The script for the Henry County Wildcats’ second home game couldn’t have been more different from the first game.
In the Wildcats’ win over Walton-Verona, the scoring came thick and fast from the opening kickoff.
In Friday night’s homecoming win, the Cats and Bellevue Tigers had trouble finding the endzone. But the Cats got their offense going in the second quarter and then held on to win 13-6.
The Wildcat defense played its most complete game of the season and sophomore safety Jared Yount came up with the big plays to help the Cats stifle the Tigers.
Yount’s first big play came on the game’s first series. Bellevue chose to go deep on 3rd-and-6 and the ball sailed over the head of the intended receiver and into the hands of the perfectly positioned Yount.
From there the Cats drove down field and threatened to score early. But on 4th-and-6 from the 9-yard line Brock Fish’s pass fell incomplete to end the threat. The fruitless drive lasted 13 plays and covered 48 yards.
In the second quarter Henry County scored on their first play from scrimmage. After forcing a Bellevue punt, the Cats took over on their own 23-yard line. On 1st-and-10 Brock Fish romped 73 yards on a quarterback keeper to score. The PAT was good, and the Cats were up 7-0.
Before the cheering died down, the Tigers were off and racing on a 53-yard kickoff return to the Henry County 24-yard line.
But the Cats’ defense came up big again. On 2nd and 8 defensive tackle Tyler Craigmyle got into the Tigers backfield and stuffed the running back for a 5-yard loss that made it 3rd-and-13. Forced into passing in a long yardage situation the Tigers failed to complete passes on third and fourth down and the threat ended.
The Cats took over on their own 26-yard line and after a 6-yard run by Cole Nelson, Mason Fish ran around left end, shrugged off an attempted tackle and sped to the end zone for a 68-yard TD run with 5:46 to play in the first half.
Bellevue returned the ensuing kick 29 yards to their own 44-yard line. The Tigers drove the ball to the Cats 3-yard line on nine plays only to come up short.
On 1st-and-goal the Bellevue runner fought his way to the 1-yard line only to lose the ball. Yount pounced on the loose ball and the Cats had salvaged their shutout for the time being.
Little happened in the third quarter, as both teams again struggled to find the endzone with a series of three-and-out possessions. Bellevue managed one first down on the sixth series, but still had to punt.
The Cats had good field position and after a hard 5-yard run up the middle by Austin Hartsell, the quarter ended with no change on the scoreboard.
The Cats offense stalled again as the next two plays went for a total of -1 yard.
On the next Tigers’ possession, Bellevue was facing 3rd and 7 and it looked like another short series, as the Tigers’ passing game had been ineffective.
But this time, the Bellevue quarterback rolled right and just before he ran out of room, found a receiver to dump the ball to. The receiver slipped a tackle that would have been short of the first down marker and ran untouched to the endzone for a 76-yard touchdown. The Tigers failed on a 2-point conversion pass and the score stood at 13-6 with 9:46 to play.
After another 3-and-out series by the Cats, Bellevue began a drive that seemed destined for the endzone. The Tigers started on their own 23-yard line and began to grind the ball upfield.
With about 4 minutes remaining, Bellevue completed a 19-yard pass to the Wildcat 33 yard line. Henry County Coach Jason Spencer called timeout to settle his defense down.
After the break, Bellevue threw deep and again, but Jared Yount came up big for the Cats. Yount picked the pass off at the 5-yard line and the Tiger threat had been extinguished.
On the next drive the Cats ate up the clock and a couple of big plays gave the Cats one first down before they had to punt.
The Tigers took over on the Henry County 44-yard line and immediately picked up 9 yards on a sweep and managed to get out of bounds to stop the clock. After a sweep left for 3 yards and a first down the Tigers ran one more play on the ground for 4 yards.
Time was running short. The Tigers faced 2nd and 6 with 1:16 remaining and were forced to pass. Bellevue tried a trick play, a flea flicker, in which the quarterback throws a lateral pass to a receiver who then throws the ball down field. The play worked, but the inital pass was ruled to have been a forward pass, which made the next pass illegal. The Tigers were hit with a 5-yard penalty and loss of down.
The Tigers completed a pass for a first down at the Wildcat 17. The Wildcats called timeout with 43 seconds remaining on the clock. Following the timeout, Bellevue threw 2 incomplete passes and faced 3rd and 10.
A penalty pulled the Tigers back again for five yards and another loss of down after the quarterback was ruled to be in front of the line of scrimmage before passing.
The final play of the desperate comeback attempt was another incomplete pass and the Cats ran out the clock to take the hard fought homecoming victory by a score of 13-6.
After the game Spencer was happy with his team’s defensive display but concerned about the offense.
“I thought the defense played outstanding,” he said. “One broken tackle for a long TD, but the defense bowed its neck — especially down the stretch. Jared Yount was huge with two interceptions. We moved him to safety from corner so he could make plays and he did.”
“A lot of guys changed positions on offense due to injuries and we are just getting Mason back,” Spencer continued. “We had two linemen out and one just returning from an injury and it showed on offense. We have got to continue to work to get better at the little things.
“We can’t miss the opportunities when they present themselves. We had golden opportunities that we did not take advantage of. But we’ll get better at doing that. The main thing is that we played with a tremendous amount of heart.”