Wildcats take care of Manchester in another #1 vs #2 match up

Published 1:58 pm Monday, October 23, 2023

ELLAVILLE – for the second time this year, the Schley County Wildcats (SCHS), the #1-ranked team in the state in Class A Division 2, faced the #2-ranked team. A few weeks ago, they had faced the Macon County Bulldogs, who were the #2-ranked team back then. They handled Macon County easily by the score of 34-7.

Friday night’s game against the #2-ranked Manchester Blue Devils (MHS) was much more difficult and challenging, but the Wildcats were up to the task, as they won the low-scoring affair by the score of 27-7 on Senior Night at Wildcat Stadium.

“They (MHS) are a good football team. They’ve got the best defense in Class A Division 2 coming into the game,” SCHS Head Coach Darren Alford said. “WE knew it was going to be a struggle, but our kids, you know, they came out. They executed a lot of things. We saw some things. We made some adjustments in the second half. Offensively, we put some points on the board. Our defense was lights out all night long. I was proud of everything they did.”

The Wildcats won the toss and elected to receive the ball to start the game. The Wildcats very quickly moved the ball into MHS territory when Carson Westbrook returned the opening kickoff 41 yards to the Blue Devils’ 39-yard line. A couple of plays later on third down and 11, quarterback Jay Kanazawa scrambled and gained 14 yards on a quarterback keeper. Then Kanazawa threw a pass to Westbrook at the MHS six-yard line. One play later, Kanazawa finished the drive by scoring on a quarterback keeper from six yards out. The extra point by Miguel Yanez was good and the SCHS had an early 7-0 lead with 9:31 left to go in the first quarter.

Schley County senior running back Sam Forehand is seen here competing for the Wildcats against Manchester.
Photo by Shannon Blanchard

On the Blue Devils’ first possession, they were able to move the ball into SCHS territory thanks to a strong running attack. On second down and 13 from the SCHS 39, running back Keenan Whitaker was able to gain the necessary yardage, as he ran the ball down inside the SCHS 30. However, the Wildcats’ defense made a stand and forced a fourth down situation for the Blue Devils. After taking a timeout, MHS decided to go for it on fourth down and 12. Quarterback Daryus Bryant threw a pass to Justus Terry, but Terry was tripped up short of the line to game by JaLewis Solomon. That would give the ball back to the Wildcats’ offense, but they were unable to mount a drive and were forced to punt. However, once again, the SCHS defense held the MHS offense on its next possession and forced the Blue Devils to punt.

On the Wildcats’ next possession, Kanazawa was able to find Kendall Sims for a 10-yard touchdown reception. Then Kanazawa found Solomon for a five-yard gain, earning the Wildcats another first down. Then Kanazawa found JaLewis Solomon for another big gain down to the MHS 40-yard line. On the next play, Zayden Walker got the ball and ran it down inside the MHS 20. On the very next play, Kanazawa found Solomon again for a 15-yard reception down to the MHS three-yard line. On the next play, the Wildcats were penalized for a false start infraction, which moved the ball back to the MHS 10. Unfortunately for SCHS, they had to settle for a 26-yard field goal try by Yanez, but his kick was blocked. The Wildcats were down at the three-yard line, but ended up not coming up with any points.

On the next MHS possession, they were able to move the football with their running attack, particularly from running back Darius Favors. However, on third down and three on the MHS 47, running back Qua Cooper was tackled short of the line to gain by Jack Clark. This stopped the Blue Devils’ drive and forced them to punt.

With four minutes to go in the first half, the Wildcats had the ball with another chance to make a scoring drive, but they were unable to sustain the drive, as the MHS defense forced a three and out.

On the Blue Devils’ next possession, Whitaker was able to run around the left side and ran the ball down to the SCHS 32-yard line. This put MHS into good field position with 2:14 to go before halftime. They were then able to use their running attack to move the ball down inside the SCHS 20. However, two false start penalties hurt the Blue Devils on this drive, as the ball was moved back to the SCHS 28. Rather than try a field, goal, the Blue Devils elected to go for it on fourth down and Javon Favors’ pass was incomplete. After one half of play, the Wildcats still led 7-0.

Schley County senior wide receiver Carson Westbrook caught three passes for 80 yards and scored one touchdown in the Wildcats’ 27-2 victory over Manchester.
Photo by Shannon Blanchard

The Blue Devils got the ball to start the second half, but they were flagged with a personal foul penalty. On the first play from scrimmage, Whitaker was tacked by Zayden Walker. On the next play, Qua Cooper got the ball for the Blue Devils, but he was tackled by Sam Forehand, forcing a third down situation for MHS. On third down, the Blue Devils were flagged with an intentional grounding penalty, which forced them to punt the ball away to the Wildcats.

However, on the next SCHS possession, the Wildcats lost some yards on a bad snap from center. This pretty much caused the drive to stall and the Wildcats were forced to turn the ball over on downs.

On the next MHS possession, the Wildcats’ defense continued to cause problems, but the Blue Devils were bailed out by a pass interference penalty against SCHS, moving the ball up to the MHS 45-yard line and a first down. However, another false start penalty was called against MHS, making second down more difficult. However, on the next play, a personal foul penalty was called against the Wildcats, which gave the Blue Devils a first down at the SCHS 45. However, a holding call against MHS moved the ball back across midfield to the MHS 45. As a result, the drive bogged down for the Blue Devils and they were forced to punt.

On the Wildcats’ next possession, they were able to move the ball into MHS territory by using the running attack of Zayden Walker. Then on second and 12 from the MHS 40, Kanazawa found Solomon over the middle for a 22-yard gain. A Couple of plays later, Kanazawa threw a pass to Sam Forehand down at the MHS four-yard line. However, a personal foul penalty was called against SCHS, which moved the ball back to the Wildcats’ 16. However, on the very next play, Kanazawa found Solomon in the corner of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown reception. The extra point by Yanez was good and the Wildcats were up 14-0 with 1:22 left to go in the third quarter.

However, the Blue Devils were not going away. On the ensuing kickoff, Darius Favors ran the kickoff back 70 yards for a touchdown. The extra point by Jack Underwood was good and the Wildcats’ lead had been trimmed to 14-7.

On the ensuing kickoff, MHS was flagged for a facemask penalty. Then on their first play from scrimmage, Kanazawa threw a screen pass to Sam Forehand, who ran the ball all the way back for an SCHS touchdown. The extra point by Yanez was good and the Wildcats were back up by two touchdowns 21-7.

On the Blue Devils’ next possession, they were once again done in by a false start penalty and it once again disrupted their drive, as they were forced to punt the ball away on fourth down.

On the Wildcats’ next possession, they were forced into a third down situation, but Kanazawa was able to gain the necessary yardage when he gained nine yards on a quarterback keeper. A couple of plays later, he handed the ball off to Walker, who was able to gain six yards down to the MHS 16. On third down and two, Walker gained the necessary yardage for another first down and the Wildcats had the ball inside the MHS 10. However, a holding penalty against SCHS nullified that play.

Kanazawa then threw a pass to Solomon, who ran the ball down to the Blue Devils’ 10 yard line. Two plays later, the Wildcats faced fourth and goal from the seven, but Kanazawa’s pass was intercepted by Jayden Terry.

On the next MHS possession, the Blue Devils fumbled the football and it was almost recovered by the Wildcats. Nevertheless, MHS was forced to punt the ball away on fourth down.

On the Wildcats’ next possession, they tried to use their running game to gain yardage and to run some clock. However, they were able to score again when Kanazawa threw a screen pass to Carson Westbrook, who broke a couple of tackles and scampered all the way to the end zone for another SCHS touchdown. The extra point try by Yanez was no good, but the Wildcats were in control and would go on to win by the score of 27-7.

SCHS Quarterback Jay Kanazawa completed 18 of 25 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Kanazawa also scored another touchdown on a quarterback keeper.

As far as the running game was concerned, the Wildcats as a team rushed for 139 yards on 27 carries, with Zayden Walker rushing for 80 yards on 11 carries.

As far as receiving was concerned, JaLewis Solomon caught 11 balls for 110 yards and scored one touchdown to lead the Wildcats’ wide receiving corps.

On the defensive side of the ball, Jack Clark led the Wildcats with a total of 10 tackles on the night (six solo, four assisted). Clark and Brody Smith each came up with a sack on the night as well.

The #1-ranked Wildcats (8-0) will try to stay undefeated when they travel over to Buena Vista to take on the 4-4 Marion County Eagles on Friday, October 27. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.