Sporting WCA

Defense Shines as Football Loses Close Game

Despite a strong defensive showing, the Wildcats were edged by Lutheran North, one of the toughest teams on their schedule, 21-24 in Saturday afternoon’s game thanks to the Crusader’s special teams.

The Cats started the scoring off early with a beautiful 70 yard touchdown pass from Josh Pottebaum to Dyllan Conway on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead.

The lead didn’t last long. On the ensuing kickoff Donovan Marshall took the ball from his own 4 all 96 yards for a touchdown. After a successful 2pt conversion, Lutheran North was up 8-7.

Other than that special teams miscue, the Cats played shutdown defense for the first half, forcing 3 turnovers with interceptions coming from senior Cooper Moore and junior Jeremiah Thompson and a fumble recovery by senior Austin Greene.

The Cats took over on downs at their 26 following a great defensive stand. After a 15 yard scramble from the QB Josh Pottebaum and a 12 yard run from Steve Webb, Josh found senior Logan Sells for a 32 yard pick up; setting Westminster up with 1st and goal from the 4.

On the next play, a designed QB run, Pottebaum is hit hard by 3 Lutheran North players and the ball comes loose. After bouncing around a few times, the Wildcat’s right guard, Luke Vasel, scoops up the ball and dives into the endzone to put the Cats back on top 14-8.

With 1:32 remaining in the half, Westminster forced a fumble, and the ball was quickly recovered by Austin Green. The Cats got to the Crusader’s 35 after a 20 yard completion to Conway and a pass interference call.

On 3rd and 2, the Cats tried to run a fade to the corner but miscommunication between receiver and quarterback led to an easy interception for Lutheran North. “It’s always difficult to transition to a new quarterback,” said sophomore TE Isaac Johnston, noting that “our communication was a little off but there were some really good throws and I thought [Pottebaum] stuck with it and gave us a chance to win all the way to the end.”

The interception proved to be a major turning point in the game, because going into halftime the Crusader’s had the victory of stopping the Cats in the redzone and Westminster knew that they needed to make it a two-score game.

Even from the opening kickoff of the second half, you could tell the Crusaders had a new energy about them. The fans were into it and their defensive line started to reek havoc on a young Westminster offense.

After trading punts to start off the half, the Crusader’s had a huge 43 yard touchdown off of a screen to their running back. Once again, Lutheran North completed the 2pt conversion and took a 16-14 lead.

The Cats struggled to find any kind of offensive rhythm in the 3rd quarter. Pottebaum was getting hit or flushed out of the pocket on nearly every passing play. “They had a lot of really good athletes and people who could rush the passer,” said Pottebaum about the Lutheran D-line, “Number 9 (Ronnie Perkins) really stepped up and lead [Lutheran North] in the second half.” Ronnie Perkins, junior defensive end, has multiple D1 offers and he showed why with his play in Saturday’s game.

A bright spot in the second half came after another stop by the Westminster defense. Pottebaum found Conway flying down the sideline for a 71 yard touchdown pass, Conway’s second of the game, to take a 21-16 lead with 7:35 in 4th quarter.

But the Lutheran North offense, who had looked good all second half, responded with a long pass of their own. The Crusader’s QB snuck a ball through the defense to find Jordan Sommerville for a 63 yard score, his second of the game. Add another successful 2pt conversion and the Wildcats were down 21-24 with only 2:30 left in the game.

The Cats threw an interception with 1:52 left but forced a quick 3 and out and thanks to great clock management from the WCA coaches, and North was forced to punt with 1:15 left.

There was a high snap on the punt and it looked as though the cats were going to catch a huge break, but the Lutheran kicker somehow managed to chase down the ball and get a good kick off.

The Cats had one last chance from their own 35 to either tie the game with a field goal for take the lead with a touchdown.

Unfortunately, neither would happen as the Crusader’s defense got to Josh on all 4 plays. Pottebaum’s desperation heave on 4th and 15 was knocked down, sealing the victory for the Crusaders 21-24.

One thing that the scoreboard did not show is how many crucial stops the Westminster defense had. The Crusader’s scores came off a few long passing plays and a kick return. They were never able to get into a great rhythm, and whenever they started to, the Wildcat defense stepped up and kept them from scoring.

Cooper Moore, one of the leaders of the defense, said “We played good, solid run defense, we stopped them all game, but they were able to throw it behind us on a few plays. It was the difference in the game. We need to put in a lot of work on our pass defense and zone run defense to be ready for Burroughs next week.”

Come support the Wildcats next Saturday, 9/10, at 2pm @John Burroughs.