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Brooks' Dakota Starks is brought down by several Harper defenders during their game on Saturday, October 13, 2012, in Chicago. | Chandler West~For Sun-Times Media
Cleveland Clark just wanted some breathing room.
“I just told everybody to hold their blocks and I would follow them,” the senior Brooks running back said.
Clark scored two touchdowns, including a 17-yard jaunt with just under a minute remaining, as Brooks stunned previously unbeaten Harper 27-19 in a clash of conference unbeatens Saturday night at Gately Stadium.
“This is a great feeling beating Harper,” said Clark, who rushed for 82 yards on 16 carries. He helped the Eagles (5-2, 4-0 Illini Heartland) overcome two separate deficits. Brooks also denied Harper’s bid for back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons. “We’re a family, and everybody did their job,” he said.
Harper (6-1, 3-1) jumped out early, going up 7-0 on its first possession on Lorenzo Herbert’s one-yard plunge, set up by his own 37-yard pass play from sophomore quarterback David Harvey.
Brooks refused to back down. Junior skill player Dakota Starks was also huge for the Eagles. His 34-yard pass from Eagles’ quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw set up Clark’s one-yard plunge.
The lead lasted only seconds after Harper’s Dennis Barnes returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown and 13-7 Harper lead at the break. The momentum changed midway through the third quarter. On its first possession of the third quarter, in punt formation, Harper suffered an errant snap that gave Brooks first down at the Cardinals’ 20-yard line.
Clark rushed twice for 18 yards, allowing senior fullback Joshua Smith to dive in from two yards out for the Eagles’ first lead, 14-13. “That [snap] changed the whole complexion of the game,” Harper coach Maris Carrol said.
“We knew coming in the one thing we couldn’t afford to do was make mistakes, and we some mistakes deep in our own territory.”
Starks also set up Bradshaw’s one-yard naked bootleg when he burst 34-yard on third-and two late in the third quarter. “The line gave me some great blocks, and I was able on my passing routes to run great plays and my quarterback got me the ball,” he said.
Harper did not go down easy. Sophomore Devin Davis scored on a 23-yard pass from Harvey with 6:23, though the Cardinals were stuffed on the two-point conversion attempt. On the first play from scrimmage, Bradshaw found a streaking Starks for a 34-yard pass play that set up Clark’s game-clinching touchdown run.
Brooks’ Joshua Smith ended the game by intercepting Harvey’s desperation pass as time expired.