Dan PearsonBy:  J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola

St. Cloud had to avoid the “snake” and then watched Joseph Clukey “snake” through the Winter Springs defense on two long touchdowns as the Bulldogs raced past the Bears, 38-16 on Friday night.

Clukey’s touchdowns came on a 40-yard run and a 73-yard punt return to break open a relatively tight game after the contest was delayed for a few minutes in the third quarter when a three-foot long Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake has slithered on to the field midway through the third quarter.

“I thought I had seen everything possible in high school sports,” St. Cloud Athletic Director Bryan Smart said.  “I guess I was wrong.”  Smart reported that school personnel were able to safely capture the snake in a bucket and it was released unharmed in the woods behind the school’s practice field.

St. Cloud was clinging to a 17-10 lead before the snake delay.  After holding on downs and forcing a short punt, the Bulldogs took over on the Winter Springs 40 with 3:30 remaining in the third quarter.  Clukey would make it a two-score lead when he broke a tackle at the line, ran over a defender 10-yards later and raced into the end zone for a touchdown.

A Bryce Williams’ interception and subsequent 13-yard return would then give St. Cloud a short field.  Three plays later, Logan King hit Yadiel Geigel on a 17-yard scoring strike to make it 31-10.   

St. Cloud’s defense was outstanding in the second half, hold Winter Springs to negative yardage until midway through the fourth period when quarterback Lucas Vertullo hit Tah’rell Beck on a quick out and Beck broke one tackle and raced 80-yards for a touchdown.

Clukey would close out the scoring with a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown where he took a punt on the left side of the field, beat defenders to the corner and broke several tackles–racing down the right sideline for his second touchdown of the game.

“Other than the first drive and that broken play for a touchdown, I thought our defense was outstanding tonight,” Short said.  In the second half, the St. Cloud defense recorded five sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery and two other tackles-for-loss in holding the Bears to 89 yards of total offense after halftime.

Winter Springs would make a game of it in the first half.  

Recovering a fumble on the second play of the game, Bears quarterback Jonathan Adams would direct an 11-play drive – calling his own number from two-yards out to give the Bears a 7-0 lead.

But after Noah Carr made it 7-6 on a 5-yard run, punter Wyatt Castellucci would turn the momentum in the game by pinning Winter Springs on its own 5-yard line with a 64-yard punt.  The Bulldog defense would force a short punt and Terrence Griffin’s 19-yard return gave St. Cloud the ball inside the red zone.  From there, King’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Conner Owen and Clukey’s two-point conversion gave the Bulldog’s a 14-7 lead they would not relinquish.

Winter Springs would cut the lead to 14-10 on Parker Munjab’s 41-yard field goal with 14 seconds left.   But the Bears would try an onside kick that St. Cloud would recover on the 47.  King hit Conner for 18 yards and with three seconds left, Adrian Gonzalez-Lopez booted a 39-yard field goal to extend the lead to 17-10.

“I was really pleased with our defense and special teams, but the penalties were unacceptable,” Short said of his team that was flagged 13 times for 125 yards.  “It’s something we definitely need to clean up, especially the personal fouls.” 

St. Cloud went to 3-2 on the year, while Winter Springs dropped to 0-5.  The Bulldogs return to action next Friday night when they host Osceola in the 99th meeting between the two schools.  Osceola has dominated the series of late, including a 56-0 win last year.  St. Cloud last won in 2012, but later forfeited the win over a player eligibility issue.  Overall, the Bulldogs last officially won with back-to-back victories in 2004-05 and trail the all-time series, 67-24-4.