Sports Writer: Brent Cook
September 1, 2021
The Quinlan Ford Panthers stormed into Wildcat Stadium to start the season on Friday night and pounced to an early lead against the Whitney Wildcats.
The Wildcats managed to shake the first-game jitters and bounced back with two second-quarter touchdowns. Down 27-15 at the half, Whitney found its stride in the third quarter and rattled off another string of touchdowns.
Head Coach Mark Byrd said he was pleased that the Wildcats put themselves in a position to make it a one possession game, but the Panthers kept trucking, and the Wildcats were unable to find enough traction to catch up.
With seven rushing touchdowns on the night, Quinlan outpaced the Wildcats 47-33 to capture the season-opening victory.
“No doubt, we knew the Quinlan offense was going to be a storm for us,” Byrd said. “That offense is going to give many teams problems with the size and speed of their backs. They were a solid opponent for sure and the game will make us better.”
Despite the struggle to slow the Panthers and some untimely penalties, Byrd remained positive as the Wildcats settle into the 2021 season.
“It’s early in the season and we have a lot of talent that will grow week by week,” he said. “One game does not define us, but it was a teachable moment.”
He noted that senior Garrett Peacock is a coachable leader and has the potential to be one of the top quarterbacks in the area. Peacock tossed three touchdowns on 128 yards and rushed for 100 yards and a ground score.
“He and I both know he has much more in the tank,” Byrd said.
In the first half, Peacock’s 52-yard scramble set up an 11-yard touchdown toss to senior Dalton Wooten. A solid return by senior John Cox then led to a rewarding drive to end the second half. With just over two minutes on the scoreboard, Peacock connected with senior Kyler Cryns for a 35-yard scoring reception. Cryns was the leading receiver on the night with 54 yards.
The sky opened up to start the second half as a steady rain sent fans scrambling. The Wildcats remained focused. Peacock put his head down, and along with Cryns and senior Orrin Green snatching passes, the Wildcats found the scoreboard again courtesy of a 15-yard sprint from the quarterback to put the score at 27-21.
With the lead down to six, the intensity picked up. But Quinlan Ford kept moving as the Panthers’ standout running back Jadonavan Williams raced one of his four scores of the night. Still, the Wildcats fired back as a long run from sophomore Jairdyn Anderson set up a 22-yard touchdown strike from Peacock to Green.
The touchdown trade off continued and was highlighted by the Wildcats when an 88-yard kick return from Green closed the gap to 39-33.
The Panthers responded again, though. Sticking to the ground, Quinlan orchestrated a quarter-draining drive that was capped off with a final touchdown to put the result at 47-33.
The Wildcats return to action this Friday with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff in Robinson. The Rockets dropped the season opener to Taylor last Friday by a score of 32-13. Last season, Robinson struggled and stumbled to a 2-8 record. The Wildcats blanked the Rockets 41-0 in 2020.
Byrd said the Wildcats need to focus on tackling, applying pressure and eliminating the big plays.
“I trust our kids to make the adjustments,” he said. “I see the look in their eyes and hunger for success.”