my team. I told them no pain, no mercy, no weakness. We’ve got to fight for it. I told them I was going to give 110 percent, so they needed to give me 110 percent,” Flanagan said. “So the line gave me good holes, and I hit them hard no matter who was on my back or who I was going against. I was going to keep fighting to get the extra yards.”
It turned out Mojave also had to fight to hang on after its 20-3 fourth-quarter lead was trimmed to just two points.
Kareem Warren scored on a 41-yard run for Clark (4-4, 3-3), and Marquice Stuart added a 66-yard fumble return for a TD that cut Mojave’s lead to 20-18 with 4:51 left in the game.
But Clark’s onside kick try sailed out of bounds, and Flanagan’s angry touchdown run ended the Chargers’ comeback threat, leaving Clark with its first home loss of the season.
Mojave’s defense held the Chargers to 174 yards of offense, as the Rattlers linebackers burst into the backfield and disrupted Clark’s attack throughout the game.
“The line got the push that we needed to open up gaps so we could just find the quarterback and running backs,” Mojave junior linebacker Kaleb Friedman said. “We just pressed those gaps and shut them down.”
Friedman led the Rattlers with 7½ tackles, a sack and a batted down pass that prevented a touchdown in the second quarter. He said he was confident going in that the defense could slow down the Chargers attack.
“We knew we had the ability to do it. It was just about pushing forward and actually doing it,” Friedman said. “We just stepped it up from last week. We practiced a lot harder. The players made the plays. We just all stepped up. We all knew we had a job to do and we all did it.”
Despite Mojave’s running game pounding away at the Chargers defense, and the Rattlers defense disrupting Clark’s attack throughout the game, Mojave led just 6-3 at the start of the fourth quarter.
The Rattlers had come away empty on three red-zone drives.
But Flanagan scored on a 4-yard run with 10:10 left in the fourth quarter to cap a 10-play, 99-yard drive that was keyed by a 59-yard run by Davion Fletcher.
Mojave then appeared to put the game away with 7:59 left in the fourth quarter after Elijah Smoot’s 87-yard interception return for a touchdown on the ensuing drive bumped the lead to 20-3.
Despite Clark’s late rally, Flanagan said he was glad his teammates kept playing hard to finally finish of the Chargers and end the losing streak.
“We knew if we kept pounding them that they would get tired. We just tried to wear them down and keep pounding,” Flanagan said. “In some of the previous games we got away from that plan, but in this game we stuck to our plan, kept running hard and ended up getting the job done.”
Friedman said ending the losing skid was all that mattered.
“This is a very big win for us,” said Friedman. “We just had to get over that hump and end the streak. I think it is just going to roll over into next game and then maybe into the playoffs.”