Quarterback Jay Ashley races a Trojan to the edge.
(Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)
A few plays here or there can make the difference between winning and losing. Unfortunately for the Whitewater Wildcats, three plays were the difference in a 20-7 loss to the Coffee Trojans.
The Wildcats took the long road trip down to Douglas, GA, over three hours worth, and came up three fourth down touchdowns short of victory.
"We had a couple of opportunities to intercept the ball. Instead we let them go up and get it," said Whitewater coach Amos McCreary. "Basically that's the difference in this football game."
Though it's still a loss, it's a stronger start than last season when Coffee came up to Fayetteville and handed the Cats a 41-3 loss. McCreary knew his team was facing another big test and they responded well..
"We wanted to come down here and play well. To come down here and have an opportunity to beat these guys is pretty good," McCreary said. "It just didn't go our way. I think we'll be a pretty good football team before it's over with."
Last year's loss didn't stop the Wildcats from stringing together an awesome season. After the opener, Whitewater ripped through a 12 game winning streak that only ended with a state seminal loss to the eventual champions from Gainesville. The Cats sure wouldn't mind another rebound like that.
"If we can do that, I know we'll be a really good football team," McCreary joked. "That's a tough task, but that's always a goal. After you lose on you want to win the rest of them. Hopefully more of them will work out our way than not."
Early on it looked like this one would work out for Whitewater. The first play from scrimmage was a big gain thanks to a Coffee pass interference penalty. The second was more traditional with running back Christian Wafford bouncing off the left tackle for a 28 yard gain. The drive would stall in Coffee territory, but even then it appeared to keep rolling. On fourth and eight from the 33, quarterback Jay Ashley scrambled and when wrapped up he lateraled the ball to lineman Alex Neal. Neal took off and, looking like a seasoned ball carrier, rumbled for 18 yards. In a growing theme, the play would be called back for a penalty. For much of the first half the officials were very loose with their flags against Whitewater. Seemingly every play either didn't start because of a whistle or was called back.
Whitewater would start to win the field position battle early in the second quarter. After an Ashley to Hunter Worley 14 yard completion moved the Cats to midfield their drive would stall. Ashley would do his job as a punter and pin Coffee on their own three yard line. The Trojans did not gain any significant yardage and were forced to punt in the shadow of their own goal post. It was not a pretty kick, setting Whitewater up on the 19 yard line.
Ryan May came into spell Wafford and provided an immediate spark. After a 13 yard burst, May would pound the ball into the end zone from one yard out to open the scoring. Laim Voight added the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 4:29 left in the half.
Coffee would finished the half on a time consuming drive, pushing down the field on a 67 yard, four minute drive. Still, it looked like the Whitewater defense had done their job. Coffee first faced a fourth and seven from thirty yards out. They picked up ten through the air. Next they were down to just 39 seconds remaining. They found paydirt on a 20 yard touchdown pass on a jump ball. The extra point failed, keeping Whitewater ahead 7-6 going into the second half.
Coffee started the second half with a long kickoff return, setting up in Whitewater territory. Again, it looked like the Wildcat defense did their job. Colton Clemons picked up a huge sack, dropping the Trojans for a 15 yard loss. Matt Ogle did his best JJ Watt impression, swatting a pass down and adding a tackle for a loss.
The Trojans made another fourth down count, this one on fourth and sixth from the 24 yard line. They aimed for the end zone again and again they were successful. Another long bomb score and a failed two point conversion gave Coffee a 12-7 lead.
Whitewater moved the ball well on their next drive, highlighted by a 19 yard scramble by Jay Ashley on third and 14. The drive would give out and the teams would trade possession back and forth.
Another brilliant Ashley punt would pin Coffee on their one yard line early in the fourth quarter. A ninety-nine yard drive wouldn't stop them. Whitewater would force yet another fourth and long, this one 25 yards out. Again, Coffee found the end zone on a 25 yard touchdown pass. The two point conversion put their lead at 20-7.
Whitewater would try to dig out from their hole. Their next drive would end in an interception. Their final go would be highlighted by a 24 yard hookup from Ashley to Cooper Fisher, but there just wasn't enough time left.
Christian Wafford finished with a strong showing against a fierce defense, picking up 115 yards on 20 carries. Ryan May added 21 yards and one touchdown on four carries.
It was a hard fought loss and a long road home. Still, there was plenty to be proud of in a hard fought battle with a powerful team. The Wildcats will look to rebound when they hit the field again on Friday, September 6 at home against Mundy's Mill.