After trailing the entire game, the Wildcats were able to close the gap to 20-14 midway through the fourth quarter. However, a botched punt netted minus-1 yard and set the Hoyas up at the Wheeler 13-yard line. Four plays later, the Hoyas scored to stretch the score to 26-14.
“We talk about special teams as number one and that was a big play.” Harrison coach Matt Dickmann said.
Wheeler answered, driving 80 yards in 42 seconds to pull within 26-21. After stopping the Hoyas again, the Wildcats drove the ball to the Harrison 31, before a Ryles Kirkland fumble sealed the game for the Hoyas.
“Our motto this year has been not to come up short,” Dickmann said. “At the end there, we needed a big play and the defense came up with a big play.”
Kirkland rushed for 66 yards on 13 carries and had 212 yards passing.
“Ryles played gutsy tonight.” Wheeler Coach Mike Collins noted after the game. “He’s got a ton of fight in him and I feel like he’s getting better and better every week.”
Harrison struck first, as Hayden Messina punched in the first of his two scores, to cap a 13 play 74 yard drive to give the Hoyas the lead.
Wheeler was able to respond when Georgia Tech commit Harland Howell made a spectacular leaping catch in the corner of the end zone to tie the game late in the second quarter.
Wheeler had the Hoyas facing third-and-long on the ensuing drive, however, a missed assignment in the Wildcat secondary resulted in a 44-yard catch and run by Messina to set up the Hoyas deep in Wheeler territory. Seven plays later, Messina capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown with only 4 seconds left in the half.
Harrison quarterback Lorenzo Nunez, a South Carolina commitment, ran for 136 yards, while Howell had eight catches for 96 yards and a touchdown.