SOUTH WHITLEY — The shirts that many Southwood fans were wearing Friday night had a simple phrase on the back, “South will rise again.” The saying proved to be an ominous one for the Whitko football team as Southwood came into the game looking to make a statement and did just that. The Knights handed the Wildcats their first loss of the season with 52-35 win at Ryan Huff Field.
“That’s a heck of a team,” said Whitko head coach Jeff Sprunger. “They had us scouted really well. They played a hard game. Good quarterback, good receivers and I give them a lot of credit. I can’t blame this on anything we did, they just outplayed us.”
There it was. Everything that needed to be known about Friday’s game, perfectly summed up in five sentences by Sprunger.
Southwood proved it was a good team, they were able to exploit Whitko’s weaknesses and played hard. Their skill players were hard to defend and they simply outplayed the Wildcats.
The Knights went up 7-0 with a 77-yard touchdown pass from Carson Blair to Blake Martz. That lead grew to 14-0 when Blair hit Peyton Trexler for a 10-yard score later in the first quarter.
Whitko would not get on the board until the second quarter when Hunter Reed punched in a one-yard run. Reed finished his night with 219 yards and three scores.
The score from Reed brought a calming feeling to the sideline and the stadium for Whitko. Things were going to be okay now that the ‘Cats were on the board. Except, they weren’t.
Southwood marched back down the field and scored again, this time on a short run from tailback Matt Cox. Cox was seldom used, but effective when having his number called averaging over seven yards per carry. The pending extra point was blocked by Conner Riemersma. Southwood led 20-7 and the fun was just getting started.
Whitko scored with 1:40 remaining in the first half to cut the lead to 20-13. The ‘Cats would get the second half kickoff. They just needed to hold Southwood for the remainder of the half. Easier said than done.
Trexler returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for the score, leaving 1:22 on the clock. Whitko turned right around and scored again with a 63-yard pass from Colin Craig to Garrett Elder on the next play from scrimmage. Elder finished his evening withthe receiving score, a rushing touchdown and 196 all-purpose yards. The Knights led 26-19 Knights 1:07 to play in the half, but there was more madness to follow.
Southwood went down the field and scored once more on offense with a 2-yard strike from Balir to Martz with 45 seconds to spare in the half. Four touchdowns in the less than a minute, Southwood led 32-19. Whitko was determined to make it a one score game before the break but things went horribly wrong.
With three seconds remaining in the half, Craig overthrew his intended receiver in the flats. Trexler was there waiting and took its 52 yards for the score. The Knights had a commanding 39-19 lead at the half and it really all they needed.
While Whitko continued to fight and claw in the second half, Southwood proved to be too much for the Wildcat defense to handle. Blair finished his night with four scores and 453 yards through the air and added one rushing touchdown. Trexler accounted for four total touchdowns and over 300 all-purpose yards.
Despite being exposed on Friday, Sprunger knows the loss was not a result of poor effort from his players and he hopes his team will have the chance to redeem itself at the end of the year.
“I hope to gosh that Southwood continues to win,” Sprunger said, pausing to glance at the Knights as they sang their victory song. “and in three weeks, we get to play them again. That’s the opportunity that I’m looking forward to.”
Whitko falls to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the Three Rivers Conference. The ‘Cats travel to play Manchester next Friday. Southwood (4-2, 2-2) will play host to Peru.