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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

Football falls to Churchill in heartbreaking fashion

Senior Nick Zampardi dives in an attempt to block the game-winning field goal from Bulldogs kicker Nasim Elkhassem, who joined the team less than a month before the game.

After their tremendous 7-0 start, the Wildcats have dropped their last two games to Sherwood and Churchill. The tough loss versus Churchill will leave a sour taste in the Cats’ mouths as they head into the playoffs 7-2. The Cats hope to regroup and return to their winning ways in the first-round matchup versus High Point on Friday, Nov. 3.

The Wildcats continued their trend of starting games off fast in the first quarter. As on the first drive, the Cats were moving the chains, picking up multiple first downs that helped them reach the redzone. Capping off the efficient drive was a rushing touchdown by senior Thomas Pitsenberger. Opting to go for a 2-point conversion, senior Nick Zampardi rushed up the middle to convert. Pittsenburger took over this quarter as the following drive, he jumped a flat route, returning it for a touchdown. The quarterback did not see Pitsenberger as he lurked into coverage to snatch the interception.

After a Churchill drive that was emphasized by star junior running back David Avit on a 40-yard carry, the Cats forced a 4th down pass breakup to gain possession again. The offense continued to click, as senior Quarterback Charlie Blessing threw a 39-yard pass to senior receiver Daniel Kenvo to reach opposing territory. To finish the drive, senior Dylan Minnick scored a rushing touchdown to put the Cats up 22-0. Opting not to use sophomore Dylan Byrd as much as they have in previous games, they mixed in rushes from Pitsenberger, Minnick and Zampardi.

“I felt like our offense was rolling in the first half, “ Zampardi said.

Sophomore running back Dylan Byrd attempts to break free from the Churchill defense. (Photo by Ely Snow)

The Cats were not able to contain Avit much longer, as when Churchill needed a score the most he fulfilled that need with a rushing touchdown to leave the score at 22-7. After a great first quarter and a half from the Cats, the momentum was killed by an interception thrown by Blessing with 6:22 left in the half. Neither team could punch in another score with the time that had remained, while the Wildcats still led by two scores entering the break.

“We have had a problem all year where our offense slows down in the second half,” Zampardi added.

The Cats defense grabbed another crucial 4th down stop, but the offense failed to convert this great opportunity into points. Just when the defense was holding up well, the Bulldogs continued to get the ball in the hands of Avit, as he ran a wheel route in which he beat his man and blazed into the end zone for the 44-yard score. With the extra point being good, it was now a one score game at 22-14 Cats.

Subsequent to a Wildcats punt, Avit scored again on a five-yard rushing touchdown. With the conversion being good just like that the score went from 22-0 to 22-22. Following were back-to-back defensive stops by both defenses but headlined with a Wildcat sack on 4th down to regain control of the ball. The unimaginable occurred with another touchdown from Churchill’s Avit as he roared down the field for an 81-yard rushing touchdown, the Bulldogs now had scored 29 straight unanswered points.

“We gotta work on keeping our momentum going in the 2nd half as it’s the second week in a row where we died off in the second half,” Minnick said.

The Cats responded with a 27-yard touchdown grab from senior receiver Nick Zayas. A gutsy 2 point call by head coach Aaron Fiddler to attempt to take the lead was successful with a Zampardi rush, as the Wildcats narrowly held the lead, 30-29.

Churchill players rush off the field in celebration after scoring a go-ahead field goal with just three seconds left on the clock. (Photo by Ely Snow)

With 1:30 left on the clock in the 4th quarter, it was down to the final Churchill possession; The Bulldogs quickly drove down the field managing to reach field goal range at the WJ 23-yard line. Churchill proceeded to kick from the 23 for the win but the kick was blocked by Minnick; A penalty called for roughing the kicker allowed Churchill to re-try from the 11. This time the kick was up and good as the loss could not sting any worse for a Wildcat squad that gave it their all in such an anticipated matchup.

“I got a penalty called on me that I believe shouldn’t have been called, especially in a big moment like that. I dove to block a kick and I tipped it but I ended up sliding into the holder and they called a five-yard penalty on me,” Minnick said.

All sights are set on the playoff run for the Cats, as they hope to make noise in the Maryland 4A division.

“[We’ve] got to move on from that game, it’s playoffs now so win or go home [we] just have to focus on the team Friday and week in week out go hard in practice,” junior defensive lineman Jonny Fisher said.

The Bulldogs sideline celebrates their last-gasp field goal score. (Photo by Ely Snow)

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Mateus Bouquet, Print Sports Editor
Junior Mateus Bouquet is extremely excited to get started in his first year with the Pitch as a Sports Editor. Along with writing for the pitch, Mateus is a huge football fan and his weekly mood is based on how the Commanders played.
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