Junior Juan Saucedo zips down the field helping the Wildcats run past the Maypearl Panthers. Saucedo provided a highlight reel touchdown run in the fourth quarter that put the game away. Whitney moved to 2-0 in district with the win and will travel to West this Friday to face the 3-0 Trojans.
‘Cats march to 46-18 win over Maypearl
Whitney rattled off three scores in three minutes to close out the first half against Maypearl, building a cushion that helped the Wildcats (4-2) coast to a 46-18 victory this past Friday night.
With a 30-6 halftime lead, the Wildcats kept a safe distance from the pesky Panthers in the second half to move to 2-0 in district play. The win set up a showdown this week against the West Trojans, who sit in the district driver’s seat at 3-0 and 5-2 overall.
Head Coach Mark Byrd said he was impressed with how the Wildcats responded following a bye week. He noted that the team had a solid stretch of practice leading up to the Maypearl tilt, and the preparation was on full display at Wildcat Stadium.
“It was good to come out fast and grab the lead,” Byrd said following the game. “We have to win the games we are supposed to win. Now we’ve got to come back next week and face a great opponent in West. I told the guys that we need to just stay the course and keep moving forward. We cannot afford to take a step back.”
The Wildcats never trailed Maypearl after a quick-strike score on the third play of the game. Following a bobbled snap, quarterback Devin Wilson rolled out and lobbed a pass to his trusty target Kolby Tanner. Tanner then worked his magic, breaking multiple tackles and zig-zagging to a 63-yard touchdown. Running back Dez Garner chipped in a two-point conversion to give Whitney the early 8-0 lead.
Maypearl snuck in a score midway through the second quarter, but with an 8-6 advantage, the Wildcats turned it up a notch with Wilson and Tanner conducting a scoring spree. Wilson found the endzone first with a six-yard rushing touchdown, which was followed by a 28-yard scoring strike to Tanner. Wilson then sprinted across the field for the two-point conversion to put the lead at 23-6.
Two plays later, senior Tate Pankey recovered a fumble, and Wilson used the final seconds of the half to tip-toe to another score.
“Coming off the open week, I was interested to see how we would react getting back on the field and under the lights,” Byrd said. “We’ve still got some things to work on, but we showed our potential in the first half.”
In the first two quarters, the offense was once again complemented by the stingy and striking Wildcat defense. Along with Pankey’s fumble recovery, Tanner grabbed an early interception and the defensive core continually stuffed the Panthers offensive attack. Whitney has now produced multiple turnovers in each of its six games this season, becoming one of the most efficient turnover teams in Central Texas.
“We really feel like our defense is a second offense,” Byrd said. “We’ve got a bend but don’t break philosophy with our defense, and we’re really able to flip the field with the turnovers.”
The Wildcats were close to capturing a couple more turnovers in the second half as the Panthers found some rhythm and tried to move the ball up and down the field. But the Wildcats refused to make it easy.
On the second play of the half, a Wildcat interception was called off due to a penalty. Down three scores, Maypearl struggled to gain traction and it took the Panthers eight minutes to find the scoreboard. The Wildcat defense then rallied to stall a creeping drive that included a fumble recovery, where the officials ruled that a Panther was down before the ball popped out.
After the defense forced a punt that pinned the Wildcats deep, the offense responded with two first downs from Wilson and Tanner that set up a 56-yard touchdown dash from junior Juan Saucedo.
Maypearl managed one last touchdown in the final frame to put the score at 38-18, but Whitney finished the night with an exclamation point touchdown from Pankey, who closed out the game at quarterback.
“I’ve got to give credit to Pankey,” Byrd said. “He has a lot of responsibility for us, knowing that he is always one snap away from having to step in as quarterback. And he also plays a role for our defense. He’s just a great example of a kid playing with heart and passion. He had a fever early and the day and went to the doctor a lunch, but he battled through it and had a great game for us.”