October 11, 2007 at 8:03 a.m.
The Wildcat offense came from all directions: Jon Lien ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns; Brandon Mueller caught a touchdown pass and ran for two other scores; and Willhite threw for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Tony Skoog led the defense with a key touchdown-saving tackle early in the game. He chased down a Hylander runner from behind to save another touchdown and intercepted a pass late in the second quarter to stop another Hylander drive. (That turnover led to seven more points for the Wildcats.)
The Wildcat defense was also strong. It allowed one first down to the Hylanders, but held them on the next series and forced them to punt.
The Wildcats got the ball at their own 35 yard line. Two plays later, facing third and 1, Jake Spehar plowed up the middle, broke free of a tackle and bounced off tacklers for a 19 yard gain.
The Wildcats continued to move the ball and faced first and 10 at the Hylander 20. Willhite took the snap, rolled left and hit tight end Eric Sargeant near the sideline at the 10. Sargeant waltzed into the end zone untouched. The Wildcats missed the extra point, but led 13-0.
The Hylanders returned Mueller's kickoff to their own 19 yard line. On the first play of the drive, quarterback Mike Sorenson rolled right and pitched to running back D'Karlos Craig. Craig broke a couple of Wildcat tackle attempts and headed upfield. If he made it by the next tackler, he had a clear path all the way to the end zone. But that next tackler, Skoog, stood his ground, wrapped up Craig and pulled him to the ground to turn a potential touchdown into just an 11 yard gain.
The Hylanders managed to move the ball to midfield, but the defense stiffened and forced a punt.
The Wildcats took over on their own 21. Lien gained 9 yards on first down. On second down, Lien took the pitch left, broke into the secondary and ran 60 yards before he was tackled. But the play was nullified by a Wildcat holding penalty.
On second and 11 from their own 36, Willhite dropped back and hit wide receiver Robert Wilson with a quick pass up the middle. Wilson took off. The Hylanders caught up with him at the five after a gain of 59 yards. Spehar again bulled his way through the middle, scoring easily. The Wildcats failed to convert the 2 pointer and led 19-0.
After a Hylander three-and-out and a short punt, the Wildcats took over at Heights' 41 yard line. Lien took a pitch left and ran for 30 yards. On the next play, Mueller rambled up the middle for the final 11 yards and a touchdown. On the conversion try, Willhite hit a heavily covered Wilson at the two, and Wilson twisted and dove into the end zone to increase the Wildcat lead to 27-0.
On their next possession, the Wildcats fumbled and the Hylanders recovered on the Wildcat 35. On the next play, Andy Bailey-Seiler hit Sorenson at the right side of the end zone for a touchdown. The Hylanders missed the conversion, but were finally on the board, trailing 27-6.
The Wildcats answered quickly. Starting the drive from their own 42, they moved the ball upfield and found themselves facing fourth and 1 at the Hylander 35. Lien took the handoff and plowed his way up the middle for 5 yards. But he kept his legs pumping, broke free and outran a stunned Hylander defense to the end zone for a 35 yard touchdown. The Hylanders blocked the Wildcat extra point, and the Wildcats led 33-6.
Then things got even worse for the Hylanders. Mueller's kickoff sailed into the end zone for a touchback, putting the ball on the Hylander 20. On the first play of the drive, Skoog picked off a pass at the Hylander 43 yard line with 3:34 remaining in the half. The Wildcats moved the ball downfield, highlighted by a 20-yard pass from Willhite to Sargeant. Form the Hylander 18, with 23 seconds remaining in the half, Willhite hit Mueller with a pass inside the 10 yard line. Mueller clawed his way to the goal line, finally diving in for another Wildcat touchdown. Wilson kicked the extra point to make it 40-6 Wildcats at the half.
The Wildcat starters came out to start the second half. The defense forced a three and out, and a five yard Hylander punt gave the Wildcats the ball on the Hylander 39 yard Line. A seven yard run by Spehar, 16 yards by Lien and a 16 yard TD run by Mueller put the Wildcats up 47-6.
The Wildcats called off the dogs, putting their reserves into the game at that point. Columbia Heights scored two touchdowns after turnovers and added one more on a longer drive to pull within 47-28 with 8:16 remaining in the game. The Hylanders tried an onside kick, but the Wildcats recovered at the Hylander 49.
Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss put the starting offense back in. "We needed to settle some things down," said Weiss. "Some of the players on the second and third units were playing both offense and defense, and we wanted a little more time to talk to them before they went back out on the field." But the starting offense didn't cooperate. They scored in two plays on a run of 15 yards by Willhite and a touchdown run of 36 yards by Jon Lien, taking just 30 seconds off the clock. The Wildcats shut down the Hylanders for the last seven minutes of the game, leaving the final score at Chisago Lakes 54, Columbia Heights 28.
Coach Weiss acknowledged the contributions of his starting backfield, but wanted to talk about some of the other players. "Tony Skoog has been playing solid for us all year," said Weiss. "This is his first year at free safety. Tonight was his best game as a pass defender and as a tackler. He took some great angles, ran through some players and made some nice plays. He was a leader for us out there on the defense. Mike Gryte had a pretty solid game inside for us, too. He moved all over the field and made a lot of plays. He really brings us some punch when he's on like he was tonight."
Weiss talked about another one of his defensive players. "Tony Gall really makes it tough for teams to run up middle," said Weiss. "He's such a force up there and makes it difficult on teams because of his size, demeanor and toughness. He makes it difficult for them to run anything up the middle. He's pretty consistent up there and sometimes seems to move the whole pile back. As a team, you need your players up the middle -- nose tackle, middle linebacker and free safety - to perform well in order to succeed, and we certainly achieved that on Friday night.
"On offense," continued Weiss, "Eric Sargeant had a couple of nice catches from the tight end position. We've gotten better overall in our passing game as the season has gone on and Andy Willhite has improved as a quarterback. We've made some big plays in the passing game the last couple of weeks."
The Wildcats (4-2 overall, 3-2 conference) play at home this week, taking on the St. Francis Fighting Saints (2-4, 1-4) this Friday at 7 p.m. at Chisago Lakes High School. "Even though St. Francis is struggling this season, our guys are pretty focused and won't look past this game. For the seniors, it's their last regular season home game, and they want to go out with a win. With only eight regular season games in football, you can't rally look past any game."
Weiss continued, "St. Francis plays a pressure oriented, aggressive defense that has given fits to just about everyone they've played at one time or another. Our offense will have to be ready to take on the stunts they'll throw at us. They run a spread offense. They'll work out of the shotgun with 4-5 receivers at a time, and throw passes all over the place. We'll line up against unfamiliar formations. We've got our work cut out for us. But if we execute the way we should, we should do all right.
"One of our goals is to go undefeated at home and we have a good chance to do that. We love our home atmosphere and the great support we get from our fans. Our guys would really like to accomplish that goal. Another important thing for our guys is that it's parents' night. So, regardless of the opponent, we're excited to be going out and playing at home," Weiss concluded.
0 6 0 22 28
13 27 7 7 54
CL--Willhite 57 run (Mueller kick)
CL--Sargeant 21 pass from Willhite (kick failed)
CL--Spehar 5 run (run failed)
CL--Mueller 11 run (Wilson pass from Willhite)
CH--Sorensen 38 pass from Bailey-Seiler (kick failed)
CL--Lien 35 run (run failed)
CL--Mueller 18 pass from Willhite (Wilson kick)
CL--Mueller 16 run (Mueller kick)
CH--Craig 12 run (Sorenson run)
CH--Craig 20 run (Schendel run)
CH--Miller 11 pass from Sorensen (run failed)
CL--Lien 36 run (Mueller kick)