9/20/2012 10:14:00 AM Wildcats upended by athletic Cooper team
By CHUCK FITZER
You’ve all heard the expression ‘speed kills.’ Well, last Friday night in New Hope, the combination of Robbinsdale Cooper’s electrifying speed, two critical Wildcat fumbles and some missed scoring opportunities was more than enough for the Hawks to bump off the Wildcats. The lightning quick Hawks scored early and often on their way to a 54-14 win over the Wildcats, dropping the Wildcats to 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the North Suburban Conference. One of the game’s most critical drives occurred late in the second quarter. Wildcat running back Josh Parks had just scored his second touchdown of the game to cut the Cooper lead to 26-14 with 1:02 remaining in the half. As the teams lined up for the ensuing Wildcat kickoff, the Hawks moved some of the players up towards the line, expecting a possible onside kick. Instead, Wildcat kicker Dan Sargeant popped the ball over the heads of the Hawk players in front. The ball hit at the 22 and bounced high in the air as the Hawk kick returner backed away from the ball. Wildcat Sam Birkholz led the charge down the field and pounced on the ball at the Hawk 24 yard line, giving the Wildcats a great scoring opportunity with exactly one minute to play in the half. After an incomplete pass on first down, Wildcats quarterback Mitch Berg hit Parks for a four yard completion. Another short passed to Parks picked up three yards, apparently setting up fourth and three at the Hawk 17 with 41 seconds remaining in the half. But a Wildcat personal foul penalty on the play moved the ball back to the Hawk 32. It was still third down, but the Wildcats now had 18 yards to go for a first down. On third down, Berg was hit as he threw and the ball fell incomplete. On fourth down, the Hawks picked off Berg’s pass deep into the end zone. The Hawk player tried to run the ball out of the end zone and the Wildcats nearly tackled him for a safety, with the runner just sneaking out to the half yard line. The half ended two plays later with the Wildcats still down by two touchdowns. On the opening drive of the second half, the Wildcats managed one first down before they were forced to punt. The Hawks started a drive from their own 26 yard line. On first down from the 46, the Hawks fumbled and the Wildcats recovered at the Hawk 43 yard line. But on third and seven from the 40, the Hawks picked off another Wildcat pass and returned it to the Chisago Lakes 42 yard line. Six plays later, Hawk running back Ashanti Payne scored from eight yards out. He also ran in the two point conversion, and the Hawks now led 34-14 with just over six minutes left in the third quarter. The Wildcats were forced to punt on their next drive and the Hawks took over at their own 24 yard line. On first down from the 36, Hawk running back Billy Kellogg took a handoff and ran left. He turned the corner and sped down the sideline, leaving the Wildcats in his wake as he scored yet another Hawk touchdown with three minutes left in the third quarter. After the two point conversion, the Hawks led 42-14. They scored once more before the end of the third quarter. Less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, Payne put the icing on the cake for the Hawks. With the ball on the Wildcat 49 yard line, he slipped a Wildcat tackle in the backfield and simply outran the Wildcat defense up the middle, going all the way for a touchdown to make the score 54-14. The Wildcats got down early in this one. After the teams traded punts on their opening possessions, the Hawks started at their own 22 yard line. A personal foul penalty on the Wildcats for leading with the helmet helped to keep the drive alive. On second and 16 from their own 48, Cooper quarterback Briceon Scott-Burch hit a wide-open Kellogg in stride at the Wildcat 20 yard line and Kellogg waltzed into the end zone untouched. With seven minutes left in the first quarter, the Hawks led 8-0 after the two point conversion. Twenty seconds later, Hawk linebacker AliJahJuan Jackson scooped up a Wildcat fumble in stride and ran 54 yards for a touchdown to put the Wildcats down by two scores. Kellogg ran 28 yards for another Hawk touchdown at the beginning of the second quarter, and the Hawks led 20-0. Parks and fullback Kaleb Paehlke led the Wildcats down the field on the next Wildcats drive. Four plays after Berg’s touchdown pass to Miles Turk was wiped out by a penalty, the Wildcats faced second and goal from the six. Berg threw a bullet to Parks in the back of the end zone and, after Sargeant hit the extra point, the Wildcats trailed 20-7. The Hawks responded with a nine play touchdown drive, again helped along by a personal foul penalty for leading with the helmet. The Wildcats got the ball back with 2:53 left in the half. Parks carried the bulk of the load on the Wildcats’ scoring drive, catching two passes for 20 yards and running for 25 more. He scored on a pitch right from six yards out, helped along by a nice block by wide receiver Will Gillach. That cut the lead to 26-14 but, as we’ve seem, it was as close as the Wildcats would get. Payne and Kellogg each rushed for nearly 150 yards in a dominating rushing performance by the Hawks. Parks led the Wildcats with 14 carries for 80 yards. He also caught six passes for 39 yards, all in the second quarter. Berg completed 10 of 22 passes for 84 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. “We made way too many mistakes in this one,” said Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss. “Regardless of who your opponent is, you can’t play that way and expect to win. We did some things we hadn’t done in the previous two games. That was disappointing. We had way too many missed tackles and our run fit wasn’t effective. A lot of the time they simply outran us to the edge and we didn’t get there as efficiently as we shouldn’t have. And any time the defense scores it’s a big play and puts the offense in a hole. We still had our opportunities after they scored on the fumble return early in the game. We were only down by 14, which is not an insurmountable lead by any means. It provided a challenge to us and we did fight back, but unfortunately the effort was still way short. We had momentum on our side after Sam Birkholz recovered our kickoff late in the first half and we were only down by 12, but weren’t able to convert the opportunity.” Wildcat lineman D.J. O’Brien was injured in the game and is doubtful for tomorrow night’s game. Weiss said he is “cautiously optimistic” that speedy running back Eric Brown will be able to play a little in tomorrow night’s game as he works his way back into playing shape missing the last two games with a hamstring injury. Weiss said “It sure would be nice to get Eric back in action.” Tomorrow Night’s Match up Returning home to Chisago Lakes tomorrow night, the Wildcats (2-1) will take on the St. Louis Park Orioles (1-2) at 7 p.m. While the Orioles have been outscored 83-14 in their two conference losses this season, Weiss and his team are not taking the Orioles lightly. “They have a different style than the teams we faced the last two weeks,” said Weiss. “They are a power oriented team. But we have a lot of things we’ve got to do better without worrying about who our opponent is. We are a very good football team. Last Friday’s game was not indicative of the type of team we are. We need to bounce back and prove ourselves against St. Louis Park.” Tackle Cancer Night Tomorrow night’s game is designated as “Tackle Cancer Night”. Over 250 Minnesota High Schools are participating in this fundraising event throughout the course of the season. The event is organized by the Minnesota Football Coaches Association and all donations received will go to the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund. Zachary Bartz Zachary Bartz, a young man from the Chisago Lakes area who has been battling neurofibromatosis (commonly known as NF) for most of his life, will be an honorary captain for the Wildcats at tomorrow night’s game.