Whitewater holds on for first win, 10-7 over Sandy Creek

Fri, 09/07/2007 - 10:02pm
By: Kevin Wandra
There is an old adage that says “Defense wins championships.”

Whitewater’s defense didn’t win any championships Friday, but it was the primary reason the Wildcats won their first game of the season, 10-7 over the Sandy Creek Patriots at the Battlefield in Tyrone.

Whitewater’s defense shut down’s Creek’s offense, holding it to under 200 total yards (164 total yards), and forced three turnovers, including a fumble that defensive back Kevin Fleming returned 26 yards for a touchdown.

“Our defense got after it,” Fleming said. “… We knew what we could do to beat them.”

Creek still had a chance, though, to tie the game in the final seconds and send it into overtime, but Zach Lopez’s 34-yard field goal attempt went wide left and was short with 7.8 seconds remaining, sealing the victory for Whitewater.

The loss dropped Creek to 0-2.

The Patriots had more total yards (164 to 100), passing yards (132 to 0) and first downs (eight to six) than Whitewater — the second consecutive week Creek had more total yards, passing yards and first downs than its opponent — but Whitewater held the edge where it matters most: total points scored.

Whitewater has its defense to thank for that.

“Our defense played great tonight,” Whitewater coach Amos McCreary. “The guys did a good job of forcing turnovers and putting pressure on their quarterback. They really played their hearts out.”

Most of the difference-making plays Whitewater’s defense made occurred in the second half.

Fleming’s fumble return for a touchdown came on the third play from scrimmage in the second half and gave Whitewater a 10-7 lead.

Whitewater’s C.J. Williams put the hit on Creek running back Josh Williams that forced the fumble, which Fleming scooped up and weaved his way through traffic on the way to the end zone.

Fleming came through with another big play on Creek’s next drive.

Lined up in shotgun formation with four wide receivers spread out on a fourth-and-10, Creek quarterback Rio Johnson went left on a designed rollout and threw a pass toward the end zone to wide receiver Marc Ellis, but Fleming stepped in front of Ellis to deflect the pass out of Ellis’ hands, forcing Creek to turn the ball over on downs.

It was a frustrating night for Johnson (12-for-24, 132 yards) for the second week in a row. Whitewater’s defense was in Johnson’s face for most of night, sacking him three times and picking off two of his passes.

Whitewater’s second interception, by linebacker Zach Mann, came early in the fourth quarter. Johnson’s pass was batted at the line of scrimmage and fell into the hands of Mann at the Creek 43.

Two plays later, Creek’s defense delivered a big play of its own – it jarred the ball out of the hands of Whitewater fullback Collin Wooddy and Patriots’ defensive back Jordan Griffin recovered at the Creek 47.

Creek’s offense moved the ball into Whitewater territory on its ensuing possession, but Whitewater’s defense stiffened again, forcing a three-and-out.

The Patriots had two more possessions to score in the fourth quarter, but neither resulted in any points.

Fleming intercepted a Johnson pass that went through the hands of wide receiver Braxton Lane. On Creek’s next and final series, Creek reached the Whitewater 17 before it decided to settle for Lopez’s field-goal attempt.

Early on, it appeared that Creek, still seething following its surprising loss to McIntosh the week before, was poised to break out against Whitewater.

Creek safety Isaiah Johnson picked up a Whitewater fumble on the second play from scrimmage and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown.

Creek didn’t know it at the time, but it would be the only time it would reach the end zone on the night.

Late in the second quarter, Whitewater was in position to tie the game, facing first-and-goal from the Creek 3.

Back-to-back runs by Chris Asbury and Mann moved the ball to the 2, before Creek was called for pass interference in the end zone on a fade pass thrown by Whitewater quarterback David Byrd.

Whitewater had a new set of downs at the Creek 1-yard line, but the Patriots defense, led by linebacker Matt Solomon (10 total tackles), stonewalled the Wildcats’ offense. Whitewater eventually settled for a 27-yard field goal by J.C. Jennings to make it 7-3 with 3:02 left in the first half.

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