ALLEN — The Northern Heights Wildcats were unable to overcome an early hole in a frustrating 28-13 senior night defeat to Valley Heights Friday evening.
After coming up with two long sacks to open the game, the Mustangs reached the endzone on their first play from scrimmage. The 44-yard rushing touchdown proved to be an early indication of Valley Heights’ offensive game plan, as visiting backs enjoyed play call after play call on the ground throughout the night.
The Mustangs’ power-I formation proved difficult for Wildcat defenders to solve in the opening half. Stops were made frequently within a few yards of the line of scrimmage, but more often than not, the tackled player turned out to be a decoy. By the 6:33 mark of the second quarter, the score read 28-0 in favor of Valley Heights on ground scores of 10 yards, 46 yards and a short 1-yard dive.
NHHS showed signs of life before the halftime whistle, scoring on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Cameron Heiman to Tee Preisner with just over a minute remaining in the second quarter.
“In the locker room, we chewed on them a bit and told them they needed to step up and show some mental toughness and discipline,” said Northern Heights co-Head Football Coach Darwin Sweetman. “I thought we came out in the second half and actually executed well for the most part, but we dug ourselves a pretty big hole in the first half with penalties and mental mistakes.”
Although Valley Heights was held off the scoreboard in the second half, its sustained rushing attack proved to make any attempts at a Wildcat comeback difficult. In two separate drives occuring in the third and fourth quarter, the Mustangs took more than 12 combined minutes off the clock, but eventually turning the ball over on downs deep in Northern Heights territory.
Despite the lack of possession time, the Wildcats were not without chances. After cutting the deficit to 28-13 on a 38-yard touchdown run from Tyler Floyd late in the third quarter, NJJS immediately regained possession as the Mustangs fumbled on the first play of their next drive.
Taking over from the Valley Heights 33-yard line, the Wildcats look certain to turn the affair into a one-possession game on a quick touchdown pass, but the ball went through the wide-open receiver’s hands to the ground. The drive, and comeback effort, stalled from that point on, as NHHS was unable to make anything of the turnover.
Valley Heights outgained the Wildcats 312-156 in the contest, with 284 yards of the final output coming on the ground. Heiman was under constant pressure throughout the evening, completing only eight of his 21 passes for 67 yards.
His offensive unit also struggled to get first downs when most needed, going a combined 3-14 on third and fourth down.
“We won the second half, which is a positive” Sweetman said. “Like I said, the hole was just to big to get out of. I’m proud of our offensive line for digging deep in the second half, and it’s something we can definitely build on heading into next week. We showed again tonight that we can compete with those guys up north, those powerhouses like Centralia, Valley Heights, and Jackson Heights. Those guys were picked to beat us by quite a bit, but we showed right there that we can compete with them. We just have to do it play in and play out rather than every once in a while.”
The Wildcats (4-3) will wrap up their regular season next Friday with a 7 p.m. date at Wabaunsee High School in Alma.