ROCHESTER–– The last two undefeated Three Rivers Conference teams took the field in Rochester Friday night, Whitko taking the long trip to face the heavily favored Zebras.
After a close finish in overtime, the Wildcats pulled out the win, 27-24.
Rochester took a quick 14-0 lead in the beginning of the first half, but Whitko wasn’t going to let its undefeated record slip away that easy.
After the Zebras second touchdown, the Wildcats picked up momentum when sophomore Connor Stouder returned the kickoff 53 yards, putting the Wildcats just 40 yards from the end zone.
Powerhouse DJ Fouce took the reins from there, running in five consecutive plays to pick up Whitko’s first touchdown.
Fouce had 171 of the Wildcats’ 204 yards rushing.
“He really is a workhorse, he’s not a real loud kid but he leads by example,” Whitko Head Coach Wayne Swender said.
Fouce also had a 16-yard pass play and led the team in tackles with 10.
I’ll just keep striving to get better, I owe it all to my coaches,” Fouce said.
Fouce picked up his second of three touchdowns with 4:18 left in the first half, bringing the halftime score to 14-14.
For much of the first half, Whitko’s Alex Stoddard was unable to complete a pass because Rochester’s defense covered the Wildcat recievers.
It didn’t take long for receiver Derek Snep to find openings in the second half, Snep had five catches for 76 yards in the final 24 minutes.
“They were double-teaming Derek a lot, he does a great job of getting himself open,” Swender said.
Snep and Fouce worked together to spread out Rochester’s defense and work their way up the field quickly in the third quarter. The pair had a combined 45 yards, picking up a third touchdown for the Wildcats.
Rochester fired back with a trick play. Punter Chad Scobie threw a 57-yard pass to put the Zebras within scoring range.
The Zebras quickly leveled out the score at 21-21 with 6:06 left in regulation.
The Wildcats turned to Fouce to gain yards and on a first down run, the ball was stripped from the hands of Fouce and the Zebras got the ball back with 1:27 to go.
Rochester tried their trick play again, but Snep reacted quickly and picked up an interception, giving the Wildcats another shot at the end zone.
After three plays, Stoddard threw an interception pass with 22.6 seconds to go in the game.
Rochester had the ball on Whitko’s 40 yard line and got within reach of a field goal.
With 7.6 seconds remaining, Rochester attempted a 25-yard field goal and missed.
In overtime, each team had four chances to score starting at the 10-yard line.
Rochester had the first chance and brought the ball to the two-yard line.
Zebra running back Zac Shultz took off for the end zone, but Fouce blitzed from behind and pulled Shultz back to the three-yard line.
Rochester scored a field goal, putting pressure on Whitko’s offense to score.
On first down, Stoddard found a wide open Scott Skiles in the middle of the end zone for the touchdown.
“We knew the play was open, it was open a lot that night, I’m just glad we got the score,” Skiles said.
The win puts Whitko in the lead for the Three Rivers Conference Title.
The Wildcats take on Tippicanoe Valley next week, another powerhouse in the oonference.
“We’re going to celebrate, but were going to get back to work Monday,” Swender said.