Trevor Morgan came up big, but it wasn’t quite enough for the Wildcats. (Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)
A historic football season for Whitewater came to an end after the Wildcats were defeated by the Gainesville Red Elephants 28-14 in the AAAAA semifinals.
"There are some nights when the ball just doesn't bounce your way," said Whitewater coach Amos McCreary, whose team lost three fumbles in its first ever semifinals appearance. "We turned the ball over way too many times to beat a football team of this caliber."
Despite the loss, Kendall Conley carried the load offensively for Whitewater as he ran the ball 23 times for a game-high 108 yard and a touchdown. Conley also racked up 25 receiving yards and another score.
Trevor Morgan also had a big game for the Wildcats and finished with six receptions for a game-high 113 yards
The Wildcats showed some jitters early with a fumble on the opening kickoff, but the Wildcats defense got the hometown fans roaring after they stopped Gainesville on fourth and one to give their offense the ball right back.
Whitewater moved the ball well on the offense's first possession, with a good chunk of yardage coming on a 50-yard hookup between Jay Ashley and Morgan that put the Wildcats in the red zone. A couple of Conley runs later and Whitewater had first and goal inside the five yard line---and then the penalties game.
Back-to-back penalties (chop block and holding) moved the Wildcats outside the 20 and they had to settle for a field goal attempt, which they missed.
"We had our shots," McCreary said. "We got an unfortunate penalty when we got down there close to score."
From there it was the Deshaun Watson show, as he led Gainesville on consecutive scoring drives to help the Red Elephants jump ahead 14-0 with 5:51 left in the second quarter.
Whitewater would try make it a game after Conley capped of the ensuing Wildcats drive with a 27 yard score, but their kicking woes continued as the extra point was no good, leaving them trailing 14-6 with 4:38 left before the half.
With their team finally on the scoreboard and the crowd back in the game, the Wildcats Defense responded by stopping Gainesville on fourth down for the second time and giving the ball back to the offense with time to strike, but a quick fumble would end that threat.
Gainesville would use that opportunity to put another score on the board with one second remaining in the second quarter to go up 21-6 at halftime.
After Gainesville scored on the opening drive of the third quarter it was just a matter of the not getting comfortable as they cruised to victory.
"We couldn't contain him (Watson)," McCreary said about numerous big play converted by Watson on third down. "He made big plays, but other than that I think we were pretty even with them."
Watson had an exceptional game for Gainesville completing 12 of 23 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown to go along with 89 rushing yards and another score.
Michael Byrd chipped in with 74 rushing yard and two touchdowns for the Red Elephants.
After losing its opening game of the season, the Wildcats went on a unprecedented twelve game undefeated streak until this point.
"Once you get to this point and the kids see how fun it is and how much all the hard work paid off, you hope your underclassmen catch fire and want to get back to this point," said McCreary. "I couldn't be anymore more proud of this team. We had so much fun this year."