Wildcats run over Immaculata
Friday's 33-20 home win over Immaculata showed Wildcat players, coaches and fans that they were a football team that had turned a corner.
Last season, the Wildcats scored first in four of their eight losses and saw the opponent come back and steal a win.
This year's first game looked as it might follow the year-old script. The Wildcats dominated early, grabbing a 21-0 lead, but saw it dwindle to 21-14 and 27-20 in the second half.
"I think there were some of us who had some doubts," Wildcat quarterback Greg Francis said. "But the seniors did an excellent job of speaking up and getting this football team to believe they would win the game. We have grown as a football team."
Wildcat coach Brad Scott liked what he saw of his team's fight, too, especially since he was disappointed in his own play calling.
"We battled through cramps, heat and our own past to get this win," he said. "And the kids responded. The best way to start winning is by finding a way to win."
Though he was excited about the win, Scott was also cautiously optimistic.
"I feel the exact same way as I did last year at this time," he said of De Soto's opening win over Lansing last year. The Wildcats then lost its remaining eight games. "We'll enjoy this win for 24 hours, and then we'll get to work on Piper."
Immaculata started its rally when Robert Todd intercepted a Francis pass and returned it 69 yards to pay dirt to thwart the shut out and cut the deficit to 21-6.
On the Raiders next possession, they drove 57 yards on six plays and capped it off with a 33-yard scoring pass from quarterback Tim Supplee to Todd. The duo also connected on the extra point to make the score 21-14 after three quarters.
But the Wildcats showed a renewed attitude when they drove 66 yards on eight plays to rebuild the lead.
Michael Allen, who rushed for 259 yards on 36 carries and all five touchdowns, capped off the drive with a 10-yard run around the left side to make the score 27-14.
The Wildcats got huge back-to-back plays from Allen and Olathe South transfer Ryan Brown that kept the drive alive.
The Wildcats were facing a third-and-10 situation after Allen broke several tackles and ran over a pile of Raiders to pick up 12 yards and a first down at the Immaculata 43-yard line.
Brown ran under a Francis pass and raced to the Raider nine yard line to put the Wildcats in business.
"I just wanted to catch the ball so bad," Brown said. "I didn't want to let the team down. We've all worked so hard. I just wanted to catch it for the team. That's what we're all about."
It didn't take the Raiders long to make more noise after Allen's score.
On the first play from scrimmage, Supplee connected with end Danny McEvoy for a 62-yard bomb. After a failed extra point, De Soto led 27-20.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Wildcat return man Leif Goleman made some noise of his own. He took the kick around to the right side and raced 77 yards to the Raider nine yard line.
Allen punched the ball in four plays later to make the final margin 33-20.
Allen scored all three touchdowns in the first half as well on runs of three, three and 48 yards.
Brown had a busy night both offensively and defensively. The 6-2 wide receiver caught three Francis passes for 51 yards of real estate and rushed four times for a net gain of 26 yards.
On defense, he broke up a couple of passes, almost intercepted another and recovered a fumble that put the ball back in the hands of Allen so he could run out the clock.
T.J. Topf also had a big night defensively. He recovered a fumble that set up the Wildcats' final scoring drive of the first half, and then forced the fumble that Brown recovered late in the game.
Francis completed three of five passes for 51 yards on the night.
The Wildcats travel to Piper Friday night for another key Kaw Valley game. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.