Amidst a contentious battle with mother nature, the Western Wildcats (4-0) struck down the real (district) opponents, the Everglades Gators (1-2), 20-7 in a nail-biting match.
The first quarter proved to be the longest quarter for both teams due to two nearly-consecutive lightning delays.
While Wildcat defensive back Robbie Ruebel got an interception in the first half of the quarter, the inclement weather and refereeing had the game slogging along for most of the quarter. Western finally did score after they found their groove near the end of the quarter with an outside power run by running back Keshaun Clarke. The quarter ended 6-0, but not before the Wildcats slipped back out and the Gators defensive back Kendrick Edmund found an interception.
The second quarter gave the Gators their re-entrance to the game with the short hookup to wide receiver Vamir Cadet, and subsequent extra point putting Everglades up 7-6. In an attempt to further their lead, the Gators’ special teams opted for an onside kick that was recovered by the Wildcats. The remainder of the half was a defensive struggle of will for both sides, with both sides struggling for yardage. While both had their own playmakers put up the yards, none of the drives resulted in scoring chances, and halftime came with the score remaining 7-6 Gators.
The third quarter continued in the fashion of the second, but with a heavier emphasis on penalties. The Wildcats got a scoring opportunity off of a penalty, but their subsequent score was brought back by just the same. The penalty flags flew more than the ball, and neither team could break through the wall their opponent’s defense presented.
Things changed in the fourth quarter with the spirit-rallying of the Wildcats. Quarterback Harrison Story’s 15 yard QB-Keeper power run gave new life to the offense, who finally got their moment on a short drive up the field that resulted in wide receiver Jaedan Fagan’s timely corner endzone touchdown reception from Story. However, the Wildcats didn’t let their 12-5 lead get to their heads, as they continued their ferocious pursuit of the ball, which landed strong safety Rueben Oliver with a fumble recovery. A few minutes later another touchdown courtesy of Story to wide receiver Jordan Smith, and a successful 2-pt. Conversion allowed the Wildcats to wrap up their fourth straight victory 20-7.
Defensive back Jakai Linwood, who was responsible for 9 tackles in the game, admitted “We started off soft in the first quarter and we turned it up in the … last half.” Linwood was named the HSPN Sports ‘Impact Player of the Game’.
The Wildcat defense, led by Linwood, was once again the name of the game adding 3 more scoreless quarters to their total for the year, making them 14/16 on the year. What set their squad apart from the Gators’ own squad was the fourth quarter. As the Wildcats turned up the heat and clamped down the passing lanes, the Gators started to come off their game and allow Western’s O-line to bust through.
One other major impact on the game was the amount of penalties against both teams, as the holding calls and false starts changed the course of the game numerous times, pushing both teams farther from the endzones. However, the Wildcats emphasized discipline, and demonstrated leadership as per their learnings from the PTRG Academy, as well as the STEALTH-Rating system.
While on the sideline Clarke joked about needing gummy bears, maybe there was some way to equate his sugar rush to his offensive rush. Maybe the Wildcat boost in the fourth quarter was courtesy of sour strings, or the sour taste left by defeat, which they refused to taste. Whatever it was, the Wildcat offense finally got the job done with 2 passing touchdowns and 1 rushing.
For those viewers that missed the live game, Western’s student broadcast team of interns has come to the rescue with a full replay available below. If you fast forward to 2:30 in the broadcast (yes 2 hours and 30 minutes of lightning delays) you will pick up the action in the 1st quarter of the game. Also, don’t forget to tune in next week to HSPN SPORTS when the Wildcats take on their non-district opponents, the Hallandale Chargers, on Monday, October 2nd at 6:45pm for the pregame show.