SOUTH WHITLEY — When the game clock rolled over to 7:00, it became three of a kind for Whitko as they scored the game tying touchdown that made the score 7-7 in the fourth quarter against visiting Southwood.
The magic number sevens kicked off the Wildcats luck on Friday night, leading them to a 17-14 double overtime win.
As expected, the game was dominated by tough defensive play by both teams. There was only one touchdown in the first 41 minutes of play, and that came from Southwood running back Logan Schneider who ran one in on the first drive of the game, stealing the offensive momentum from Whitko.
Along with Southwood’s tough defense, Whitko hurt itself with penalties and poor pass protection that prevented the ’Cats from having a chance at the end zone.
“I give credit to Southwood because they just outplayed us and we just held on,” Whitko Head Coach Wayne Swender said
But as the clock ticked closer to that mystic number seven, the Wildcats luck took a turn.
Junior Derek Snep snatched a Knight pass out of the hands of Southwood receiver Kyle Dickey and ran it to the Knight 33-yard line.
The ’Cats made quick work of the momentum change. Fullback Dakota Harmon was on a mission when he blew through the Southwood defensive line for a 16-yard gain.
Senior Scott Skiles rushed down the right side of the field and, as the clock hit seven, crossed into the end zone.
The kickoff was followed by a quick three-and-out defensive series, giving the ‘Cats the ball back with less than three minutes to go in regulation.
Southwood’s defense continued to be strong, putting Whitko in a fourth-and-one position with 1:30 remaining in the game.
It was a repeat of a similar situation that happened in the third quarter. That time, on the fourth-and-one, the Wildcats tried to go for the first down.
The Knight defensive line proved they weren’t going to allow that, shoving the ball back several yards behind the line of scrimmage.
“We already tried a fourth-and-one and didn’t make it, and those linebackers come in pretty hard at us, (they) stuck us pretty good last time,” Swender said.
Remembering the previous experience, Swender opted to punt the ball and rely on his defense to keep Southwood from scoring. The Whitko defensive unit paid back Swender’s trust in them by stopping the Knights and sending the game into sudden death overtime.
In overtime, each team gets four plays to score from the 10-yard line.
Whitko won the coin toss and deferred, allowing Southwood the first shot at offense.
In four hard-fought plays the Knights found the end zone, putting pressure on quarterback Alex Stoddard and the ‘Cat offense to score.
Stoddard took matters into his own hands as he faked a handoff to running back DJ Fouce, then ran the ball straight for the end zone, tying up the score.
Excitement filled the bleachers of Ryan Huff Memorial field as the ‘Cats took the field for the second overtime.
The Knight defense took over again, only letting Whitko pick up three yards in three plays.
At fourth and seven, Swender decided to go for the field goal.
“Our defense was playing well, so we wanted to get the points on the board and let the defense take over from there,” Swender said.
The field goal by kicker Ben Bryan was good, putting the ‘Cats up 17-14.
Even with a broken hand, Fouce took over from there, getting a hand on every tackle for the rest of the game. With some help from teammate Joe Haywood, Fouce sacked the Southwood quarterback, making it fourth-and-14 for the Knights.
Southwood decided to go for the win, opting out of a field goal attempt.
But Fouce would have no part of that, busting through the Southwood defensive line and engulfing the Knight quarterback, giving him no chance to complete a pass.
“They’re good athletes and they’re just determined to win. They all are,” Swender said.
The Wildcats kicked off conference play undefeated (1-0) and are taking their first road trip to Manchester next week.