Wildcats win defensive showdown on goal line stand in final seconds
Written by: Luke Rainey on Saturday, September 15th, 2018
Excluding the grueling defeat against the Ligonier Valley Rams in the opening week, the Homer-Center Wildcats have relied on Logan Williams to lead the way, to win three straight games. On the other hand, the Marion Center Stingers have been searching for that one or two plays in critical situations to find victories that have escaped them. While the Stinger’s may not have a record worth bragging about, the Stingers have been extremely competitive against their opponents, but after another defeat at the hands of Homer-Center Friday night, they are still searching for those critical plays to match their great effort to find victory.
The Stingers and Wildcats’ opening drives were both unproductive, resulting in punts from their own territories. On Marion Center’s second possession, the Stingers were able to use the rushing attack to get inside the Wildcats’ 40-yard line, but were stopped by the Wildcat defense when Gaven Palko could not sneak his way to the first down marker on 4th & 1. With Homer-Center back in business, Quarterback Ben Schmidt connected with Tight End Jake Saiani for a 28-yard reception setting up Homer-Center inside Marion Center territory. Later in the drive on 4th & 4, the Wildcats converted, however, their drive was spoiled when Travis Mock fumbled the ball after making the reception, giving the Stingers the ball back inside their 10-yard line.
The offensive struggles for Marion Center continued on the following possession, as their attempts to drive down the field with Zach Hicks and Garet Wells were unsuccessful. Similarly, the Wildcats could not find a way through the Stingers’ incredible defensive line, who held Homer-Center to a 3-and-out in the middle of the 2nd quarter. Starting at the Wildcats’ 45-yard line, Marion Center began to establish a drive, but after a handful of penalties and poor plays, the Stingers’ drive ended with an unsuccessful run on 4th & 23. Once again, the Wildcats did not leave a dent in the Marion Center defense, and the score was tied 0-0 at the end of the first half.
Homer-Center received the 2nd half kickoff, and on their first possession, Marion Center’s defense rose to the challenge, stopping Justin Walbeck on a 4th & 1 run attempt, and took over on downs on Homer Center’s 38-yard line. Marion Center seized the momentum, and on the 2nd play of their drive, Gaven Palko found a wide open Brant Lydic on 2nd and 7 for a 35-yard touchdown reception. The 2-point attempt was unsuccessful, and the Stingers held a 6-0 with 9:11 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Following Marion Center’s touchdown, the Wildcats’ offense was completely ineffective once more, resulting in another 3-and-out. Despite earning the momentum from the previous possession, the Stingers were held to a punt, keeping the score at 6-0. As Homer-Center worked to Marion Center’s 25-yard line with a great chance to even the score, Ben Schmidt’s pass was off the intended path, allowing an interception by Xavier Vaglia to give the Stingers the ball in fantastic field position.
Only 2 plays into the following drive, Marion Center lost control of the ball on the snap. Homer-Center was able to regain possession, and the turnover paid fantastic dividends. On their first play, Logan Williams returned to expected standards, scoring a 40-yard rushing touchdown with one minute remaining in the 3rd quarter. Ben Schmidt’s extra point attempt was successful, giving the Wildcats a 7-6 lead.
The Wildcat defense followed Williams’ touchdown by holding Marion Center to a 3 and out. On the punt return, Homer Center’s D’Shaun Robinson fumbled the ball, enabling Marion Center to retake possession at the Homer Center 29-yard line with 11:27 remaining in the 4th quarter. However, on 3rd & 7, Robinson redeemed himself with an interception, returning the ball to midfield. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, their drive was stopped by a resilient Stinger defense on a 4th & 3, as Williams could not get the first down.
Due to multiple disorganized plays by the Stingers, they were forced to punt to Homer-Center, but the Wildcats also failed to gain yardage, giving Marion Center another chance with 5 minutes remaining. The defense for the Wildcats continued their domination, resulting in another punt from the Stingers. With a 1-point advantage and time in their favor, the Wildcats relied on Williams to expand the lead, scoring his 2nd touchdown with a 73-yard run. On a crucial 2-point conversion, Schmidt’s pass was incomplete, keeping Marion Center within a single score for their final drive.
With less than 3 minutes to drive the distance of the field to possibly tie or win the game, a return to the 50-yard line made the daunting task ahead of the Stingers slightly easier. The good fortune for the Stingers continued when Logan Williams was penalized for pass interference, putting Marion Center at the Wildcat 30-yard line. Following the flag and a handful of methodical plays, Marion Center found themselves knocking on the doorstep of Homer-Center’s end zone, but the clock was not on their side.
With 40 seconds remaining on 1st & Goal from the 2-yard line, the Stingers were desperately struggling to break through the goal line, but 3 plays in a row resulted in no gains for Marion Center. As the final 5.4 seconds remained on 4th & Goal, Marion Center had one last chance to score the crucial touchdown. On the last play, Zach Hicks received the handoff, and was able to break a tackle by Ben Schmidt, but was quickly met by Trevor Mlakar, who kept him outside the end zone to give Homer-Center a 13-7 victory over the Stingers. Regarding the game-ending goal line stand, Wildcats Defensive Coordinator Tony Arone stated, “I want to give credit to our kids for their great effort and the goal line stand to win it. When they called that time out, we told them we were gonna man up for the pass, and we were just gonna bring the house, and we did.”
Final play between the Wildcats and Stingers. Mlakar drags down Zach Hicks to give Homer-Center their third consecutive win. pic.twitter.com/oJg84SHwRu
— Luke_Rainey (@LukeRainey3) September 15, 2018
In several cases throughout the game, the Wildcats appeared to show signs of weakness to the Stingers’ defense, but were able to recover from the mistakes. Coach Greg Page commented, “You have to give Marion Center credit. They’ve gotten better every week. They scored, we got stuffed on the 4th down play, didn’t have a chance with the way we blocked it, but we fumbled a punt. But that same kid turns around and has a pick. It was a battle of attrition because we knew they were gonna bring the kitchen sink at us and they did. We broke off the big one at the right time with Logan Williams.”
Following the game, Logan Williams gave credit to the offensive line for his unforgettable start to the season. “Me and my lineman have a trust and chemistry,” he stated. “They’re blocking really good for me, so I’m just gonna keep running.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Coach Adam Rising was very disappointed with the loss, but satisfied with the valiant effort from his players. “Just keep battling’, I told our guys. I said, ‘If we keep battling in football games and even in life, you’ll have that edge that you’re not going to give up.’, and I told them that I’m so proud of them.”
3rd Quarter: (9:11) MC – Brant Lydic 35-yard Receiving TD (HB Pass failed): 6-0
3rd Quarter: (1:09) HC – Logan Williams 40-yard Rushing TD (Schmidt kick): 7-6
4th Quarter: (2:53) HC – Logan Williams 73-yard Rushing TD (Pass failed): 13-6
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