The West Stokes Wildcats opened their 2016 football campaign with a decisive 35-12 victory over the Central Davidson Spartans on Friday, August 19.
The Wildcats took the opening kickoff and scored within 2-minutes of the games’ start on their first possession when quarterback Reid Fulk connected on his first of three touchdowns to newcomer Wildcat, Charlie Freeman from 16-yards out. Patrick Ellis came on to hit his first of five extra points on the night to go a perfect five for five on the evening.
Central Davidson didn’t have as much luck on their first possession. What seemed to be a touchback for the Wildcats’ Ellis on the kickoff, the Spartans’ Gregg Brown decided to run it out of the end zone, but was stopped quickly at the Wildcats’ 10-yard line by Nick Breen.
Starting from the ten, the Wildcats’ Parker Pratt got his first of three sacks on the night when he tackled Alex Trexler at the 2-yard line for an 8-yard loss.
“I’m really proud of our defense,” stated Wildcats’ Head Coach Jimmy Upchurch. “We had a lot of questions on defense coming into tonight’s game. We lost nine starters from last year’s team, so tonight was definitely a pleasant surprise on how we played with so many new kids on the field.”
The Wildcats forced a punt by the Spartans and then used only 2:40 on their next possession when Fulk and Freeman hooked up again, this time from only three-yards out with 5:00 showing on the game clock in the first quarter.
The Cats’ forced another three and out on their next possession and then a suspension in play came due to lighting. After a 35-minute weather delay, the Wildcats seemed sluggish and the excitement of the game had seemed to wear off. After resuming play, West faced a third and ten from the Spartans 35-yard line, but a pass to Freeman from Fulk came up short and the Wildcats were forced to punt for the first and only time in the game. Also, it was the only time in the game that the Wildcats didn’t pick up a third down conversion by going 7/8 in the game.
Central cut the lead to 14-6 on an interception by Jawann Washington and returned it to the Wildcats 3-yard line giving the Spartans first and goal from the three. Trexler scored with 6:27 left in the half giving them a shimmer of hope.
The Wildcats offense struggled with turnovers after the lighting delay and didn’t score again until 4:46 left before the half. Senior Devan Hairston scored his first of two touchdowns on the evening with a 13-yard run for pay dirt. After stopping the Spartans on another three and out the Wildcats took possession with only 1:07 on the clock. They marched 5-plays and 46-yards and scored with 28-seconds left before the break when the Fulk/Freeman connection hooked up for a third and final time of the game from 18-yards out.
“Charlie had been a nice addition to
our team,” said Upchurch. “He has been a role model since he has been here and has connected with our kids so well. I’m looking for big things from Charlie this year!”
With that catch, Freeman broke a 17-year record for the Wildcats with three touchdown catches in a game. The previous record was two, held by ten different Wildcats.
The turnover bug continued to haunt the Wildcats in the third quarter with another fumble and two more interceptions, this time one interception was retuned 65-yards by Washington to cut the Wildcats lead to 28-12 with 43-seconds left in the quarter.
In the fourth quarter the Wildcats turned the ball over for a sixth time, but not before Hairston hit gold with a 1-yard run with 9:08 left in the game setting the final score.
“We were lucky tonight,” stated Upchurch. “If we are going to win games this year, we cannot turn the ball over six times. Not many teams win that way. I’m just glad our defense came to play tonight!”
Leading the defense was a familiar name from last year, Tyler Walker. Walker led the team in tackles as a sophomore last year and started the same trend for the 2016 season with 19-tackles against the Spartans with a sack and with seven tackles coming for a loss. The Spartans only gained 23-yards on the ground by averaging less than a yard a carry and had 32-yards in the air for a total of 55-yards in the game.
Behind Walker was 2015 All-Conference defensive tackle, Jacob Conn. Conn had 11-tackles with nine coming for a loss, tying a school record with 2008 Defensive Conference Player of the Year, Calvin Cade. Defensive end Parker Pratt had 9-tackles, 3-sacks, and six tackles for losses for the Cats. Pratt’s counterpart and newcomer Julius Smith, had 8-tackles and five for losses.
Offensively for West Stokes was Hairston with 174-yards on 16-carries and two touchdowns. Freeman had eight catches for 110-yards and three touchdowns. Fulk was 17 of 25 in passing for 191-yards and three touchdowns. The Wildcats had a total of 457-yards on offense.
The Wildcats will host Mount Airy (1-0) on Friday night at 7:30pm for the first home game of the season! Mount Airy defeated Starmount 42-18 on Friday.