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SOUTH WHITLEY — The Whitko Wildcats kicked off their season with a 20-0 shutout home game against the Wawasee Warriors.
Whitko’s motivating defense lead their offense into touchdown after touchdown.
After nearly every big defensive play, a touchdown was to follow.
“I’m just very proud of our team, whether things went bad or things went good, we got back in the huddle and got back to work,” said Whitko head coach Wayne Swender.
Whitko held onto the momentum through the entire game, not allowing Wawasee to get going offensively or defensively.
Though there wasn’t much scoring in the first half, the Wildcats defense proved they weren’t going to give Wawasee a chance at a touchdown.
On the first defensive drive, linebacker Benjamin Bryan caused a third and 28 with a strong tackle, leading the Warriors to their first of six punts for the game.
“We were unable to effectively move the ball,” said Wawasee head coach Tom Wogomon.
The next time the ’Cats defense took the field, the motivation didn’t change.
After 11 plays in the drive, Wawasee was forced to punt.
Junior Austin Striggle broke through the Warriors offensive line and snatched the ball out of midair.
This momentum builder lead the Wildcats to their first touchdown of the game, with senior Dakota Harmon dashing for the end zone with only 11.6 seconds left in the half.
Harmon picked up a team high total of 71 yards rushing for the night.
The early seconds of the second half proved to be even better than the first half. At returner in his tracks, not allowing him to gain any yardage.
The Wildcat defense knocked down nearly all Wawasee attempts at passing, with the Warriors only having one completed pass for the night.
Austin Striggle had another stop in the next defensive play, killing any hopes of a Wawasee touchdown.
For a second time the defense pumped up the offense, leading them to another touchdown drive.
The 12-play drive utilized several Wildcat running backs to pick up yards.
“(We) try to keep fresh (with running backs) we’ve got guys we can rotate in. D.J. and Dakota that start, and we’ve got Bumbaugh and Mort that came in,” Swender said.
Compared to Wawasee’s 82 yards, Whitko collected 223 total yards rushing. The running backs may have brought them to the red zone, but it was a pass from sophomore quarterback Alex Stoddard to
fullback Austin Mort for the touchdown.
Stoddard proved he was ready to take on Whitko’s role as quarterback, completing six passes for 76 yards. He also picked up 44 rushing yards and a touchdown.
“Alex started out the first half nervous for his first start, he had big shoes to fill and he knew that, but he responded well,” Swender said.
As the game continued on, Whitko’s defense gained more and more confidence.
In the next defensive drive, the Wildcats didn’t even allow Wawasee across the line of scrimmage. The drive was completed with a 13-yard sack by Fouce.
The final touchdown was achieved with an eight play, 77-yard drive with only 5:35 left in the game.
“Whitko just plain played better than we did, there’s no doubt about it when you see a 20-0 game,” Wogomon commented.
The Wildcats take on their rival the Columbia City Eagles (1-0) Friday night at home.