Football conquers rival, continues six-game winning streak

Football conquers rival, continues six-game winning streak

Photo credit Ellen Taratus

On a cold, rainy October night at Alfred E. Thompson Stadium, the Wildcats pummeled the Lovett Lions. Although a steady rain fell for most of the game, the inclement weather did not deter Cats fans from attending in droves.  The team was pumped up, and the fans were loud.

As for the play itself, the downpour made an impact.  The sloppy conditions made for a lot of drops, slippery throws, and sliding cuts.  As a result, both teams heavily relied on their running game.  Junior running back Nigel Walker and senior running back Shelton Collier consistently pounded the ball through the heart of the Lovett defense.  Sophomore Cameron Seward made several big plays from the Wildcat formation, until he suffered an injury in the second quarter. At quarterback, senior Danny Catan used his athleticism to produce several nice runs.  

Lovett’s offense did not have the same success.  The Lions and their freshman quarterback Willie Candler struggled mightily against Westminster’s formidable defense.  Senior captain and linebacker Coleman Poje noted the importance of the first defensive series and the missed field goal by Lovett.

“After that, we knew they wouldn’t score,” said Poje.  In fact, Lovett’s only points came as a result of a Cats mistake, when they snapped the ball over junior kicker/punter Harrison Butker into the end zone for a safety.  On the Lions’ next possession, Westminster countered by getting a safety of its own.  The back-to-back safeties resulted in an unconventional score of 5-2 at the end of the first quarter. Westminster went on to score a touchdown and a field goal before halftime, and then a long rushing touchdown by Collier in the fourth quarter.  The Wildcats’ defense had success by putting constant pressure on Lovett’s Candler and containing the Lions’ running back Grant Haley, with the exception of one big play.  

“It really was special at the end of the day to defeat [our] rivals,” said senior captain and strong safety Scott Peters. “We’ve been fortunate to defeat them all three years our class has been on varsity.”

This year, the Wildcats have bounced back from a 1-4 start.  The Wildcats began their season versus AAA powerhouse St. Pius and narrowly lost.  Next, the team squared off against two Florida schools (Baker County and Providence), losing the first game and winning the next.  In the Providence game, senior captain and running back Parker Tuthill went down with a torn ACL.  

Then the Wildcats played GAC in the Georgia Dome.  GAC won handily, and the Westminster defense allowed the most points (49) in school history.

After this, the Wildcats went on to lose against region rival Blessed Trinity. The defense allowed 153 points in these first five games, an average of about 30 points per game.  The team was not happy with its 1-4 start and was eager to regain momentum in efforts to make the playoffs.  Since then, the Cats havereeled off six consecutive wins against South Atlanta, Therrell, Maynard Jackson, Lovett, Decatur, and first-round opponent Callaway.  

“We have found our identity as a team and started to come together very well,” said Tuthill. “We have started to depend on each other in tough situations. Our line has also stepped up to make us a better team.”

In the game against Decatur, the Cats got off to another fast start. With the running game intact on senior night, the Cats secured the victory early in the fourth quarter with a 35-7 win. This win was crucial for the Cats, as it helped them attain one of their main goals of reaching the state playoffs.  In its fifth trip in the last five years, the team was set to face a solid team in the Callaway Cavaliers.

On a chilly fall night, the Cats traveled to Callaway in what would be a rematch of the 2009 second-round playoff game. Two years ago, the Cats lost in the final seconds to a talented Callaway squad.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Cats took control with a scoring run from Catan. Callaway responded with a fourteen-play scoring drive to tie the game at seven. The Cats then answered with a hard-nosed rushing attack that resulted in a 47-yard field goal by Butker to end the first half.

The team continued to score in the second half, putting up 24 points, mostly due to good starting field position provided by a blocked punt and the Cats’ stellar defense.

On offense, the Cats continued their dominant running game with over 200 rushing yards, led by Walker with 112 yards rushing. The team also showed a little bit of prowess in the passing game, as well, marked by Catan’s touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Rivers Patterson.

The Cats now look ahead to a matchup with the Dublin Fighting Irish. It will be the first time Westminster has faced Dublin in football, and the Cats are hoping to overcome the second-round hump that has troubled the team in recent years.

“The closer we get to a mistake-free game, the better our chances of moving on in the playoffs,” said Coach Joe Sturniolo. “It’s not just the big mistakes that everyone can see, the fumbles or interceptions, it’s making your block, running the right route, punting to the right side, lots of little things that add up to successful plays.  If we do that, we can go far.”