By Stephen Smoot
For the second time this season, the Wildcats had to take the field without a key offensive performer. Even so, Southern Garrett could only slow, but not stop, the increasingly powerful Pendleton County offense.
Almost entirely unavailable at quarterback was James Vincell. With the Wildcats missing their starting quarterback, Southern tried to jam up the running game to slow down Dillon Smith and the other running backs. This forced the game into a contest of attrition, with the Wildcats working patiently to wear out the Rams defense.
Coach Zac Smith explained afterward that “we were a little short handed and it limited us a bit. We couldn’t spread things out.”
For much of the game, Dillon Smith ran the Wildcat spread from the quarterback position. In the first quarter, after Wildcat special teams stopped a punt fake at their own 31, Dillon Smith directed a methodical drive. Alternating carries with Chase Owens, the Wildcats pushed the ball to the Ram 29. A holding penalty on 4th down pushed Pendleton County back to the Ram 44. From there, a well-executed punt put the Rams at their own three.
For most of the rest of the first half, the two teams traded punts and played for field position.
Then lightning struck.
The Wildcat defense stood up a Southern drive with a minute left. Although Vincell played very little at the quarterback position, he came up big on defense. One of his five tackles was a big stop for a four-yard loss on a first down play with 1:24 left in the half. Southern gained no yardage on its remaining plays, then fumbled a snap on a punt play.
With 54 seconds left, Dillon Smith completed a screen pass to Owens, pushing the ball almost to midfield. Another pass to Owens brought the offense to the Wildcat 43. On 3rd and 10 at the 43, Dillon Smith found Clayton Kisamore at about the 30. Kisamore turned upfield, juked multiple defenders while cutting from the right sideline to the middle of the field, then found the endzone.
A successful Terry Harvey extra point gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead at the half.
The first action of the second half served as an omen for how the rest of the game would unfold. Southern was flagged for being offsides on the kickoff, giving the Wildcats an extra five yards.
After a Connor Armentrout return to the Wildcat 33, Dusty Smith took an end around run to the Southern 48. Two plays later, Dillon Smith advanced the ball 10 yards for a gain of 10. Efficient running by Owens and Dillon Smith over the next four plays brought the ball to the Ram 13 where the drive stalled on three straight incomplete passes leading to a turnover on downs.
Southern’s frustrations boiled over as they tried once again to ignite their offense, allowing a personal foul to negate an 11-yard gain. On the next play, Dillon Smith sliced into the backfield to drop a Rams back. Then, Dusty Smith dropped a ball carrier at the line of scrimmage.
An errant Ram punt rolling out of bounds at their own 17 put Pendleton County in terrific opening field position. Bradey Bowers took the ball into the line on the first play, getting hit hard on the line of scrimmage, but bulling his way forward for four yards. Southern’s defense, however, remained strong and halted the drive on an incomplete pass on 4th down.
The Wildcats would not have to wait long for another opportunity. From their own 14 Southern broke a big run to their own 39, but a big Vincell hit jarred the ball loose. The ever-vigilant Harvey pounced on the ball.
“The defense was lights out,” Coach Smith said.
Owens started the drive by promptly advancing the ball three yards. Penalties on the next three plays gave the Wildcats a 3rd and 4 at the 16, but a pass to Dusty Smith on the right sideline allowed a 1st and goal at the 5.
Two plays later with 16 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, Dillon Smith drove hard into the endzone for his team’s second touchdown of the night.
“The offensive line stepped up,” Coach Smith observed. He was pleased with all of his linemen, “who won on both sides of the ball” and were “really physical up front.”
Southern and Pendleton County traded punts. At 4:38 left in the game, Pendleton County exploited the worn down defense of the Rams. Dillon Smith stiff armed his way to a 12-yard gain on 3rd and 8 to get to the Ram 35. Later in the drive, a 17-yard gain by Dillon Smith took the offense to the 11. The drive concluded as he leapt a would be tackler at the goal line for the final score of the night.
While “pleased with this effort, Coach Smith added that he’d “like to be more efficient in the red zone.”
Friday, the Wildcats will be at home with kickoff set for 7 p.m.
This week’s opponent, Tucker County overpowered double A, but winless, Berkeley Springs to attain a ninth place ranking in single A. Ethan Rosenau completed 13-22 passes for 252 yards while Jared Reall rushed 11 times for 116.
Passing: Dillon Smith 7-14 107 yards 1 TD, James Vincell 1-2 2 yards
Rushing: Dillon Smith 23-121 yards 2 TDs, Chase Owens 15-42, Bradey Bowers 4-17, James Vincell 1-4
Receiving: Clayton Kisamore 1-57 TD, Dusty Smith 5-38, Chase Owens 2-12
Dillon Smith 10 tackles, Terry Harvey 9, Dusty Smith 7, Chase Owens 8, James Vincell 5, Connor Armentrout 4, Justus Kuykendall 4, Blake Harris 3, Clayton Kisamore, 2, Lukas Redman 2, Nick Rhodes 1, Kameron Redman 1 (1 sack).
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