Troy escapes Whitney’s comeback

Sports writer: Brent Cook

September 1, 2022

Battle of Hill County set for Friday night at Wildcat Stadium…

Whitney’s Jordan Johnson sprints down the sideline in the season opener against Troy. The speedy junior receiver grabbed seven catches and raced to 152 yards on the night.

With a new head coach, the Whitney Wildcats faced an old nemesis Friday night to kick off the 2022 football season.

Whitney traveled south to Troy, where the Wildcats and Trojans met for the first time since 2019. That year, both teams were flying high and clashed in an epic, third-round playoff battle. The Trojans narrowly escaped that game with a 9-7 victory, and this year’s matchup presented the opportunity for revenge for the Wildcats.

Once again, the defenses took center stage, but the first-game jitters were apparent in the first half as both teams struggled to find an offensive groove.

After trailing the first three frames, the Wildcats mounted a furious fourth-quarter comeback to briefly grab the lead. But Troy utilized turnovers to recapture the advantage and claim a 23-20 victory.

Whitney’s Head Coach David Haynes Jr. saw plenty of promise in his first spin on the Wildcat sideline. Coming from McGregor, Haynes is no stranger to Central Texas foes like the Trojans, and he had the Wildcats ready.

The Wildcats moved the ball all night and showed big-play potential. In his first varsity start at quarterback, Mason Seely tossed for more than 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. The passing game benefited both Jairdyn Anderson (12-137) and Jordan Johnson (7-152), who filled the stat sheet and found the end zone.

Despite being plagued by turnovers, Haynes was able to calm the Wildcats’ nerves and put the team in position to grab an on-the-road win. A solid defensive effort kept the ball coming back to the offense. The defense was led by Miguel Figueroa, Tegan Winkler, David Haynes III and Nathan Burrows. The foursome combined for 47 tackles and 8 tackles for a loss.

The Wildcats slowed the Trojans’ offensive attack to a crawl in the first half. Troy was able to strike first with a field goal, which was followed up with a second-quarter score. The Wildcats found the scoreboard as well and the two teams settled for a 10-6 halftime status.

The Trojans then stretched the lead to 16-6 in the third quarter before the Wildcats came to life. Whitney pieced together consecutive touchdowns that were sandwiched by an impressive defensive stand. The Wildcat fans stood loud and proud as the momentum shifted.

The Wildcats held the 20-16 lead going into the last half of the fourth quarter, but the Trojans refused to settle. Troy grabbed an interception that set up a touchdown with just under four minutes to play that put the score at 23-20. The Wildcats attempted final comeback but another pass landed into the Trojans’ hands, and the Wildcats were left thinking about next week’s rivalry match with Hillsboro.

The Eagles will visit Wildcat Stadium as the teams square off for the first time since 2019. The battle of Hill County should pack a punch as the Wildcats will be looking to use the homefield advantage to give Haynes his first victory. On the visitor sidelines, the Eagles are coming in hot following a high-scoring 45-22 win against McGregor to start the year. Hillsboro earned a trip to the playoffs in 2021 with a 6-5 record.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

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