High school football: Wildcats purr again after nearly blowing big lead
WOODS CROSS — In a game dominated by stars at the skill positions, a defensive lineman pulled off the play of the night in a 26-23 victory for the Woods Cross Wildcats over the Mountain Crest Mustangs.
Defensive tackle Junior Vailolo's improbable 70-yard interception return sealed the win for Woods Cross, who were on the verge of blowing a 20-0 lead.
Having closed the gap to 20-17 late in the fourth, the Mustangs were deep in Woods Cross territory with momentum clearly in their favor. Quarterback Jamison Webb's screen pass bounced off the hands of running back Eddy Hall and into the waiting arms of Vailolo. The senior proceeded to shrug off several tackles as his teammates set up downfield blocks, and 70 yards later what looked like an inevitable loss appeared to be headed to a win.
Mountain Crest would keep themselves alive, however, with a quick drive and touchdown run by Gaje Ferguson to narrow the gap again to three at 26-23 with less than 2:30 remaining. They would fail to recover the onside kick, and the Wildcats were able to run out the remainder of the clock.
"Keeping them to 23 is pretty good, because they have the potential to put 49 up on the board," Woods Cross coach Justin Spencer said after the game.
"It was just two great teams going at it on a great Friday night."
Vailolo's play capped an impressive night for the Wildcats' defense, which constantly harassed Webb and the Mountain Crest offense to the tune of seven sacks and two interceptions. Defensive end Filipo Mokofisi chipped in two of those sacks, as well as a touchdown on the offensive side of the ball.
While the Mustangs attempted to decipher the defense in the first quarter, Wildcats quarterback Skyler Farnes had the Woods Cross offense running at full speed. He connected with Mokofisi for a 44-yard touchdown to open the game, going 4 of 5 on the drive.
A perfect "coffin corner" punt by Mountain Crest that left Woods Cross pinned at their own 1 was quickly undone by Farnes, who sprinted off the right tackle, shed a defender near midfield and was tripped up just before the end zone 90 yards later. He would score two plays later for a 14-0 lead just six minutes into the game.
The Mustangs punted again after a three-and-out under strong pressure from the Wildcat defense, led by Mokofisi. After a touchback, Woods Cross needed just two plays to score, as running back Sean Barton sprinted through the middle of the defense for a 77-yard score and 20-0 lead after a missed extra point.
Mountain Crest finally got it going offensively halfway into the second when Webb connected with Alex Huerta for a 13-yard touchdown pass, followed by Hall running the ball in for a two-point conversion. Webb then found Josh Blad open for a 45-yard score on the first play of their next drive, but the extra point was blocked, leaving the score at 14-20.
The Mustangs rode that momentum into the second half, yet were unable to capitalize on offense initially, save for a 27-yard field goal by Weston Casey. The Wildcats were able to consistently move the ball through the air, however untimely penalties and sacks kept them from truly mounting a scoring threat until Fergusen's late touchdown.