Going into last Friday night’s football game between the Wildcats and the Bishop Kenny Crusaders both teams knew a very simple fact. One of them was going to make history.
Neither team had progressed beyond the second round of the state playoffs and somebody was going to be hosting a third-round game against Tallahassee Godby. The question was who would be playing this Friday night and who would be sitting at home thinking of what might have been.
In the end it was Bishop Kenny that would avenge a district championship loss to the Wildcats three weeks ago with an emphatic 44-23 victory.
Going into the game, the Cats were certain of one thing – to beat Kenny you had to stop their vaunted passing game. That was a given, and they prepared to do just that.For the first time all season, the Wildcats started the game with three down linemen, daring the Crusaders to run the ball. The added linebacker was to provide double coverage support on UF recruit Ahmad Fulwood and Mo Tapper, who had hurt the Wildcats with his receptions in the district game.
On paper, it looked like an excellent plan. But the Crusaders refused to stick to the plan. Instead, they ran the ball right at the front three and running back Cameron Singletary, who was used to being an also ran in every story about the Crusaders, found himself in the headlines. Singletary shifted the Wildcat game plan by exploding for 182 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries.
With Singletary running the ball effectively, the Cats moved to their more traditional 4-3 defense and that opened up the field a little more for quarterback John Wolford.
Again, Tapper was the thorn in the Wildcats’ side. He finished with seven catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
Kenny scored first, driving 80 yards on 10 plays on its opening series. Singletary sent up warning flags on his first carry, running up the middle for 11 yards. Fulwood ran an end-around that collected another 20 yards and Wolford finished the long drive with an 8-yard pass to Tapper in the end zone. The kick was no good.
Kenny drove the ball down the field again on a second drive until a crushing Mike Boone stop on Hunter Perry stalled the Crusaders and they had to settle for a 32-yard Robbie Blanchfield field goal.
The Wildcats lit a fuse at the beginning of the second quarter. Falon Lee, who would not be stopped all night, returned the ball to midfield on the ensuing kickoff. He finished the game with 227 yards on 24 carries, and was outstanding all night. Lee broke three school records and rushed for his fifth consecutive 200-yard game.
The drive stalled but the Cats got their first field goal of the season, a 27-yard effort from Jacob Carter. His kicking has improved all season long. He has been automatic on extra points and the coaching staff are confident at letting him try field goals during the game.
The Cats took the lead on their next series. Blayne Merchant got a big tackle to stop Kenny on fourth down and Lee brought the punt back 48 yards for the score to put BCHS up 10-9.
Kenny struck right back, however, when Wolford hit Tapper, who then outran the Wildcat defenders for a 78-yard score. The half ended with Kenny in the lead 16-10.
It was anybody’s game as Kenny kicked off to the Wildcats for the second half. BCHS drove 80 yards in four plays with a pair of long Lee runs and capped the drive with a 4-yard Corey Lawler to Mike Boone touchdown to go up by a point.
Kenny struck right back. A face mask penalty gave them a first down after the Cats appeared to have them stopped and Singletary went 13 yards for the score.
The Crusaders stopped BCHS on fourth down and Wolford found Trey Johnson for a 30-yard touchdown to put the Crusaders up 30-17.
The back-breaking play of the game came on the next series for BCHS as Hunter Perry stepped in front of a Lawler pass and raced 32 yards for the score to put Kenny up by 20 points. Singletary would score again for Kenny, and Lee would add a touchdown for BCHS on a 5-yard run.
It was a sad ending to a wonderful season for the Wildcats. Coach Ryan Sulkowski got his first district crown with a team many in the community gave little chance of winning one. They crushed Creekside 34-0 in their opening playoff game and Lee was outstanding in the latter half of the season as he has been throughout his four years as a starter.
Lee finished the season with five straight 200-plus yard games and broke the school record for career carries (224, a record held by Curtis Williams’ 214 in 1974), career rushing yards (also held by Williams at 3899 in 1975) and single season yards (held by former Wildcat coach Carl West, 1962 in 1977).
The Wildcats finished the game with 249 yards rushing on 33 carries. Corey Lawler was 7 for 10 with one interception and 99 yards passing. Kenny had 248 yards rushing on 42 carries. Wolford was 13 of 17 passing for 202 yards.