Sports Writer: Brent Cook
October 20, 2021
The Whitney Wildcats squared off against the No. 7 West Trojans in a grinding defensive battle Friday night and the fight went down to the final frame.
Despite trailing for a chuck of the night, the Trojans found the end zone in the fourth quarter, which propelled them to a 14-10 victory. The win puts West at 8-0 on the year and 3-0 in district play, while the Wildcats slip to 3-4 overall and 2-1 on the 7-3A Division 1 leaderboard.
“It was a tough one to swallow for sure,” said Whitney Head Coach Mark Byrd. “Like I told our kids, we don’t have the measurable of a lot of the teams we play, but you cannot take the heart and fight out of our community, program and kids.”
Byrd said since he took over the program, he has taken pride in the Wildcats giving 100 percent every game. And Byrd noted the team has another chance to prove itself next week as the district’s perennial favorite Grandview comes to town. Grandview, currently ranked No. 8 in the state, won the state championship in 2018 and 2019 and advanced to the third round of the playoffs last season.
To best the Zebras, Coach Byrd said the defensive effort will need to be present again, but the offense will have to correct some missed opportunities.
A touchdown call back, several fumbles and big possession drops were key mishaps Friday night.
“You’re not going to win big games with crucial things like that happening,” Byrd said. “So we learned the lesson the hard way.”
Whitney failed to earn an offensive touchdown for the first time this season. But a solid outing from the special teams and defense had the game within reach.
After the teams traded blows for most of the first half, the Trojans scored first after snatching up a fumble as the Wildcats were trying to find some offensive rhythm. The Trojans’ running back T.J. McCutcheon then barreled into the end zone to put the score at 6-0 with just over five minutes to play in the half.
The momentum quickly shifted, however, as Whitney’s Orrin Green put a spell on the Trojans with a magical kick off return. Green sprinted 85 yards for the score and the Wildcats grabbed a 7-6 lead. Green now has eight touchdowns on the year, including two kick returns.
“For sure, he is an explosive asset for us to have on the field,” Byrd noted.
The defense then stepped up as Dalton Wooten grabbed a loose ball, which put Whitney in reach of another score before the half. The Wildcats had a touchdown reception negated by a penalty then a field goal attempt sailed outside the uprights, and the team had to settle for a one-point halftime advantage.
The scoreboard remained silent in the third quarter as both defenses continued to control the game. Towards the end of the frame, Whitney’s Garrett Peacock began firing away and a connect to senior Kyler Cryns put Whitney in position for another field goal attempt.
This time freshman kicker Carson Griffin nailed a 30-yard kick to give Whitney a 10-6 lead with just over 11 minutes to play.
But with their backs against the wall and the home crowd voicing support, the Trojans came to life and quickly responded. McCutcheon, who finished with 139 yards, raced half the length of the field for a score that gave West the lead for good.
Peacock and the Wildcats continued the effort, but a string of incomplete passes put the ball back into the Trojans’ hands. Keeping the ball on the ground, West drained the clock and sealed the deal.