by Riley Hicks
In the opening 25 seconds, the Whitewater Wildcats allowed a touchdown to the McIntosh Chiefs on just two plays from scrimmage. The fans and student section of Whitewater went completely silent, but the players and coaches kept their spirits high and followed up with a score of their own. Life came back to the fans, and the Wildcats never let the game slip away from them again on senior night.
The Wildcats offense put on one of their best performances by going on a scoring frenzy. Whitewater (7-3, 5-1) racked up a 59-34 win against McIntosh (6-4, 2-4), securing themselves a home playoff game as the region’s second seed.
“I was very pleased with how our kids played offensively and defensively,” Whitewater head coach Bryan Holley said. “This is a great way to jump start going into the playoffs, I knew McIntosh was going to score a lot of points. They are a very high-powered offense, and we had to keep going on offense because you’re never comfortable with McIntosh football.”
For the Chiefs, a chance at a postseason stayed alive after a few miles down the road as Starr’s Mill defeated the Fayette County Tigers.
“We wanted to come over and play our best tonight and finish up as good as we could,” McIntosh head coach Lee Belknap said. “We needed to bring our best game to beat a fine Whitewater team. They were certainly the better team tonight. We made too many mistakes and just didn’t execute good enough to pull out the win.”
Set up by a great return from De’Andre Wade on the opening kickoff, the Chiefs needed just two plays to find the end zone. On the first snap, Ahmad Ragland ran for 26 yards. On the second, Ragland broke out a 22-yard run to grab the early lead 7-0.
Whitewater answered back in just three plays with quarterback Maddox Mueller sprinting for a 61-yard score to knot it up at 7 apiece.
The Wildcats defense found a way to stop the run and force a three-and-out on the Chiefs’ next offensive possession. Similar to its first drive, Whitewater only needed three plays to score, this time on a 61-yard pass from Mueller to Jamal Jenkins, who separated himself from the defense for the catch. Mueller sealed the touchdown with a two-point conversion to extend the lead to 15-7.
The Wildcats offense was impossible to stop, scoring touchdowns on eight of their first nine possessions. The only miss came when they let the clock ran out to head at halftime.
Miles Montgomery took the ball to the right for a 19-yard rushing touchdown, then after starting their drive on the 4-yard line, Montgomery found a hole in defense and sprinted to the house for a 96-yard score for a commanding 30-7 lead in the second quarter.
McIntosh showed it still had fight left in them on its next offensive possession. After converting a fourth down to keep the drive alive, quarterback Dane Kinamon scored on a 15-yard keeper. Completing the two-point conversion to Ryan Cate drew the score to 30-15.
The Wildcats weren’t fazed as they scored two more times before the half ended. Mueller sprinted down the right sideline for a 54-yard run and the touchdown, and Eli Kouns replaced Mueller at quarterback and threw a 74-yard touchdown pass on his first play to Hunter Williams.
Looking to find some momentum before the half, McIntosh went to the air to move down the field. Kinamon burst up the middle for 1-yard touchdown to close the gap to 44-21 at the half.
At the start of the third quarter, Whitewater made sure not to let McIntosh fight its way back into the game. The Wildcats ran on every play and wore down the defense, Montgomery capped off the drive with a 5-yard rushing touchdown.
Mueller ended his dominating night by throwing an 86-yard touchdown bomb to Jenkins on the second play from scrimmage. He added the two-point conversion to go up 59-21.
McIntosh’s offense punched it into the end zone twice more before the buzzer sounded. Kinamon and Cate connected for a 22-yard touchdown, then Cate finished the scoring with a 29-yard run on a jet sweep to close the game at 59-34.
Miles Montgomery finished the night 141 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns. Maddox Mueller completed 4 of 6 passes for 157 and 2 scores with another 131 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Ahmad Ragland led the Chiefs with 150 yards rushing. Dane Kinamon completed 10 of 17 passes for 114 yards.
The Chiefs have shown all year that they have the talent to score touchdowns, but on this night the Whitewater defense figure out how to slow down the explosive offense just enough to win.
“We just told our guys to keep focus and we are going to win this game,” linebacker Grayson Samples said. “We just prepare every week.”
McIntosh is still searching for that same balance.
“Obviously we’re struggling with defense, but our offense is clicking,” Belknap said. “We had an injury a few weeks ago with Bradley (Ector). Ahmad Ragland has stepped up and filled in nicely, along with Ryan Cate and Dane Kinamon. We’ve just got to find a way to get some stops on defense and make a ballgame of it.”
Whitewater will open up the playoffs at home this week against Eagles Landing.
“It’s the next step in our program,” Holley said. “We’ve just got to pull this into a great week of practice, and fortunately we are home. It’s always nice to play home in the playoffs,.”
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