CLINTON — Talent trumps tradition.
At least that was the case Friday night in the Tornado Bowl where perennial power Clinton only has lost 10 home games in Mike Lee's 22-year-career as head coach of the Red Tornadoes.
But the Red Tornadoes have faced few, if any, teams in those 22 years with the talent of Class 3A's top-ranked Heritage Hall.
The Chargers scored on five straight possessions in the first half and rolled to a surprisingly easy 41-7 victory over Clinton, ranked No. 4 in Class 4A.
The game was hyped as one of those rare match-ups of high school heavyweights — much like Oklahoma vs. Notre Dame or Alabama vs. USC — traditional college football powers that rarely meet on the field.
Heritage Hall is a defending state champion. Clinton has won eight state championships and finished runners-up five times in the past 20 years.
But the game didn't live up to the hype as the Chargers, loaded with several Division I prospects, had the Red Tornadoes outmanned in both size and speed.
“We don't get beat like that anywhere,” said Lee, who owns a 240-41 record at Clinton, including a 129-11 home record in the Tornado Bowl after Friday night.
“I don't know if I have ever seen us roll over. We rolled over tonight.”
Lee, however, conceded that the Chargers might have been the best club his Red Tornadoes have ever faced at home.
“Maybe Ardmore in '90 (was as talented),” he said. “That's about it. I thought we would have our hands full because they have so much big-play ability.”
Barry Sanders fumbled on the first play of the game, which led to a quick Clinton touchdown four plays later. But after Clinton tailback Jalee Rainge's 17-yard touchdown run, the game quickly turned into a rout.
Heritage Hall scored the next five times it had the ball. Sanders had a 14-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Quinn Shanbour connected with wide receiver Cale Courtney on a 43-yard scoring strike.
Defensive tackle Markus Wakefield intercepted a screen pass and raced 15 yards for a touchdown. Shanbour had a quarterback sneak for a score and Quintaz Struble blocked a punt that was recovered by Brandon Moews for a touchdown.
The Chargers led 34-7 at halftime. Sanders didn't play the second half. Sterling Shepard caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Shanbour midway through the third period, then both sat with the rest of the starters for the remainder of the game.
Shepard said the Chargers were very much aware of Clinton's rich tradition and prepared in practice as if Friday night's contest was a playoff game.
“They are definitely one of the best teams we play all year,” Shepard said. “We know they are a big school and take (football) seriously here. It really feels good to come out with a great win.”