It’s do or die for Wildcats
Entering Friday's game against Baldwin, De Soto's defense has allowed 16 1/2 points in the team's four wins and 49 1/2 in its two losses, showing when the defense is clicking, the Cats are winning.
That logic all turned on its head in a dismal Senior Night loss, however.
De Soto's defense rose to fight in the first half, but the relentless pounding of Baldwin's single-wing running attack eventually proved too much.
Baldwin rushed to the district-opening win, 35-7, putting the Cats in a tight spot with just two regular season games remaining.
"If we win both of them, we're in the playoffs," De Soto coach Brad Scott said. "We have our work cut out for us. We're going to show up against Eudora on Friday and give them our best game."
The Cats have been unable to handle the Cardinals since last winning the match up in 2004, falling last year in a close game, 26-15.
It won't be easy as Eudora is 7-0 and fresh off a 49-14 thrashing of Spring Hill.
The Wildcats will have to find a way to play better than they did against Baldwin.
The Cats' defense held on a fourth down on the opening drive, and blocked a punt late in the first quarter, but still trailed by a touchdown after the first 12 minutes.
De Soto forced a punt on Baldwin's first second quarter drive as well, but again failed to move the ball. Once the Cats punted it back, Baldwin marched 64 yards in 10 plays for a 14-0 lead.
"Our defense was out there too much," Scott said. "We didn't move the ball enough on offense early and by the time we did get rolling our defense was tired."
Running with a stable of three fierce backs -- two finished near 150 yards and one just two yards shy of 100 -- Baldwin kept bending the Cats until they finally broke.
Baldwin's Sam Beecher had three touchdowns and 153 yards.
"They outmanned us up front, got creases and pushed us around," Scott said.
De Soto, meanwhile, went away from its own multi-pronged attack to try and exploit Baldwin's defensive secondary.
Senior quarterback Erik Hill did finish with 143 yards, but completed just seven of 16 passes and threw one interception. With the Cats' averaging just three yards a carry on the ground, the offense wasn't able establish momentum.
Dylan Burford put De Soto on the board and briefly back in the game early in the fourth quarter.
Hill hit Jamell Townsend for 29 yards and Clinton Smethers for 20, setting up a three-yard dive by Burford.
"We moved the ball at times. What they're not as good at is their secondary and their coverage," Scott said. "We took advantage of that in the third quarter, but we didn't make enough plays to make a difference."