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Clarksburg High School football’s three-year starting linebacker/wide receiver Stefan Houston can’t sneak up on teams like he did in 2010.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder seems to feed off the additional pressure.
Houston, who has made a verbal commitment to play for the University of Maryland, was the difference in Clarksburg’s 26-21 come-from-behind win over Montgomery 4A West foe Gaithersburg Thursday with three touchdowns on 89 yards rushing and 102 receiving.
The game was at Clarksburg but Gaithersburg was the “home” team. Construction at their school means the Trojans are playing all their homes games this year off campus.
Perhaps even a bigger part of the Clarksburg’s (4-2, 2-1 4A West) defense, Houston scored the Coyotes’ first touchdown Thursday on a 22-yard interception return.
Meanwhile the Trojans’ (4-2, 2-1) playmaking receiver, Simba Gwashavanhu (14 receptions for 263 yards and two touchdowns in 2011), was sidelined Thursday with a dislocated elbow.
And leading rusher Solomon Vault missed a good portion of the second half due to cramps.
“Oh, I’ve seen [Houston], that was not surprise,” longtime Gaithersburg coach Kreg Kephart said. “I knew who he was even last year, I said he was a great player.”
Clarksburg has been on the losing end of several tight games the past two years, including two consecutive overtime losses to Damascus, but it was the Coyotes who were more composed down the stretch Thursday.
Sophomore defensive back Will Tearney’s interception with the Trojans leading 21-20 and two minutes left in regulation looked to be all Gaithersburg needed to hold on to the win.
Clarksburg’s Barry Solomon’s recovery of Vault’s fumble coupled with Gaithersburg’s 15-yard penalty put the Coyotes in good position late.
“We stuck in it this time,” Houston said. “We’ve been there before and we stuck with it. [Thursday] keeps us in the running for playoffs.”
Clarksburg failed to get a first down in its first three possessions Thursday but took a 6-0 lead with 40 seconds left in the first quarter on Houston’s interception return.
Failing to make much headway on offense early, the Coyotes switched to the Wildcat formation, with Houston taking some snaps.
The move opened up more opportunities for Clarksburg in the second half.
“We probably do [wildcat] about 35 percent of the time,” Houston said. “I love it.”
Gaithersburg led 14-6 at halftime after quarterback Lincon Reyes’ 1-yard keeper to tie the game at 6-6 early in the second quarter and his 19-yard scramble to close out the half; Reyes connected with senior receiver Billy Brown on the two-point conversion.
Vault had a 65-yard touchdown run called back due to a chop blocking call.
After two failed attempts to pass, Clarksburg quarterback Michael Sheehan connected with Derrell Howard on a 22-yard touchdown pass to cut Gaithersburg’s lead to 14-12 late in the third quarter.
A 48-yard pass to Howard on the Coyotes’ next series set up Houston’s 12-yard touchdown run to give Clarksburg an 18-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Gaithersburg pulled ahead, 21-20, three minutes later on Reyes’ 30-yard touchdown pass to Brown.
Brown was a factor on defense with three sacks.
After a shaky first quarter, Reyes, who practiced Wednesday for the first time all week, finished with 215 passing yards.
Sheehan completed nine of 17 pass attempts for 169 yards. Howard had 76 receiving yards and intercepted Reyes’ final pass into the end zone to secure Clarksburg’s win.
“I love seeing [my teammates] make big plays like that,” Houston said. “It’s a team effort.”
Clarksburg 26, Gaithersburg 21
Clarksburg (4-2) 6 0 6 14 -- 26
Gaithersburg (4-2) 0 14 0 7 -- 21
C -- Stefan Houston 22 interception return (kick failed)
G -- Lincon Reyes 1 run (kick failed)
G -- Lincon Reyes 19 run (Lincon Reyes pass to Billy Brown)
C -- Derrell Howard 22 pass from Michael Sheehan (run failed)
C -- Stefan Houston 12 run (Stefan Houston pass from Michael Sheehan)
G -- Billy Brown 30 pass from Lincon Reyes (Jorge Rivas kick)
C -- Houston 3 run (pass failed)
RUSHING -- Stefan Houston 19-102. G: Solomon Vault 18-84; Lincon Reyes 9-13.
PASSING -- Michael Sheehan 9-17-169. Lincon Reyes 13-29-215.
RECEIVING -- Stefan Houston 4-89; Derrell Howard 4-76; Barry Solomon 1-25. G: Billy Brown 3-69; Solomon Vault 3-52; Dominic Jefferson 3-47; James Waddy 4-27.