Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.
The No. 3 Wildcats (0-1) struggled all the way through their season opener with Bushland and the troubles began before Canadian ever stepped onto the field.
Shortly after passing through Miami, the Wildcats’ only team bus was derailed by a flat tire—a first in Offensive Line Coach Hayden Merlet’s 28 years of driving team buses.
No matter. The Wildcats waited and reloaded onto two separate transports and made their way to Falcon Stadium in a timely manner.
The Cats were again delayed five minutes into the third quarter as lightning storms passed through the area and torrential downpours kept both teams off the field for nearly two hours. At that point, Canadian trailed 20-31.
The 11 pm resumption wouldn’t redeem the Cats though. The Falcons (1-0) would hold off a late resurgence by the Canadian offense to flat line the Wildcats’ first game of the season and 31-game win streak, 38-35.
“It sucks real bad,” said senior Holton Hufstedler. “We hadn’t lost in a long time. Almost forgot what it was like.”
It just took too long for Air Canada to get its motor running. After the Falcons fired the opening salvo, Hufstedler and Manny Ramsey produced big plays with touchdown passes from Corbin Douthitt of 60 and 26 yards. Those scores were interlaced with a couple field goals by Douthitt, the first an impressive 37 yards.
“To begin the game,” said Defensive Coordinator Andy Cavalier, “we did kind of start slow. Then we got some momentum there, I think we got up 20-8. And then, honestly, throughout the game, we just didn’t play good enough. Bushland just played better than us tonight. We had opportunities to make plays and change the game, and we didn’t make those plays.”
The Bushland offense hammered the Blackade for the next 24 minutes, however, scoring 24 points in the middle two frames.
Douthitt did his best to gut the Wildcats back on top with 27- and 23-yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter, but another botched play by the Blackade secondary lifted the Falcons to their 3-point victory.
“We lost this game because we missed opportunities we had to make plays,” said Hufstedler. “Without a doubt, it wasn’t the coaches’ fault. They put us in the best position to win. We just didn’t make the easy plays we could have. We didn’t play all four quarters like we did that fourth quarter out there.”
It was a frustrating night for the Canadian defense. The Bushland offense was never able to impose their will against the Wildcats, but the Falcon opening drive foretold the night ahead.
After stuffing the first two Falcon plays for a combined -7 yards, a young corner got too aggressive and allowed Chance Wood to get just a yard behind him. That yard turned into 82 and 7 points. The second Falcon touchdown was on third-and-12, when wires got crossed in the secondary, Gage Climer walked into the endzone untouched for 32 yards. Climer again fooled the Wildcat secondary. He took a quick 10-yard curl, and after the Wildcat corner overpursued, raced the rest of the 75 yards for 7 points. That touchdown also came on third down. The nail in the coffin was a 65-yard heave in the fourth quarter to—you guessed it—Climer, who simply ran past all the Canadian defenders.
“For two years, we had plays like that we just made,” said Cavalier. “Tonight we didn’t make them. We were in position at times and just didn’t get it done. There’s no easy answer that if we would’ve done this it would’ve been different. But we’re gonna get back, we’re gonna practice, we’re gonna get better and make the play next time.”
The shortest touchdown by the Falcons was a 25-yard scramble by quarterback Colton Moore. Moore torched the Canadian secondary for 322 yards. To be fair, the Blackade front seven was little to no help in the passing game. Moore was sacked only once the entire night and hurried a handful of times resulting in a lone interception by Ramsey. The Air Canada offense gave the ball away four times.
The Wildcats were also plagued by penalties. Eleven for 100 yards, to be exact. The Falcons remained relatively disciplined, however, with only five penalties for 55 yards.
In a wild mess of mistakes, there were plenty of bright spots for the Wildcats though. Though Douthitt only completed 48 percent of his passes, he more than made up for it with his legs, churning out 95 yards and both rushing touchdowns on 13 attempts. He also was perfection premiering as the kicker, going five-for-five for 9 points.
Ramsey continues to be the go-to playmaker on offense as he turned seven catches into 169 yards.
“We did lots of good things,” said Cavalier. “There were some key moments where we didn’t make plays, but I thought our effort was great. We had some young kids get in there that haven’t played, some newcomers, make some good plays.”
With all the problems on defense, the biggest standouts were three of the Wildcats’s younger players, with juniors Tyler Richardson recording the only sack, Eric Gonzales collecting five tackles for loss and Bishop Wyatt pulling in three.
The Wildcats will look to right the ship on Friday, and a potentially soft River Road team that took a 29-6 beating from Stratford in week one might be the trick.
Kickoff is at 7:30 pm at River Road.