Varsity Football: WJ Wins Second Consecutive Game in Tight Match

Parker Smith

For the first time in years, WJ has a winning streak. They have strung multiple wins together, back to back.

After last week’s breakthrough senior-night win against Blair, WJ’s defense struggled to maintain focus and play smart in the first half. The Wildcat rushing attack struggled to gain consistent yardage and convert first downs, while the defense struggled to stop the pass and hold off the Wooton rushing attack.

We were running a lot of zone, and they were throwing it to the spots where our players were supposed to be, but weren’t.” said senior defensive back Garrett Schiponi. “Their big plays were mainly passes but they were getting consistent yardage up the middle as well.”

Senior kicker Daniel Garay, however, did what he could to keep WJ in the game. Garay simply did not miss, as he hit two field goals early in the game, from 28 yards out and 41 yards out. He finished two out of two in field goals and two out of two in extra points.

Wootton was simply outplaying the Wildcats and had a stranglehold on the momentum of the game.

But junior quarterback Cole Ahnell was determined to change that and changed the complexion of the game with one play.

Ahnell dropped back to pass, but found no open receivers. What he did find, however, was a huge opening on the right side of the field.

“It was a designed pass play, but I saw about 25 yards of open field so I decided to run,” said Ahnell. “There was good downfield blocking and a nice hit by [junior running back] Ryan Davis that opened up a cutback lane. I just ran as hard as I could and the line and the receivers made it happen.”

Ahnell darted past the line of scrimmage and down the sideline, 40 yards for a touchdown with a little over a minute left in the second quarter. The Cats had successfully regained momentum as they went into halftime with a one-possession deficit, 21-14.

In the second half, WJ’s defense stepped up.

We had the momentum going into the half after Cole’s huge run,” said Schiponi. “The defensive backs just stepped up in the second half; no more blown assignments. We played a smarter game.”

The Wildcat defense allowed a first down in the second half and put the ball in the offense’s hands.

With these increased opportunities, WJ was able to establish a solid running game. By running the ball to the outside, the Wildcats used their speed to their advantage, and gained consistent yardage to move the ball down field.

The key touchdown to tie the game would come on a pass, however. Ahnell dropped back and found Pitsenberger open underneath the coverage. Pitsenberger shifted his attention up field. He found a seam through the coverage, and as the WJ receivers turned to blockers, he ran 67 yards all the way to the end zone for a touchdown.

Garay hit the key extra point to tie the game at 21-21.

Although the momentum had successfully shifted, it was still anyone’s game. It would be Pitsenberger, playing every game for his father and family, who would step up once again.

With less than two minutes left in a tie game, Pitsenberger and the Wildcats were simply trying to get a makeable field goal for Garay to win the game. But Pitsenberger would get the desired yardage, and more.

“We were just trying to get five yards to make it an easier field goal for Danny,” said Ahnell. “When I handed Pits the ball, there was a huge hole and he broke one tackle and outran everyone, just like he had all night.”

Pitsenberger got into the end zone with just about a minute to play, sending the WJ crowd into triumphant jubilation. WJ’s defense held strong and disallowed any significant yardage in Wootton’s attempts to tie the game. WJ got the ball back, and Ahnell knelt down, signifying the end of the game and the continuation of a win streak, a streak that WJ could end with, when they play lowly Richard Montgomery next Friday in the last game of the season.