October 6, 2011 at 9:38 a.m.
According to Wildcat head football coach Bill Weiss, the Wildcats were disappointed they didn't win last Friday's home game against perennial state champion Totino Grace. That might be hard to believe to those who saw the Wildcats get run over 49-12 by the Eagles last year. But this year's game was a lot different, despite the 42-19 final score and nearly 300 passing yards by the Eagles.
"Last year, we just didn't come out ready to play," said Weiss. "By halftime, we were facing a huge deficit. This year, we said that we needed to get off to a fast start, like we did the last two weeks. The players talked all week about not just about competing, but winning this game. And we did get off to a fast start. We scored first and shut them down on their first drive, getting some things going on both sides of the ball. We took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and trailed 20-13 going into halftime. We needed a few breaks to go our way in the second half and that didn't happen, so we ended up losing by 23. But we put on a much better performance against a very good football team."
Sensational sophomore running back Josh Parks once again led the way on the ground for the Wildcats, gaining 112 yards on 12 carries. "Josh didn't just pile up statistics in the fourth quarter against their third string," said Weiss. "He earned most of those yards against their number ones. And he played just as well for us, if not better, on defense. As a cornerback, he really did a nice job defending their best receiver and coming up to help out in run support."
Electrifying junior running back Eric Brown scored two touchdowns, including an 85 yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
The Wildcats took the game's opening kickoff and got one first down before being forced to punt. The Eagles took over at their own 38 and started to move the ball upfield. They went for it on fourth and one from the Wildcat 39. But the Wildcat defense proved up to the task, stuffing the Eagles for a one yard loss and taking over on downs. On the first play of the drive, Parks took a handoff and burst up the middle through the first line of defense. The Eagles brought him down after a 36 yard gain. On third and six from the 20, Brown took the pitch on an option play to the left, hit the perimeter and was gone, crossing the goal line in a flash. Dan Sergeant kicked the extra point and the Wildcats led 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
After the teams exchanged punts, the Eagles took over at the Wildcat 48 yard line at the end of the first quarter. They scored six plays later to tie the game at 7-7. After forcing the Wildcats into their first three and out of the game, the Eagles scored on their next drive to take a 14-7 lead. Brown ran up to catch the ensuing kickoff at the 15 yard line and never broke stride. The blocking was good, he found a seam up the middle and just outran everyone, untouched, all the way to the end zone for a Wildcat touchdown. The Wildcats failed to convert the two pointer and trailed 14-13.
The Eagles looked unstoppable on offense at that point. On their next possession, they went 81 yards on five plays, all but three of the yards through the air, to take a 20-13 lead. They missed the extra point. The Wildcats got one first down on their next possession, but were then forced to punt with little time remaining in the second quarter. On the first play of the Eagle drive, defensive back Brandon Mariakis intercepted a pass to stop a late drive before it even started. The Eagles intercepted a Wildcat pass to end the half, and the Wildcats went into the intermission trailing by 7.
The Eagles scored on the opening drive of the second half, once again doing most of their damage through the air. On the third play of the ensuing Wildcat drive, the Eagles intercepted a pass at the Wildcat 33 and returned it to the 21. Quarterback Mariakis was injured on the play. The Eagles took advantage of the short field and scored in five plays to take a 35-13 lead.
Backup quarter back Bradee Thompson made a big impact on his first play after taking over for Mariakis. Thompson kept the ball on the option, found a nice seam and took it up the seam till he was stopped by the sideline 43 yards upfield. "The read for Bradee was to keep it," said Weiss. "It was a good read and good execution."
Three plays later, fullback Sargeant bulled it over from the two yard line. The Wildcats again failed to convert the two pointer and trailed 35-19. The Eagles missed a field goal on their next possession, but scored on their first possession of the fourth quarter. The Wildcats went on a long drive late in the game, highlighted by runs of 14 and 30 yards by Parks, but were stopped on downs. The final score was Totino Grace 42, Chisago Lakes 19.
"When the game is that close at the half, it's still anyone's ballgame," said Weiss. 'We had a chance to steal it from them. We needed to create turnovers and force them to make mistakes to get them out of their comfort zone. But we didn't create any turnovers and our one turnover in the second half proved costly, as it gave them a short field to work with."
The big difference in the game was the fact that the Eagles passed for 289 yards and held the Wildcats without a completion. But the Wildcats outrushed the Eagles 220 yards to 181 for the game, thanks in part to the guys up front - center Jonah Westbury, guards Avery Peterson and Chase Kammerer, tackles David Barwin, Dylan Magnuson and the injured Matt Hasselquist. "Our offensive line is really getting better every week," said Weiss. "We had so many questions up there coming into the season and they are really starting to come together. Some years against Totino Grace it's like 'forget it - we can't run from tackle to tackle', but we were able to have some success moving the ball up the middle."
The Wildcats (2-3) will head to Fridley to take on the Tigers (1-4) tomorrow night at 7 p.m. "Fridley is always competitive and plays us tough," said Weiss. "They stole one from us last year on our field. It will be quite a challenge for our defense to find the right mix, and their defense flies all over the field to make plays. But if we play our game and concentrate on the things we do best, we should be all right."