Whitewater claims key region win over Riverdale 38-21
by Rob Grubbs
With only two weeks left in the football regular season, the Region 3-AAAAA playoff race is wide open for the top four spots to advance to post season. On Friday night, Whitewater (5-2 overall and 2-1 in region play) traveled to Riverdale to face the 6-1 Raiders, the only undefeated team remaining in the region at 3-0.
The key matchup would begin the process of putting the playoff picture in focus and keep the winner in contention for the top spot. Adding to the spectacle of the great region matchup was the fact that the game was selected as the Fox 5 “In Your Face” Game on the week.
As the temperatures cooled down for the first Friday night game of the fall, Whitewater’s offense led by seniors Stone Kasten and Isaiah Montgomery stayed red hot, scoring on 6 of 9 possessions and only punting once to lead the Wildcats to a 38-21 win. With the victory, Whitewater stays in contention for the region championship and top seed.
Whitewater took the opening kickoff and started fast with a 30-yard pass from Kasten to Jamal Jenkins deep into Raider territory, but a fumble in the backfield on the next play gave the ball to Riverdale and quickly changed the emotions on the Whitewater sideline, wondering if this game might be one decided on bad luck and turnovers.
The Wildcat defense stood up after the fumble and forced a Raider punt on the strength of a sack on third down by defensive lineman Christian Vermilyea. Once again Kasten found Jenkins for a big gain to advance the ball into Raider territory, but the Raiders got their own third down sack and Whitewater settled for a 32 yard field goal from Liam Voigt for the early 3-0 lead.
After a deep kickoff for a touchback, the Riverdale offense gave a glimpse as to why they were undefeated in region play as Jalen Hughes took the handoff and broke to the outside and sprinted 80 yards down the Wildcat sideline for a 7-3 Raider lead.
Responding to the Raiders score, the Whitewater offense turned to the Kasten/Montgomery show, and they did not disappoint they crowd or the High 5 TV crew, as the team put the earlier fumble behind them and began to execute the offense with precision and efficiency. On the next possession, Montgomery diced the defense with three quick running plays, the third going for 49 yards and a Wildcat touchdown.
The Raiders answered the Wildcat score with their own drive that moved down the field quickly, at one point Parker Woodworth making a touchdown-saving tackle on a Raider slant pass to the Wildcat 25 yard line. This proved to be huge when two plays later, Heath Kirkes made an interception in the end zone for a touchback that ended the Raider threat and created the turning point of the gain.
Soon afterward, Montgomery scored again on a 49-yard play, this time a pass from Kasten to give the Wildcats a 17-7 lead going into halftime that they would never relinquish.
Riverdale made some halftime adjustments that did not get them a first down on their opening drive of the second half, but went with a fake punt on fourth down to catch the Wildcat defense off guard. With a new set of downs and energy from the gamble that paid off, Raider quarterback Joseph Cambridge found Jaylen Lay open across the middle for a 48-yard touchdown to bring them within three early in the third quarter.
Whitewater’s response throughout the third quarter was a balanced ball control approach with Kasten mixing in the pass and the run perfectly as they drove 80 yards in 12 plays, wearing down the Raiders defense. The drive ended Kasten used his feet to keep a play alive, scrambling sideline to sideline before hitting Dalton Goodman for a 10-yard touchdown.
After a quick stop on defense, the Wildcat offense once again drove the length of the field, this time all on the ground with runs from Kasten and Montgomery. Kasten was making the right reads on the spread option and on a second and goal play from the 3 yard line, Montgomery walked into the end zone untouched. The Wildcat offensive line of Andre Prinsloo, Sal Padovano, Ruben Prinsloo, Bradley May, and Jake Burns was now dominating the line of scrimmage up front.
The Raiders continued to fight, scoring on their next drive by going 80 yards, just needing one more score to get right back in it. After an unsuccessful Raider onside kick, Kasten shut the door on them with another methodical drive on the ground, this time culminating in a 3-yard touchdown run by Musa Ali, also untouched as he went into the end zone for the final margin on 38-21.
An interception by Jalen Hardy ended the Raider’s evening and allowed Wildcat coach Bryan Holley to go to his favorite play, the Kasten kneeldown from the victory formation as time expired.
Holley was proud of his team, and, after time with the Fox 5 camera crew, he went to each player and congratulated them individually on the win. While enjoying the moment, he was obviously thinking ahead. “We control our own destiny the next two weeks, you can’t ask for anything more than that,” said Holley.
He singled out the work of Kasten and Montgomery, but was just as quick to praise the offensive line who opened up big holes against a good Raider defense. The defense definitely did their share as well.
“The interception by Kirkes right before half changed the outcome,” said Holley. “If they score there, this could be a different ballgame for sure.”
For the night, Kasten was near perfect in the passing game, going 11 for 15 for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns. Hunter Williams led the receivers with 3 catches for 65 yards.
Montgomery did most of the heavy lifting, running the ball 21 times for 186 yards and adding 52 receiving yards on 2 catches, and 3 touchdowns.
“(Montgomery) has run like that all year,” praised Holley. “He came through big tonight.”
The stout defense was led by Tyler Crowder with 7 tackles, Parker Woodworth with 6, and Grayson Samples with 5. Eric Ogle and Christian Vermilyea each notched a sack.
With the victory, Whitewater enhanced their claim on the top spot in the region, where there could potentially be a three-way tie for the top spot, and the final decision would be made with math formulas and calculators. With two games left against county rivals Fayette County next week and McIntosh to close out the season, the 6-2 Wildcats seem to have put the memories of last season’s disappointment firmly behind them, and they are looking forward to see what the future holds.
Fayette County rolls over Morrow 35-0
by Christopher Dunn
Fayette County kept their playoff hopes alive with a commanding 35-0 win over Morrow Thursday night. Against a struggling Mustang squad, the Tigers left nothing to doubt, dominating from the outset.
“I’m proud of them. My thing was to make sure we don’t underestimate anybody and come out here and play hard because you never know,” said head coach Mike Davis, calling Morrow a young but talented team he knew they couldn’t look past.
After an emotional 42-35 loss to Griffin last week, he didn’t want his team feeling sorry for themselves and getting stung by the Mustangs.
“Some people call it a trap game where you think we’ll just show up and win. We preached all week that that’s not the case,” said Davis. “Now, we can kind of heal up a little bit, get everybody back healthy, and be ready to go next week.”
The win keeps Fayette’s hopes alive, but they know they will have to win out against Whitewater and Starr’s Mill to make a third straight trip to the postseason.
“We believe,” said Davis. “We’ve got two tough games in county. Our county’s tough, but we feel like we’re peaking at the right time.”
The Tiger defense set the tone immediately, Kevin Zachary leading a team sack to force a three and out on the game’s opening possession. The offense followed through on excellent field position, Trent Carrington taking a sweep around the end for 27 yards to set up a short Jalil Dabney touchdown. Aaron Hauck’s extra point staked the Tigers to an early 7-0 lead.
Morrow got the chains moving with the help of a pass interference on their next drive, but a tackle in the backfield by Oneil Reeves turned them away.
The offense strung together a 78-yard scoring drive, despite long odds. Facing 2nd and 22, Malcolm Easterwood got 21 yards back. Carrington grabbed 12 yards on 3rd and short to extend the possession, before adding 11 more yards. Zavier Anderson dealt the big blow, racing for a 35-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
After the defense forced another three and out, the offense piled on with a 63-yard drive. Keyed by an 11-yard Carrington run for a 3rd down conversion and an Easterwood 26-yard run, the Tigers were quickly in business. Dabney finished it off emphatically, plowing over multiple Mustang defenders on a 22-yard scoring run.
The Tigers’ next offensive series would be their lone failed attempt of the first half, but it would set up another highlight. Forced to punt, the special teams was on top of their game and ready to pounce when the Mustang return man muffed the kick. Starting right at the edge of the red zone, Easterwood pushed the lead to 28-0 with a 12-yard run.
Morrow started in good field position on their last chance of the half, but a Javon Coleman sack killed their hopes of scoring.
Fayette ensured they wouldn’t take the second half off, Zavier Anderson sprinting through the Mustangs for a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown to open the half.
With the game firmly under control, the Tigers were able to take their foot off the gas down the stretch in the 35-0 win.
The Tigers never needed to take the air, instead choosing to dominate in the ground game, following behind the offensive line of Shane Leinberger, Javon Jackson, Collin Ivins, Aric Yelverton, and Askia Richen to pile up 304 yards in the rushing game. Trent Carrington led the way with 107 yards on 13 carries, followed by Zavier Anderson with 70, Malcolm Easterwood with 56, Corey Andrews with 37, and Jalil Dabney with 32. Dabney scored twice, and Easterwood scored once. Anderson found paydirt once via rushing touchdown, and once via kick return.
The defense was suffocating, giving up just 145 total yards on the night. Noah Alford led the way with 7 tackles, followed by Jamal Bass with 6, Matthew McGuire with 5, and Cameron Carstarphen, Kevin Zachary, and Jamal Cook with 4 apiece. Javon Coleman and Zachary each notched a sack.
McIntosh falls to high-octane Griffin attack 38-7
by Dylan Hynson
The Griffin Bears came into Friday night’s contest against the McIntosh Chiefs with a few questions to answer. After skating by injury-plagued Fayette County last week, people began to question the preseason region favorite. They answered all those questions this week and then some as they dominated the Chiefs 38-7.
“Griffin is a fine football team,” McIntosh head coach Lee Belknap said. “I believe our effort was good, our execution needed to be better, but the biggest one was we weren’t as opportunistic as we needed to be tonight.”
McIntosh’s only points of the contest came within the first three minutes of the game as a flea flicker to senior wide receiver Nick Ostendorf went for a long touchdown pass. The Chiefs found themselves up 7-0 with 9:45 left in the first quarter. McIntosh also stopped the high-powered attack from Griffin, forcing a three and out. After a bad punt from the Bears, all the momentum was on the Chiefs side.
“You can’t ask to get off to a better start,” Belknap said. “It shows that we can play with [Griffin], but we needed to play with them for four quarters.”
It didn’t take long to change that momentum. The Chiefs couldn’t take advantage of the bad punt and went three and out, forcing them to punt. Griffin got their offense moving on their next drive, with senior running back Santo Dunn carrying the rock for big chunks of yards. The Bears had a great chance to get seven points on the board, but senior wide receiver Kerrson Aikens dropped a sure touchdown on a wide open pass. Griffin was forced to punt again.
The Chief offense continued to struggle as incomplete passes ended their next drive with a three and out. The Bears finally scored on the final play of the opening quarter on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Dunn, who was wide open on the play, to make it 7-7.
McIntosh’s woes continued as they fumbled the ball around their own 40-yard line to give Griffin great field position for their next series. After a long 37-yard completion to senior Tyrique Williams, Dunn found the end zone on the next play to increase the Bear lead to 14-7.
“High school football is a game of momentum,” Belknap said. “I don’t think our guys panicked, they are pretty resilient. They know they had to keep fighting to stay in this game.”
The Bears continued to pound the Chief defense who were having trouble stopping the run. Senior Malik Route got the drive moving quick with back-to-back 20 yard runs to get Griffin into Chief territory. The Chiefs needed a stop the Bears to keep them in the game before halftime. They got their stop as they forced an incomplete pass near the McIntosh 20-yard line to force a field goal. With 4:56 left in the half, Griffin held on to a 17-7 lead.
“I was proud of our defense to get that stop and force a field goal,” Belknap said. “Obviously we were hoping for a block right there, but it was a great stop to only allow three points.”
McIntosh needed to get rolling and almost found daylight when junior running back Bradley Ector returned the ensuing kickoff to near midfield. However, a flag for holding brought the return back to the 30-yard line, seizing the newfound momentum for the Chiefs. Griffin took advantage and sacked senior quarterback Zach Sanders to force a punt. Just when McIntosh could’ve been looking at a 24-7 deficit, a great punt from senior Caleb Podolski and a three and out gave the Chiefs the ball back around midfield. The Chiefs couldn’t get anything going with seconds left and called on the field goal unit for a long field goal try. Junior Jacob Donaldson kicked as far as he could, but fell just short to end the half with a 17-7 deficit for McIntosh.
“We told them in the locker room that we were still in the ball game,” Belknap said. “It’s a four quarter game, and we needed to come out and play 24 minutes and execute.”
Griffin came out hot in the second half, running a 12-play drive on their first series. After several third down conversions with quarterback Tylan Morton running for several of them, Griffin was back in the end zone on a 10-yard pass to Jamal Harris to increase the lead to 24-7 Bears.
“Their offense is very hard to stop,” Belknap said. “They have so many weapons on the field, and a whole lot of speed. We had little room for error against an offense like that.”
McIntosh continued to struggle on offense, going three and out for the fourth time in the game. The Chief defense picked it up, sacking Morton for a 13-yard loss and forcing a punt from the Bears. Their offense finally got going with some big throws to sophomore Kyle Riesselmann, who juked a defender for 27 yards. The Chiefs’ best chance to score again came two plays later with a dropped wide open pass that was bound to be a touchdown. McIntosh would go for it on fourth down and failed to convert on an incomplete ball that was too high for sophomore Dane Kinamon.
Griffin kept its foot on the peddle after getting a big defensive stand. Senior Dedrick Tyus became the workhorse of the drive, running for 20 yards on several plays before finding the end zone on a 3-yard touchdown to make it 31-7 Bears with 31 seconds left in the third quarter.
McIntosh continued to struggle with another three and out and found themselves in trouble after a blocked punt inside the Chief 15-yard line. The defense ended up getting a goal line stand, but would then allow another Griffin score on the next series. Harris scored for the second time in the game from six yards out to give the Bears a commanding 38-7 lead. The game would end not long after the touchdown to give the Bears a region victory on the road with a 38-7 win.
“I believe we fought for four quarters,” Belknap said. “I didn’t see anyone wearing a green helmet quit tonight, and I’m proud of that and to be a part of that.”
The Chiefs are now mathematically out of the postseason after losses to Fayette, Starr’s Mill, and Griffin. They still have two games to play and will look to bounce back against Morrow, who will feature a two quarterback system.
“Obviously our goal is to go 2-0 the rest of the season,” Belknap said. “Football is a great life teacher and sometimes in life, things don’t go your way, but you don’t give up and quit. We are just going to keep working and getting better.”