September 6, 2018 at 1:22 p.m.
How is a fake punt not a fake punt? Gunners are the players split out wide in punt formation whose job it is to race down the field and contain or tackle the punt returner. As the Wildcats lined up in punt formation, they noticed that Kaleb Bruce, the gunner on the left-hand side, was uncovered – that is, he had nobody lined up opposite him. So upback David Kimlinger made the call for a direct snap and fired a pass to a wide-open Bruce for a first down to seal the victory. To the fans, it looked like a fake punt. “It’s not really a fake,” said Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss. “We have it as part of our punt formation set that if we notice that one of our gunners is uncovered, we’ll change it up and run that pass play. So we didn’t call a fake punt to begin with. We just took advantage of the opportunity that was presented to us.”
After forcing the Bulldogs to punt on the game’s opening possession, the Wildcats took over at their own 40-yard line and started to move the ball down the field. On second and five from the Becker 33, Josh Wenthe took a pitch left and ran for 14 yards and a first down. Three plays later, on second and goal from the one, Beau Stiller took a handoff and went up the middle into the end zone for a touchdown. Reece Lawlor converted the extra point and the Wildcats led 7-0 with just over six minutes left in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs quickly moved down the field on their next possession and had the ball first and ten on the Wildcat 20. Three plays later, they went for it on fourth and ten. They completed a screen pass, but Wildcat tacklers sniffed it out and dropped the receiver for a five-yard loss. The Wildcats took over and managed one first down before being forced to punt from the Becker 49 on the first play of the second quarter. The snap sailed high over the punter Will Tinjum’s head and rolled all the way back to the Wildcat 25. The Bulldogs fell on it and looked to take advantage of the short field. Three plays later, facing fourth and four from the Wildcat 19, they went for it. The Wildcat defense again came up big, holding the runner to a two-yard gain and taking over on downs. But the Wildcats went three and out and the Bulldogs took over on the Wildcat 45 after a short punt. On second down, Bulldog quarterback Josh Fobbe completed a 43-yard touchdown pass to Kevyn Vilayphanh and the Bulldogs converted the extra point to tie the game at 7-7 with 7:12 left in the second quarter
But it wasn’t tied for long On their ensuing possession, the Wildcats faced second and one from their own 33. An 11-yard run by Rosario gave them a first down. But the drive stalled and the Wildcats were forced to punt. Tinjum punted the ball to the Becker 18. The ball slipped right through the hands of the Becker punt returner and Wildcat Cole Peterson recovered at the 20. On the next play, quarterback Kimlinger faked a handoff to Rosario, slipped through a hole up the middle and ran virtually untouched to the end zone to give the Wildcats a 14-7 lead with 4:29 left in the first half.
On the opening possession of the second half, the Wildcats again moved the ball well and appeared poised to go up by two touchdowns. Facing third and six from the Becker nine, Kimlinger threw the ball toward a receiver in the end zone. But the ball was intercepted, and Becker took over at their own 20. Ten plays later, the Bulldogs scored on a two-yard run to cut the Wildcat lead to 14-13. But Beau Stiller blocked the extra point attempt and the Wildcats still led by one with nearly five minutes left in the third quarter. On a drive near the end of the quarter, Becker again moved the ball. But on the first play of the fourth quarter, Ryan Sanvik picked off a long pass at the Wildcat 15. The Wildcats quickly moved the ball down the field. On first and goal from the Becker five, Kimlinger fired a touchdown pass to Tinjum and, after the extra point, the Wildcats led 21-13 with 5:55 left in the game. But Becker wasn’t done.
After Lawlor’s third touchback in four kickoffs, the Bulldogs took over at their own 20. They wasted little time getting down the field. Fobbe hit Vilayphanh with a 33-yard touchdown pass to cut the Wildcat lead to 21-19 with 3:21 remining in the game.
The Bulldogs went for two, but the Wildcat defense again cam =e up big. Connor Bleymeyer and Owen Dresel stuffed the run play in the backfield to preserve the two-point lead. Becker attempted an onside kick, but the Wildcats recovered it at their own 49. Four plays later came the “not” fake punt and a Wildcat win.
“It was a good game back and forth,” said Weiss. “Our defense played well overall. We were, for the most part, able to contain a very good offense. Becker is a perennially good program well-known for what they do. Offensively, we moved the ball well but missed opportunities to put up more points than we did. Our special teams made some big plays – blocking the extra point, stuffing the two-pointer, recovering the muffed punt and getting touchbacks on three of four kickoffs. The blocked extra point by Beau Stiller was the biggest play, because we kept the lead and it later forced them to go for two.”
Rosario led the Wildcats with 19 carries for 152 yards. Kimlinger completed eight of ten passes for 110 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Lat year’s game between the two teams was a bit more wild, with Becker winning 56-44 – a total of 100 points.
Tomorrow night, the Wildcats (1-0) will host the Cambridge-Isanti Bluejackets (1-0) at Chisago Lakes High School at 7 p.m. The Bluejackets beat the Wildcats 33-24 last season and shut out Sartell-St. Stephen 30-0 in their opener this season.
Commenting has been disabled for this item.