The maturation of the program was evidenced all over the field at Corky Kell Stadium Friday night as the Wildcats’ defense smothered Woodstock in a 31-9 Region 5AAAAAA victory.
Wheeler (5-4, 2-4) scored on three straight possessions in the second quarter, and once on defense, to take a commanding 28-3 lead at the half.
“I think we saw a group of young men pull together and really wanted to fight hard to scrap out a win against a quality opponent,” Collins said.
Kyonte Maxwell was the first to reach the end zone for the Wildcats. The senior, who had just two carries, scored from 6 yards out. The point after by J.D. Barron made it 7-3.
On the next Wheeler possession, a 33-yard touchdown was by called back because of a holding penalty, but that didn’t stop the Wildcats. Completions to Jacobi Green, Billy Polakowski and Devontae Jackson set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Green, which put Wheeler up 14-3.
Woodstock fumbled on its next possession, with Wheeler recovering the ball on the 13. On the first play of the short drive, Elijah Staley completed a 13-yard pass to Jackson for a touchdown.
Staley, who connected with five different receivers, finished the game 12-for-22 for 145 yards and a touchdown. He also had one carry for 23 yards.
Wheeler’s defense, which recorded 11 tackles-for-loss, got involved in the scoring when Jevan Sampler intercepted an Alex Motsinger passes and returned it 15 yards for the third Wildcat score in 3 minutes.
The Wildcats added a 32-yard field goal by Barron in the third quarter.
“We caught a couple breaks early in the game,” said Collins. “Our defense did a heck of a job holding them out. Our entire defense, all 11 guys, swarming to the ball. Then, our offense got us rolling.”
Woodstock was coming off an emotional win last week over Towne Lake rival Etowah. Woodstock coach Brent Budde knew things would go either one of two ways. Either the Wolverines would continue to step up their game, or they would suffer a letdown.
“We got the letdown,” Budde said. “It’s hard for young men like this to handle such an emotional roller coaster. We came out and didn’t play our best.”
Woodstock (3-6, 3-3) scored on its first drive of the night on a 35-yard field goal by Miguel Gomez, but would not be able to find the end zone until late in the fourth quarter.
Jackson led Wheeler with 73 yards on 12 carries.