By Antonio Morales
Coming off a bounce-back 38-22 victory against the Perryton Rangers, the Wildcats are geared for their next challenge in what is one of the toughest non-district schedules in Class 2A football. The Wildcats will make the 205-mile trip to Abernathy and take on yet another potent rushing-attack.
After not having much success containing Startford’s and Perryton’s run game for six quarters of action, the Wildcat defense clamped down for the second half of last Friday’s win. They’ll need to keep up that type of physical play against the Abernathy Antelopes. The Lopes field a similar run game to what the Cats saw from the Stratford Elks. The Cats couldn’t overcome Stratford’s 301 rushing yards in their 22-21 loss a couple of weeks ago, so tightening up the middle of the field will be key in whether the Cats can move to 3-1.
The Antelope offense is paced by junior Garrett Royal, a dual-threat quarterback that rushed for 945 yards and seven touchdowns, while also throwing for 990 yards and 11 scores last season. The Wildcat defense must keep an eye on Royal throughout the contest, but they must also keep track of his top receiving option, Clayton Lewis. The senior caught 28 passes for 457 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
Defensively, the Antelopes lost a few key pieces from last season but they do return All-South Plains Class 2A Defensive Player of the Year Dru Lust. The linebacker recorded 148 tackles, nine sacks and three interceptions in 2012. He’s been a force in Abernathy’s first couple of wins versus Plains and Sundown.
Wildcat head coach Chris Koetting has his offense focused on cutting down on their mental miscues, as they were penalized 14 times for 90 yards in Perryton. While Ben Arbuckle and his deep core of receivers were able to play through those miscues, Koetting says that they probably can’t afford them in tomorrow’s matchup.
The Wildcats had to dig out of a 14-0 halftime hole last season against the Lopes, and needed a miracle finish to escape with a 36-29 win. The Cats picked up a 72-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Chance Cook with seconds remaining to clinch their thrilling victory.
Koetting and the Cats know this year’s contest won’t be much easier, so they must bring their A-game if they want to be in a pleasant mood on their long trip back to Canadian. The Wildcats and Lopes continue their recent rivalry Friday at 7:30 pm at Antelope Stadium in Abernathy.
Photo courtesy of Alan Hale