Sports Writer: Brent Cook
November 24, 2021
The Whitney Wildcats clawed and fought for four quarters Thursday night at Tyler Rose Stadium, giving No. 3 ranked Mount Vernon its toughest test of the season.
But in the end, the undefeated Tigers employed a blazing-quick offensive assault to power past and pull away from the Wildcats 57-30. Despite the final score, the Wildcats went toe-to-toe with a potential state champ and never gave up along with way.
“We really had a good gameplan and kept them on edge for a while,” Byrd said. “We scored more points on them than anyone else this season and had the most offensive yards as well.”
With the win, the Tigers advanced to the third round of the playoffs. While for the Wildcats, the game marked the end of another successful season for Whitney under the leadership of Head Coach Mark Byrd and his coaching staff. The Wildcats finished the season 6-6 overall and 4-2 in district, playing a schedule that was filled with top-ranked teams.
This year’s roster was guided by a squad full of senior leaders, who advanced to the playoffs in three of their four football seasons.
“This is for sure a special bunch of seniors,” Byrd said. “There is nothing better than seeing a group grow for four years. They have been district champions, played in big ball games and made this community proud. They are going to be great for our society in leadership and in the workforce.”
Byrd added that players such as Jordan Newton, Garrett Peacock, Kyler Cryns, Kolt Byrd, Jaxon Montgomery, Dalton Wooten and Daren Van Zandt along with others have given something for the Whitney community to hang its hat on and given expectations for Wildcats to come.
The seniors’ skills were on full display against Mount Vernon as the offense came out firing and captured the lead on the first drive of the game. With quarterback Garrett Peacock leading the way, the Wildcats methodically marched down the field and went up 7-0 thanks to a scoring reception from Orrin Green. Green continued his late-season hot streak finishing with eight catches for 165 yards.
The Tigers fired right back to tie things up before kicker Carson Griffin gave the Wildcats a 10-7 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
Following an acrobatic catch in the end zone, Mount Vernon went up 14-10 and thought they took the momentum. But the Wildcats weren’t done. Peacock spotted Green again and then used his legs to take back a 17-14 lead.
“We came out on fire, as I expected we would, on both offense and defense,” Byrd said. “We controlled the clock and managed the offense as planned, and we felt like we should’ve gone into the half being up.”
However, Mount Vernon capitalized on a string of opportunities in the closing minutes of the second quarter that included penalty setbacks, a turnover and a big pass play. The tide turned, and the Tigers took a 29-17 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, the explosive Mount Vernon offense continued trucking, scoring on nearly every possession, never punting and collecting 34 first downs overall. The Wildcats remained steadfast and determined.
“Our kids were still focused in the second half, and we were still pushing the gas to make it a one-possession game,” Byrd said. “Peacock never stopped delivering as a quarterback and giving us a chance.”
The senior finished with 400 yards passing, connecting for a score with Jairdyn Anderson in the third quarter.
“As we got to the fourth quarter, you could tell our kids were getting a bit worn down due to them being able to two-platoon us and stay fresh,” Byrd said.
Still, the Wildcats closed out the game and the season on a high note, as Peacock tossed his final touchdown as a Wildcat to longtime teammate Jaxon Montgomery.