By Riley Hicks
As the Whitewater Wildcats took the field for their last offensive possession, they needed a touchdown to win.
“We need to finish. Somebody has got to make a play,” Whitewater head coach Bryan Holley said to his offense before the final drive.
That’s exactly what sophomore quarterback Maddox Mueller did when he took it up the middle on a quarterback keeper for 10 yards allowing Whitewater to take the fourth quarter lead.
This touchdown became the deciding factor Friday night as the Whitewater Wildcats
(2-0) overcame blowing 24-point lead and outlasted the Hampton Hornets (0-2) at home 31-28.
The Wildcats grabbed hold of a 7-0 lead on their first possession, they driving he field and scoring off a 15-yard touchdown from Mueller up the middle.
The Hornets’ offensive struggles began on their second possession, when quarterback Jaquari Smith threw an interception to Miles Montgomery who took it down to the Hornets 4-yard line. Hampton’s defense hung strong, only allowing a 30-yard field by Evan Rogers to put the Wildcats up 10-0.
On the next offensive drive the Wildcats found the end zone again, scoring on a 1-yard dash up the middle by Montgomery, but a missed two-point conversion by Mueller made the score 16-0 in favor of the Wildcats.
While Hampton’s offensive drives continued to stall, Whitewater took advantage of its first half opportunities. On the last drive before the half, Mueller burst up the middle on a quarterback keeper for 33 yards and a touchdown, followed by a pitch to Montgomery for the two-point conversion, extending the lead to 24-0 at the half.
At the start of the half, momentum shifted to the Hornets. Following a 17-yard pass from Smith, the extra point to follow was blocked by Montgomery drawing to score to 24-6. The next possession for the Wildcats, Mueller threw an interception to Kam’ron Moore, allowing the Hornets to go back on offense and score a 1-yard touchdown by Quantez Futch to draw even closer 24-13 at the end of third quarter.
Starting the fourth quarter, the Wildcats went on offense to only have it fumbled by Mueller. This set up another touchdown pass by Smith for 50 yards, as well a successful two-point conversion to inch closer with the score 24-21. After another four-and-out, the Wildcats sent out the punt team, only to have the ball soar over Brennan Oates and land on their ten-yard line. This led the Hornets to take the lead off a 15-yard run by Smith to go up 28-24.
“Execution, we spread out a little more of the option stuff,” head coach Chad Ashley said when describing what changed in second half.
Having one last drive before the end of the game, Whitewater drove down and scored a 10-yard run from Mueller to go back on top 31-28. Mueller had another strong night on the ground, rushing for 141 yards.
The game ended on a drop by Jhalan Jones of the Hornets after trying to make one last drive to the end zone. The Wildcats play at home again next week as they face Banneker.