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Wildcat loss sets up must-win game against Groesbeck Friday night
As the pressure mounted Friday night at Zebra Stadium, the Whitney Wildcats failed to find a formula to stop the high-octane, hard-hitting attack from Grandview.
The Zebras (7-2, 4-1) frustrated the Wildcats from start to finish and raced to a 47-12 victory.
“Grandview is definitely a top 10 program,” said Head Coach Mark Byrd following the game. “They’re consistent. And they turned it up a notch tonight. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with three or four rounds deep into the playoffs.”
For the Wildcats, the fate of the season comes down to the final district game this Friday against Groesbeck at Wildcat Stadium. Whitney has dropped two consecutive contests and now stands at 5-4 and 3-2 in district play, while Groesbeck defeated McGregor last week to bring its district record to 2-3. The scenario to make the playoffs is simple: whoever wins is in.
“It’s time for us to step up,” Byrd said. “But we’ve got a lot of questions to answer this week. We’ve got to figure out who we want to be. Do we want to keep playing football, or do we want to hang it up and get ready for basketball?”
In order to answer the challenge, Byrd said Whitney must rediscover the grinding, run-first game plan that paved the way during the first part of the season. The Wildcats’ rushing attack has slowed to a crawl recently, Byrd said, but the ground game will be crucial to expose a suspect Groesbeck defense.
“Plain and simple, we have to run the ball better,” he said. “That’s how we manage the game, both at the running back position and at quarterback.”
Against Grandview, the Wildcats once again stumbled out of the gate. The offense was forced to try and move the ball quickly to keep pace with the explosive Zebras.
Grandview found the scoreboard first, but the Wildcats fired right back with a 73-yard touchdown strike from Devin Wilson to Kolby Tanner. Tanner finished the night with an impressive 161 receiving yards, and the junior now has a season total of 60 catches for 1,132 yards and 13 touchdowns.
On the next series, the Wildcat defense fed off the momentum as linebacker Julian Poston delivered a bruising blow that allowed Bode Pankey to pounce on a loose ball.
But the Whitney offense was unable to gain traction, which allowed Grandview to start the second quarter with a touchdown drive that put the lead at 13-6. The score woke the spirit of the Zebras, who then set Whitney back to the sidelines after four downs. Still, the Wildcats had some fight. As Grandview drove down the field, the defense forced another fumble that was gobbled up by freshman Geronimo Rodriguez.
The persistent Zebras then seemed to enlist the help of the officiating crew, who ironically were also decked out in black and white striped uniforms. During the Wildcats next possession, five flags sent Whitney into a tailspin. Overall, the Wildcats were penalized for eight infractions in the 12 minutes of the second quarter.
“The penalties make us have to restart every time, and that is tough to recover from,” Byrd said. “And once we get going the wrong direction, it seems we just start trying to press the right button and make plays that aren’t there.”
Grandview capitalized on the errors by closing out the half with another score that pushed the lead to 20-6.
Despite the setbacks, Whitney returned to the field intent on getting back into the game. Following a near-fumble recovery on the kickoff, the defense came up with a stop inside the redzone and the Zebras missed a field goal. But another four-and-out possession from the Wildcats opened the door for the Zebras to dig deep into the playbook.
For the remainder of the second half, the big play capability from Grandview was on full display as the Zebras piled on 27 second-half points.
Grandview’s defensive line also found an extra gear and continually had the Wildcats backpedaling. Whitney’s lone score in the second half came courtesy of a rushing score from Wilson near the end of the third quarter. Wilson compiled 227 total yards and accounted for two touchdowns in the game.
Kickoff for this Friday’s game against Groesbeck is set for 7:30 p.m. West, Grandview and Teague all have one loss in district play and have secured the top three playoff seeds.