The Sparta Warriors hosted the Wildcats from Wilson Central, on Oct. 1, 2021, in a big region matchup that had both teams hoping to take a step closer to a coveted playoff spot to extend the season. The Wildcats won the coin toss and chose to defer until the second half. With the Wildcat kickoff, the Warriors took the first possession of the game that started at their own 35-yard line. The Warriors would then move the ball down the field with an 11-play drive that ended as Malaki Dowell found his way into the endzone for the first score of the night on a three- yard run. The extra point was no good, and, with 7:29 left to play in the first quarter, the Warriors took an early 6-0 lead.
It did not take long for the Wildcats to answer the Warrior score as it only took three plays to move down the field. With 5:34 on the clock, the Wildcats’ Jase Neuble took the ball and outran the Warrior defense for a 56-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good, and Wilson Central took a slim one-point lead 7-6.
Wilson Central attempted an onside kick, which was unsuccessful, and the Warrior offense took over at midfield with great field position to start their second drive. The Warriors again drove the 52 yards to paydirt behind the running of Malaki Dowell, Jayvn Strode, and Tripp Pinion. Strode found a seam right in the middle of the Wildcat defense to go untouched into the endzone for an 18-yard sprint to paydirt. Pinion added the two-point conversion on a keeper and gave the Warriors a 14-7 lead, with 1:45 to play in the first quarter.
The Warrior defense stepped up big and held the Wildcats to two first downs and forced Wilson Central to punt the ball back to the Warriors. Lighting struck quickly as Dowell found an opening and outran the Wildcat defense for a 79-yard touchdown run. The kick was blocked, and, with 8:50 to play in the second quarter, the Warriors took a 20-7 lead. The Warrior defense stepped as Strode intercepted the second down Wilson Central pass to take possession at the Wildcat 18-yard line. The Warriors moved the ball down to the one-yard line and suffered a false start penalty to move the ball backward. Pinion’s pass was then intercepted at the goal line and returned 58 yards to the Warrior 42-yard line. It only took three plays for Neuble to find the endzone on a 42 yard run. With the extra point good, the Wildcats cut the lead in half at the 4:26 mark in the second quarter. The score moved to 20-14.
The Warriors would then answer behind the Dowell - Strode, thunder-and-lightning attack as both runners combined for the 80-yard drive that ended with Strode weaving his way for 46-yard and paydirt to give the Warriors a 26-14 lead, with 2:16 left to play in the first half. The Wildcats from Wilson Central would then move quickly down the field, and as time was running out in the first half, the Wildcats lined up for a 30-yard field goal that split the uprights and moved the score to 26-17 as the teams headed into the locker room for a well needed halftime break.
With adjustments made, the Wilson Central Wildcats took the second half kickoff and put together a five-play drive that ended as the quarterback took the handoff and forced his way into the endzone. The extra point was no good, and, with 10:24 on the clock in the third quarter, Wilson Central inched closer to the Warriors, with a 26-23 score.
As the Warriors took the kickoff and were moving once again down the field, a costly fumble turned the ball over at the Wilson Central 37-yard line. It only took one play for the Wildcats to score as Neuble took the ball and scampered 63 yards to the endzone to give the Wildcats the lead 30-26, with 6:45 left to play in the third quarter.
In a crazy series of events, the Wilson Central Wildcats attempted an onside kick but was called for an offside penalty, so they were forced to kick over. This time they kicked the ball deep, and, on the coverage tackle, the Warriors fumbled the ball and the Wildcats recovered at the Warrior 20-yard line. On the third play, the Wildcats moved 18 yards and into the endzone to take a 37-26 lead, with 4:38 to play in the third.
The Warriors then took the ball and went on a 16-play drive that saw Dowell move into the endzone with a one- yard touchdown run. The Warriors cut into the lead, and with 11:55 left to play in the fourth quarter, the scoreboard showed 37-32 in favor of the Wilson Central Wildcats.
The Warrior defense stepped up and forced a Wildcat punt, which landed at the Warriors’ 38-yard line. Lightning and thunder again moved the ball down the field, and, with the defense’s focus on Dowell and Strode, Pinion kept the ball and made his way into the endzone for a 10-yard go- ahead score. The two-point conversion was no good, and, with 4:52 to play in the game, the Warriors held to a slim one-point lead at 38-37.
Wilson Central then went on a quick seven-play drive that saw Neuble scramble for a 38-yard touchdown run that gave the lead back to the Wildcats. The extra point was no good, and, with 2:45 left to play, the Wildcat lead was five points at 43-38.
The Warriors needed a touchdown to take the lead. The kickoff moved down and was returned to the 24-yard line. The Warriors moved down the field with two first downs converted on three Dowell runs. The Warriors faced a very short fourth down and one, with 1:13 left to play. As the Warriors moved quickly to the line, they were called for a false start penalty that made the fourth down conversion a bit longer. At fourth down and six showing on the scoreboard, Pinion rolled left in what appeared to be a complete pass, catch, and run very close to the first down. As the runner was hit after a couple steps, the ball popped free and moved backward and out of bounds very close to the first down marker. The referees huddled, and an incomplete pass was called and, with that call, gave possession back to the Wildcats, with only one minute remaining in the game. Wilson Central ran the clock in victory formation and sealed the win for the visiting Wildcats.
Stats for Wilson Central saw a solid running attack that was led by Jase Neuble who ran the ball 12 times for 169 yards. Total rushing yards for Wilson Central was 335. They had 41 yard passing for a total combined offensive output of 376 yards.
The Warriors were led by Malaki Dowell as he rushed 35 times for 324 yards. Jayvn Strode carried 17 times for 132 yards. Tripp Pinion carried seven times for 28 yards. The Warriors had zero passing yards and a total offensive showing of 484 yards.
The Warriors will travel to Hillsboro, on Oct. 8, for another region game that is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
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