When you watch a game like Friday’s match-up between the Wildcats and 6A power Columbia High it’s easy to wonder “what if?” What if the Cats had scored on their opening drive? What if some of the dropped passes had been caught? What if they could have stopped Tiger quarterback Jayce Barber from completing his passes? Would the outcome have been different?
Questions like that are a fool’s errand, because they didn’t happen. What did happen was the Tigers completely dominated the Wildcats on the way to a 50-0 victory and one of the worst defeats in the history of Wildcat football.
The Wildcats will likely bounce back from the first loss this season that counted, and a comprehensive defeat may entice players to come back and go at it harder. That’s what Coach Ryan Sulkowski and his staff and team expect, and what followers of Wildcat football expect.
As a player, Friday’s game was one to put in a back pocket and remember when adversity strikes in other games. You pull it out and remember the feeling of walking off the field at the end of the game shell-shocked. You tell yourself this is not going to happen again. That’s what good teams do.
And the Wildcats are a good team.
There are positives to take from Friday’s game, though not a lot of them. The Wildcats hit hard, they chased, they fought for yardage and kept their heads up. Those are qualities that will serve them the rest of the season.
The Cats started strong. Falon Lee took the opening kickoff and cut and slashed 28 yards to the 35. On three successive plays he drove into Tiger territory to the CHS 43.
But at that point the drive broke down. The Wildcats punted and pinned the Tigers at the 3-yard line.
But a Top 5 team doesn’t stay pinned for long. The Tigers embarked on a 10-play, 97-yard drive for a touchdown and it defined the game.
The Wildcats knew they would be up against one of the best running games in the state. So they designed their game plan around stopping the run.“If they were going to beat us, their quarterback was going to have to throw the ball and complete some passes,” said Coach Ryan Sulkowski.
And that’s exactly what quarterback Jayce Barber did. The Wildcats did a pretty good job of controlling Braxton Stockton and Ronald Timmons over the course of the night, but that left single coverage on Ronnie Underwood, J.C. Bradley, Trey Marshall and Darren Burch.
Barber hit Underwood with a 17-yard pass completion on third down, found Barber on a 23-yard strike and connected with Burch in the end zone for the score. Just like that, BCHS was down by seven.
The Wildcats weren’t deterred, however, and came back with a couple of effective runs from senior quarterback Corey Lawler to the 30-yard line. Lawler hit Mike Boone at the 48 and it looked as if things might swing their way.
But two miscues, a holding call and a delay of game, stopped the drive cold. After a punt, Barber connected with Marshall on a 42-yard touchdown pass to give CHS a 14-0 lead.
Two plays later the Tigers had the ball again after Rakeem Battles intercepted Lawler. This time the Tigers stayed on the ground and marched 71 yards for the score.
The rout was on.
The match-up of All Americans CeCe Jefferson and Laremy Tunsill was a good one. Jefferson played a whale of a game at fullback and blocked an extra point.
But it was overshadowed by the mounting score. CHS led 34-0 at the half. It would have been easy at that point for a team with lesser character to lie down, but that is not in the Wildcat DNA and they continued to play hard. In fact, though they didn’t score, they played better in the second half than in the first.
The stats weren’t pretty. The Wildcats had 100 yards in total offense to 424 for Columbia. Falon Lee finished with 32 yards rushing, most of which came on the first series. Lawler was 2 for 7 for 14 yards and an interception. Timmons led Columbia with 13 carries for 130 yards.
The Cats have an open date Friday and will host Duval Charter on September 14. Duval Charter lost 67-0 to Episcopal last week.