Football’s dominance, perseverance secures playoff spot

Gabe Riveiro

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WJ clinched a playoff spot and is slated to face Urbana in a playoff game at home on November 8, 2019.

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WJ clinched a playoff spot and is slated to face Urbana in a playoff game at home on November 8, 2019.

“Touchdown Wildcats!” is a phrase that has become all too common, ringing in the ears of the Walter Johnson community well after the lights have gone out at the WJ stadium. Sitting at 7-1 through seven weeks of play, WJ varsity football has shown no signs of slowing down as they continue to post impressive numbers, averaging 39.6 points per game.

With 1,796 passing yards, senior quarterback Josh Forburger continues to lead the county, and his success goes hand in hand with that of his receivers. Senior wide receiver Kai Holloway and junior wide receiver Jose Cabrera have racked up 606 and 548 receiving yards respectively, earning them second and fourth place in the county. Holloway and Cabrera have combined for 13 of Forburger’s 17 touchdowns through the air as Holloway has reeled in four endzone grabs while Cabrera has nine scores on the year.

The run game has also been dominating opposing defenses as junior running back Aaron Jones’ 891 rushing yards place him at third in the county for yards on the ground. Of his 102 carries, 11 have successfully ended in the endzone adding six to the scoreboard. Junior running back Ian Griffin has been nursing an ankle injury that has kept him sidelined for two of eight contests thus far, but that hasn’t stopped him from putting up outstanding numbers. In six games, he has 11 total touchdowns and 731 yards from scrimmage.

Defensively, the Wildcats have continued to make their presence felt. They rank seventh in the county in points allowed per game to opposing offenses, giving up an average of only 17.4 points on a weekly basis. Led by veterans such as seniors Hunter Belisle (defensive tackle), Enrique Garcia (linebacker) and Holloway (safety), the defense has kept the opposition on their toes every week. Team chemistry has been accredited by members of this team for the group’s success.

“We’ve got a pretty big class graduating this year and we’ve all playing with each other for the past three or four years. We’ve got really strong senior chemistry and playing for our brothers motivates us to do our best,” Garcia said.

The bond between these young men has been emphasized by their coaches from day one.

“The kids have bought into [this family] and when you’re playing for your family that gives you a little extra motivation. We break down every day and we say family which means Forget About Me, I Love You,” head coach Larry Hurd Jr. said.

In addition to both sides of the ball doing a stellar job of putting the Wildcats in position to win games, the special teams unit has been a force. Jones has a blocked punt return for a touchdown and Holloway has returned a punt for a touchdown as well.

“If I truly had to say what our strength was, I’d probably say that we’ve done an outstanding job in the special teams because oftentimes special teams turns football games,” Hurd Jr. said.

In a season where they were counted out from the start, the Wildcats never lost faith. They stayed the course and have not only been competing, but also blowing teams out of the water. This has been a valiant group effort that has earned the Wildcats a playoff berth for the first time in school history.

Walter Johnson is in third place behind Northwest (7-1) and undefeated Quince Orchard in the Montgomery County 4A West division.

They look to take on the Quince Orchard Cougars on Senior Recognition Night in their final matchup of the regular season before entering round one of the playoffs. The ceremony is set to begin tonight (November 1) at 6:00 p.m. with kickoff following promptly at 6:30 p.m.