There was a cool wind coming off the St. Johns River but the hundreds of Wildcat fans in the stands at Bishop Kenny on Friday didn’t notice the chill because it was hot on the field as BCHS bulldozed its way to a 49-35 victory and the district title.
Falon Lee continued on a tear, rushing for 222 yards on 28 carries and scoring three touchdowns.
For the Wildcat fans there couldn’t have been a better start to the game. Kenny was keying on the potent Wildcat running attack and quarterback Corey Lawler hooked up with receiver Mike Boone to catch the Crusaders by surprise. Boone turned on the jets and ran for a 66-yard touchdown strike. The extra point attempt failed, but Cats were quickly on the board.
The defending district champs weren’t going to let an early setback stop them and Kenny demonstrated its own offensive prowess. Though Kenny’s known for a prolific passing attack from quarterback John Wolford, it was the running game that drew first blood. Running back Cameron Singletary broke containment and ran 30 yards for the score. The point after gave the Crusaders a one-point edge.The hosts quieted the Wildcat faithful again as they struck quickly on an offensive miscue. Ahmad Fulwood scooped up a Wildcat fumble and raced 47 yards to stun BCHS and put the Crusaders up 14-6. It was a reminder of Kenny’s quick-strike potential.
But BCHS proved itself capable of striking back. Lee took the kick to near midfield and Lawler hit Logan Fox at the Kenny 40. If the Crusaders had any doubt about Lawler’s ability to run the ball he demonstrated it on the next play. He broke multiple tackles, pulling Crusaders with him down to the 2-yard line. On the next play Lee scored and Boone added the conversion to knot the score at 14-14.
The Wildcat defense did an excellent job pressuring John Wolford all night long. Wolford is the kind of player who is going to get yardage, but for BCHS it was a “bend, don’t break” situation that Coach Ryan Sulkowski had installed as the game plan. The defense pressured Wolford and forced him to check down to his second and third receivers or scramble.
Though Fullwood had a good game by most teams’ standards with six catches for 96 yards, he did not have the game changing effort that he has shown before. Wolford had to look to Mo Tapper and Hunter Parry to pick up yardage as he increasingly found his top choice covered, or himself being harassed to the point he had to check down to his third or fourth receiver.
The Wildcat defense pushed the Crusaders into uncharacteristic mistakes. The Kenny punter twice tried a moving “rugby style” punt but the Cats blocked both attempts. CeCe Jefferson blocked his first attempt, giving BCHS the ball at the Kenny 31-yard line.
Lawler hit Fox at the 15 and two plays later ran it in for the score. The PAT was good from Jacob Carter for a 21-14 edge.
Kenny came right back with passes to Parry and Fulwood and Wolford ran the ball in from five yards out to tie the score.
Again, BCHS hit back. Though forced to punt, the Wildcats defense stepped up in a big way on the next Bishop Kenny possession. Blaine Merchant ripped the ball out of Parry’s hand to give the Wildcats the ball at the 40-yard line. It was to prove the game changing play as the Wildcats scored on a run from Lee and would never trail again.
Though the Wildcats led the game, because of the quick scoring ability of Bishop Kenny, there was never a moment where the fans or players could relax. The defense continued to play well and Tyler Lokey forced the third of four turnovers and gave the Cats the ball deep in Kenny territory. Lee scored from four yards out for a 35-21 halftime edge.
Kenny closed the gap to 35-28 with a 14-yard Wolford to Fullwood strike to open the third quarter.
Later in the quarter, Merchant had his second take away to set up a score. He intercepted Wolford at the 38-yard line. Four carries by Lee parked the ball at the Crusader four and Lawler ran it in for a 42-28 edge.
The Cats opened the scoring up with another big turnover. Eli Lee recovered a second blocked punt and two plays later Lawler scored from five yards out. The Carter PAT was good to put BCHS up 49-28.
Kenny got a late score from Wolford to Tapper and Anthony James squashed the Kenny comeback with an interception at the Wildcat 13-yard line late in the game.
The Wildcats had 443 yards of total offense but it was the key turnovers that were the deciding factor. Lee was again outstanding with 222 yards rushing. Lawler was again over the hundred yard mark with 101 yards on 19 carries. Boone had a trio of receptions for 89 yards.
The win gave BCHS its first district crown since 2009. The Wildcats will host Creekside later in the first round of the playoffs.
This week the Cats will host their traditional rival Bradford County at 7:30 pm at Memorial Stadium.
BCHS will begin selling playoff tickets to season ticket holders starting this week through November 15 during school hours. They will also be on sale Friday night during the Bradford game.
All reserved tickets not purchased prior to deadline will be sold on a first come-first served basis on November 16 starting at 5 pm at Memorial Stadium. Activity passes are not allowed (per FHSAA) during state series contests.