WATERFORD, CA - The Wildcat Football team was projected to be blown out on Friday night against their cross county rival the Hughson Huskies. The last two meetings between the schools have been just that - blow outs. It was a 44-0 shutout last season, a 55-14 loss the year before. Every indication prior to this years game was that it would be more of the same. However, more of the same was not to happen last Friday night, this Wildcat team seems determined on changing their destiny and reputation this football season.
WATERFORD STRIKES FIRST
To put a point of emphasis as to their purpose, the Wildcats struck first on a quick pass down the middle of the field. David Nichols was finally under center for the Wildcats after being held out awaiting clearance to play from the Sac-Joaquin Section office. He wasted no time in starting his Waterford QB career with a quick strike that draw first blood against the huskies. The scoreboard showed 6-0 in favor of the home team. The visiting crowd was visibly stunned to see Waterford with a lead. Hughson fans were sat in surprised silence as they watched the home crowd rejoice and come to life. Clearly the mass droves of visiting Hughson fans expected an easy victory and a weak Wildcat team. Little did they know their expectations were going to be disappointed by a much more resilient Wildcat squad this night.
HUGHSON REGAINS FOOTING IN 2ND QUARTER
After a rocky start to the game, the Huskies returned to their form and began to power their way down the field the old fashioned way. Hughson began to chew of 3-to-6 yards a carry as they marched down the field to tie the game. Despite a much improved Waterford defense which stymied any hope of a Hughson air attack, the huskies just simply wore down Waterford's run defense. Cracks and holes began to show up and the Huskies took advantage. By the end of the third quarter the score was 28-6 in Hughson's favor.
WATERFORD HAS A DEFINING MOMENT
This game was everything one would hope for in a "Rural Town Football Rivalry" large crowds, a high school band, lots of hard hitting on the football field, rowdy fans (at least one ejected by school administrators) and penalty flags attempting to keep control of the contest. At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Wildcats had many reasons to wither away and retreat. They had been twice denied a score within five yards. Many fans on both sides of the field thought Waterford has punched it in on their second trip without scoring at Hughson's goal line. Everyone could clearly see the ball cross the goal line, but to the dismay of the Wildcats, and for a reason no one could comprehend, the officials denied the score. An ambulance was seen on the Wildcats sideline after one of their receivers took a big hit in the end zone. That receiver dropped a sure touchdown when he took the hit. More injuries would mount quickly after that for the Wildcats. It would have been easy, maybe even understandable, if the Wildcats would begin to wither and retreat. They were not supposed to be in the game anyway, they were projected to lose. It was in this moment of truth, that this years Wildcats decided to buck the trend and fight on. As if the score was 0-0, the Wildcats marched right back down in the field in the 4th and struck the Huskies again. With almost 11:36 left in the game, the Wildcats were back in it. A 2-Point conversation made it 28-14. That second score may not have won the game for the Wildcats, but it was a message to whomever would listen, that this Wildcats team is different, that this Wildcats squad doesn't believe in rolling over for anyone.
CALL IT A STEP ON THE ROAD BACK
When the game clock showed all zeros, the Wildcats were not victorious on the field. Hughson won the game 35-14, but it was no blowout. This game was much closer then the final score would suggest. If not for two denied trips inside the five yard line and a handful of injuries, who knows what an alternative outcome would have provided. There certainly was looks of disappointment from the home team, but there was no looks of defeat. One might call it a step on the road back for a team that has struggled in recent years. Friday night was a loss, but the Wildcats learned they can throw punches with even their toughest rival. They learned they could lose but still keep their pride intact. Pride is a very important thing in all sports, but most important for high school football programs. A team must believe in themselves before they can succeed on the field. If you were watching on Friday night, you saw pride developing in the hearts of those young men in the blue and gold.