Asked about the Mervo squad his team had just vanquished, Patterson quarterback Carnest Peele spoke as if he'd seen a ghost.
"It was scary," said Peele, part of last year's 33-0 win at Mervo.
Frightening enough that 22nd-year coach Roger Wrenn, twice facing second-half deficits, had to dig deep into his bag of tricks before his third-ranked Clippers (4-0, 3-0) had exorcised their City 4A league rivals, 18-14.
"There are plays that I've had for years that I save for critical situations. Most people consider them trickery," said Wrenn, who won his 140th career game. "We knew we'd have to bring it all out against Mervo."
With his Clippers trailing 8-6 late in the third period, wide receiver Mike Jaski kept alive a nine-play, 79-yard scoring drive that Wrenn said, "we had to have" to get back into the game.
On the sixth play, Jaski took an option pitch from Peele (8-for-9, 96 yards) and tossed an 18-yard pass to Malcolm Liverpool at Mervo's 33. Two plays later, Jaski turned a 4-yard curl pass into a 21-yard touchdown with 9:30 left in the game.
"If that series didn't work, I'm not sure we would have won the game," said Jaski, a three-year starting kicker. "That was big."
But down 14-12 with four minutes to go, the Clippers needed more chicanery.
Peele took the snap and sprinted back as if to pass, but slipped the ball to Dwayne Simmons (20 carries, 119 yards), crouched four yards into the backfield.
As Peele rolled right, several Mervo defenders followed. Simmons had finished half his game-winning 62-yard touchdown run before the Mustangs (2-2, 1-1) discovered they'd been duped.
"I looked up and all I saw was our blue jerseys," said Simmons, who had just 32 yards in the first half. "Earlier, they did a good job on me, blitzing straight through the middle."
Defensively, Mervo's charge was led by Dontaine Carroll, Talien Walker and William Johns, who combined for 23 tackles, and Dante Briley, who recorded his fifth interception.
But the Clippers led, 6-0, at halftime on Peele's 9-yard pass to Liverpool, a play initially questioned by Mervo coach John Blake, who thought Liverpool had trapped the ball.
Mervo (240 total yards) went up, 8-6, with 3:29 left in the third period. Andrew Scott (17 carries, 84 yards), who had 61 yards in the first half, scored from four yards and ran in the conversion.
Johns and Julian Robinson helped to set up the play -- Johns by recovering Peele's errant option pitch at Patterson's 38, and Robinson with a 25-yard catch.
That began an air attack that had the Clippers' secondary back-pedaling the rest of the game.
"I thought about going to the pass earlier," Blake said, "but we initially wanted to keep the ball out of their hands and control the clock."
Mustangs quarterback Gregorio Lee (10-for-15, 147 yards) used five different receivers. Wallace Williams (five receptions, 56 yards) caught the most, but Robinson (two, 85) the most spectacular, for a 14-12 lead late in the fourth period.
With Mervo at its own 40, Robinson sprinted down the Patterson sideline to the Clippers' 35. He out-leaped defender Jaski, who fell to the ground and then ran untouched into the end zone.
In the first half, Patterson stopped two Mervo drives inside its 25 -- one on Tom Newell's fumble recovery and the other on Peele's interception.