Wildcats fall behind early, battle back for region victory, 24-14

Published 11:12 pm Friday, October 6, 2023

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Florala fell behind to the Houston County Lions Friday night, but after a late first-half score the Wildcats owned the second half to come from behind for a 24-14 region win.

The injury bug had slowed the Wildcats down in practice this week, according to Head Coach Jordan Cantrell, but three players were cleared to go Friday, including quarterback Rayshon Coleman.

“We knew coming in that some of our guys didn’t get a lot of practice. Rayshon went out of the game last week. We knew from watching film that Houston County is strong, fast, physical and really well coached. Our game plan really changed at the last minute when several of our guys were cleared to play,” Cantrell said.

Early on, it looked like the Wildcats were in for a long night, having trouble bringing down the Houston County runners. The Lions marched down the field on the opening possession of the game, running the ball eight consecutive plays and capping it off with a 29-yard run into the end zone.

The Wildcats followed with a nice drive that traveled all the way to the Lion 9-yard line. From there, the Lion defense stiffened and after a sack and a couple of incompletions, the Wildcats turned it over on downs.

The Lions increased their lead in the second quarter on a 12-play drive that ended on a 2-yard touchdown run, giving the visitors a 14-0 edge with only 2:39 to go in the half.

After the kickoff, the Wildcats took possession at their own 40-yard line and from there Coleman took control. He got things rolling with a quick 17-yard burst to the Lion 43. He followed that with a 5-yard pickup two plays later for a first down. Now under a minute to go in the half, Coleman carried the ball on the next four plays, setting the Wildcats up at the 13. With time ticking down, Coleman took to the air and found Elijah McMeans in the end zone for the Wildcats’ first score. After a penalty against the Lions on the point-after attempt, Coach Cantrell called for the two-pointer. Coleman carried the ball and was hit about two yards short of the goal line, but he pushed his way into the end zone, cutting the Lions’ lead to 14-8 as the teams went into halftime.

Things only got better for the Wildcats in the second half. On first down of their first possession, Coleman found running room for a 22-yard gainer and McMeans followed that up on the next play with 33 yards to the 10-yard line. After McMeans picked up an additional five yards, it was Coleman who dove into the end zone on a 5-yard run to tie the game at 14. Florala took a 16-14 lead when Coleman connected with Christian Greasham on the two-point conversion.

The Lions mounted a drive on their next possession, but on the 22-yard line fumbled with Kaden Cantrell coming up with it for the Wildcats.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Lions were driving again, but from the 21-yard line, the Wildcats stood firm on a fourth-and-two to get the turnover on downs.

From there, McMeans took the first handoff for a 5-yard gain and Coleman followed with a first-down pick-up of 14 yards. A few plays later, Coleman found running room around the right side and accelerated downfield for a 43-yard touchdown, giving the Wildcats some breathing room and he followed with a run to convert the 2-point play, making the score 24-14 with 4:39 to go.

Florala all but sealed the victory when the Lions fumbled the ball on the kickoff return, which was recovered by Greasham, who had strong performances in all facets of the game.

“I’m really proud of all of our guys. They showed a lot of heart tonight. The defense played lights-out in the second half. We had a lot of different guys take snaps and run the ball. We are excited and proud of our guys and we’ll get back to work tomorrow,” Cantrell said.

With the win, the Wildcats improve to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in 1A Region 2. They take a road trip to McKenzie (4-2, 2-2) on Oct. 13 for another region test.