Sports Writer: Brent Cook
September 15, 2021
The Whitney Wildcats started strong Friday night, but with a fourth-quarter stand, the Rogers Eagles soared to victory.
Under the lights at Wildcat Stadium, Whitney found the scoreboard on the opening drive and established control. But Rogers perked up with 21 points in the second quarter and the Eagles grabbed the lead for good.
The Eagles kept flying high in the final two frames and landed with a 48-33 win. Rogers improved to 2-1 on the year, while the Wildcats now sit at 1-2 in non-district play.
“I felt like going into the matchup it was a statement game,” said Head Coach Mark Byrd. “We needed to turn the corner.”
Despite the defeat and some crucial missed opportunities, Coach Byrd witnessed several positives: another solid offense outing where the Wildcats spread the ball to keep Rogers off balance and a defense that showed flashes to them in the game.
He noted that the tough stretch of quality opponents is strengthening the team as district play looms on the horizon.
“I really think our preseason is setting us up for the season to come,” he said. “More than anything it is teaching us some personal character issues. We all have to look in the mirror at times and make a decision: ‘Are you in the fight with me or are we just going to dance.’”
The road doesn’t get any easier this Friday as the top ranked team in 2A-Division 2 arrives in town. The Mart Panthers are currently 3-0 and have outscored their opponents 121 to 7. After winning three consecutive state titles, the Panthers came up short in last year’s championship by a single point.
“Mart is coming in as the #1 team and it’s another statement game,” he said. “I told our kids we have to decide if we are going to be tough or not.”
Against Rogers, the Wildcats showed some fight. Senior quarterback Garrett Peacock once again led the way, accounting for 327 total yards and three touchdown tosses.
As a team, the Wildcats gain 267 yards in the air and 210 yards on the ground as multiple players pitched in to keep the game close.
Peacock started the game by spreading the ball and guiding the Wildcats to the edge of the red zone. A four-minute, 62-yard drive was capitalized by a 19-yard scoring reception from senior Kolt Byrd.
The Wildcats kept the Eagles at bay the rest of the first quarter, but the explosive Rogers offense took flight in the second quarter.
Still, Whitney was able to move the ball with solid play from the likes of Dalton Wooten, Jaxon Montgomery, Jordan Newton and Kyler Cryns.
The Wildcats added two more scores in the second quarter courtesy of a six-yard touchdown catch from Cryns (7-58, 1 TD) and an impressive 37-yard rushing score from speedy sophomore Demari Wilson.
With a 19-14 lead, Whitney was in position to head into the locker room with the lead, but Rogers orchestrated a six-minute drive to close out the half.
The Eagles captured a 21-19 advantage and stormed the field in the second half with another score.
Down 28-19, the Wildcats kept fighting as Wilson responded with a 25-yard return that gave the team solid field position. Following a bobbled snap, Peacock fired a pass to Orrin Green, who sprinted to a 45-yard score to put the game at 28-27.
The touchdown trade-off continued as Rogers added another score and Whitney followed suit. Whitney utilized a pair of fourth-down conversions to complete a 72-yard drive and ended with a Peacock rushing touchdown.
The third quarter came to a close with the Eagles barely hanging on to a 35-33 lead. But Rogers found a way to step up the defensive pressure and keep the scoreboard flickering.
The Eagles entered the end zone twice in the fourth quarter to put the final at 48-33.