Wildcats hold off second-half Burro rally to reach 5A postseason
GLADEVILLE – “One more down.”
That was Wilson Central’s focus this week going into its regular-season finale against visiting Hillsboro.
On a wet and drizzly Friday evening, the Wildcats relied on their grinding run game and a strong second-quarter performance to lock up a playoff spot with a 24-16 victory in what was a “play-in” game against the Burros with the loser’s season coming to an end.
“Our guys had that mentality of just give me ‘one more down,’ and they’ve had that all year long,” Wilson Central head coach Brad Dedman said. “No matter what the score’s been, no matter what we’ve done, our guys have found a way to compete every game.”
Wilson Central’s offense jumped in front early after stopping Hillsboro’s opening drive. A punt interference call gave the Wildcats possession near midfield. With his offensive line creating space, running back Blake Hobbs gashed the Hillsboro defense, completing the opening march with a punishing 22-yard run off the right edge. The Wildcats didn’t look back from there.
Dedman gave credit to the defense for the fast start.
“Defense, we had that first three and out, that was huge. Gave us field position there,” Dedman said. “We were able to get going early as far as Hobbs getting them on the belly play and things on that order. Offensive line was blocking really well early. We took those first to drives and played Wilson Central football.”
Hillsboro looked to answer right back. Starting deep in their territory, the Burros moved the ball on the ground on the legs of Traveon Gentry and quarterback Deshawn Trotter. The Wildcat defense stiffened, and the Burros had to settle for a 22-yard Andrew Thornton field goal with 32 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
A Hayden Shults quarterback sneak put the Wildcats up two scores at 14-3. They would get another break when Mario Marshall intercepted a Trotter pass intended for Mikeece Jones and returned it to midfield. Three plays later, Jase Nuebel took an end-around down the home sidelines and outraced everyone for a 48-yard score and a 21-3 lead with 7:38 left in the half.
“Defense always compliments offense and offense always compliments defense,” Nuebel said. “So, whenever our offense is good, our defense is good. Ninety percent of us play both ways, so we still have that juice coming over from the other side of the ball. Stopping number 1 (Mikeece Jones), we keyed on him. Our best corner, Mario Marshall, we’d always switch, and he’d play on him, because Marshall, the one who got the pick, he’s a dog.”
Despite falling behind, Hillsboro controlled that clock for most of the first half, nearly six minutes more than the Wildcats. The last drive of the half consumed nearly the remaining time. An 80-yard drive that was extended by a diving catch by Robert Browning on third-and-long. One play later, the Burros ran the same play and Trotter hit Browning for a 15-yard score to cut the deficit to 21-9 at the end of the first half.
With the start of the second half, the rain arrived. A steady drizzle made hampered both offenses as footing was difficult and passing was treacherous. Numerous penalties plagued both sides and throughout much of the third quarter.
Late in the third, Hillsboro came to life, sparked by a Mikeece Jones punt return. With the rain coming and training by 12, Jones fielded a punt on the hop and returned it to the Hillsboro 46. Less than two minutes into the final quarter, Jones finished the drive with a 6-yard run to cut the lead to 21-16.
The Burros had a chance late to take the lead when they faced fourth down at the Wildcat 22-yard line. However, a procedure penalty moved them back five yards. The following halfback pass was doomed when Trotter, open in the left flat, slipped while adjusting to the pass, and the ball went off his outstretched hands.
Hillsboro head coach Anthony Brown felt good about the play of his team and the play call. “(Trotter) just slipped. You know, conditions goth the best of us, but we’re not going to make any excuses. There were a lot of plays we could’ve made tonight, and we didn’t. They made more plays than us tonight.”
Wilson Central went back to Hobbs and the ground game. Hobbs, who led all rushers with 115 on 22 carries, led a grinding drive that ate up all but 1:56 of the game. That drive ended with Estaban Hurtado’s 33-yard field goal.
“That was our game plan the whole entire game,” Dedman said. “Try to keep them from having the ball too much. We were able to do that in the first half. Second half not so much. They did a much better job of defending us and making us punt.”
Hillsboro, down eight with the clock against them, had one more opportunity to get the score even, but Wildcat defensive back Alex Atwell stepped in front of a Trotter offering in the flat to put the game away.
Wilson Central begins its Class 5A playoff quest by traveling to Page next week.
WILSON CENTRAL 24, HILLSBORO 16
|Hillsboro (3-7 overall, 3-3 5-5A), Wilson Central (6-4, 3-3)||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||Final|
W – Blake Hobbs 22 run, 6:18. Estaban Hurtado kick.
H – Andrew Thornton 22 field goal, 0:32.
W – Hayden Shults 1 run, 10:05. Hurtado kick.
W – Jase Nueble 48 run, 7:38. Hurtado kick.
H – Robert Browning 15 pass from Deshawn Trotter, 0:43. Kick failed.
H – Mikeece Jones 6 run, 10:54. Thornton kick.
W – Hurtado 33 field goal, 1:56.
|Pass Attempts-Completions- Interceptions||10-18-2||0-1-0|
|Punts – Average||3-20.3||4-35.3|
Hillsboro: Traveon Gentry 14-50, Deshawn Trotter 8-25, Chris Doss 3-16, Michael Gordon 2-13, Mikeece Jones 2-8, Trey Johnson 2-3.
Wilson Central: Blake Hobbs 22-115, Jase Nueble 4-63, Robbie Spickard 7-38, Hayden Shults 7-12, Seaton Hapner 2-11, Eli Burgess 1-4.
Hillsboro: Trotter 10-17-2 135, Doss 0-1-0 0.
Wilson Central: Shults 0-1-0 0.
Hillsboro: Jones 3-48, Robert Browning 2-35, Doss 3-30, DeMicheal Reid 2-22.
Wilson Central: none.