Coaches will tell you one thing quickly – it’s put up or shut up time.
Before last Friday’s Homecoming game versus the Terry Parker Braves, the Wildcats were looking at three consecutive district games to decide if they would reach the playoffs for the first time under Coach Ryan Sulkowski’s reign.
They put their foot forward the evening of October 19 with an emphatic 42-21 win over the Braves. Ahead they face two teams that are tied with BCHS for the district lead, Forrest and last year’s champs, Bishop Kenny.
It’s easy to get distracted by the hoopla associated with Homecoming. There are dress up days at school, the parade and voting for the queen. It can be difficult to put your whole focus on football.
But that’s what coaches are for — to motivate and encourage and narrow their players’ focus on the game ahead.
For the first 20 minutes it looked as if all the scattered Homecoming energy might have gotten to the Cats. Parker scored first on a 6-yard run to take a 7-0 lead.
The Wildcats moved the ball well, but Parker came to play, and after scoring first and holding BCHS scoreless in the first period, one sensed the visitors thought they could spoil the Homecoming party.
As the clock inched closer to halftime, it looked as if they might be right. But then Corey Lawler got a seam and it was all over but the shouting. Lawler juked and jived and powered past the Braves’ defenders and then turned on the jets for a 61-yard touchdown run to open the scoring for BCHS. The PAT was no good and Parker held a 7-6 lead.
The Lawler run woke up the Cat offense and inspired the defense. There’s an old cliché that speed kills and four minutes later Lawler demonstrated the truth of the adage. Lawler found Mike Boone in the open and Boone simply outran the Braves for a dynamic 64-yard touchdown scamper. Lawler added the two-point conversion and BCHS took a 14-7 lead.
With the floodgates open, the Wildcats weren’t finished. Two minutes later, Lawler once again found a little space from the Parker 21-yard line and punched past the Brave defense, waltzing into the end zone. Lawler was unstoppable in the second quarter both running and throwing, and he added the two-point conversion for a 22-7 lead.
With under a minute to go, Falon Lee picked off a pass to stop a Parker drive and ran the ball back 36 yards for yet another score. Lawler ran in the conversion to put the Cats up 30-7 going into the extended halftime.
The defensive touchdown inspired Lee. With nine minutes to go in the third period he broke free for an exciting 44-yard touchdown scamper. The conversion attempt was no good and the Cats led 36-7.
Lee topped off the scoring for BCHS with an 11-yard run as time ran down in the third period.
The fourth period belonged to Parker as BCHS seemingly eased off the gas a little. Parker scored on a 14-yard run and a 12-yard pass reception.
For the Wildcats it was an important win. Bishop Kenny continued to impress with a 36-22 win over Clay County. Forrest, struggling in non-district games, remains perfect in district play, defeating Paxon easily 38-13.
The wins leave a logjam at the top of the District 3-5A standings with all three teams at an identical 3-0 record.
BCHS faces a dangerous Rebels team on the road Thursday, October 25 at 7 pm and then travels to Bishop Kenny to take on the reigning district champions. Forrest is a must-win game for BCHS because a loss will force a victory against the Crusaders for a spot in the playoff.
A win versus Forrest and a Kenny victory over Parker sets up a titanic struggle on November 2 with Kenny for the district championship.