WATERFORD CA - How quick can the tide turn in high school football? At the drop of a hat. How can only a few snaps of the ball begin to define your entire season? Ask Waterford High School’s football team.
FIRST HALF ALL MOUNTAIN HOUSE
After a shutout victory over Hiram Johnson and a better than expected performance against Hughson, the Wildcats finally entered a game as the favorites instead of the underdogs. That perception changed in a hurry. It was 10-0 at the half. Waterford had been denied at the goal line when QB David Nichols coughed up the ball. For the third time in two weeks, the Wildcats failed to punch in a go-ahead touchdown. A couple of blown assignments and poor tackling plays allowed Mountain House to score a touchdown and kick a short field goal. Waterford did not seem to have an answer for their offensive sluggishness in the first half. Woe was the Waterford sideline.
A TEAM DEFINED
Once again this Wildcat Football team was faced with adversity. Once again they could have easily broken and allowed the game to slip away. Not this time and not this year’s Wildcats. This Wildcat team is made of something different. They may not have all the right pieces and they may not be the most talented team you will ever see on the gridiron, but they are determined to never quit. So far, no matter what the situation, they have never backed away from an opponent. They will fight you to the last second. Call it their identity. Down 10-0 to start the second half, Waterford held Mountain House deep in their own territory. Favored with field position, the Wildcats offense sustained a long beautiful drive that ended with a 6-yard Mike Vivo touchdown run. The kick after was no good. All of a sudden it was 10-6. All of a sudden the Wildcats had roared back to life. The defense was refueled with the best sports gasoline of them all: momentum.
4th QUARTER THRILLER
Waterford would trail 10-6 going into the fourth quarter. If the Wildcats pulled out the win, it would have to go down in the record books as a comeback. With each second coming off the clock you could feel the increase in tension and anxiety from the Waterford fans. Such great hope and the potential for such great disappointment. It was a 35-yard touchdown pass from QB David Nichols to WR David Staley in the middle of the fourth quarter that put Waterford ahead. The crowd erupted, the sideline erupted, the players on the field erupted in jubilation. Little did the Wildcats know, that their jubilation would be replaced by sheer terror once again just a few short minutes later. With less than a minute to go, Waterford was trying to run out the clock. They were faced with a 4th down-and-short, a first down ended the game, and anything else would give Mountain House one last desperate chance. QB David Nichols was intercepted on a short pass over the middle. With 48 seconds showing on the clock, Mountain House went to work in the hurry up offense. The Wildcats were not prepared for it and what just a few moments before seemed like a sure win, turned into the unthinkable. Mountain House drove down to Waterford’s 9-yard line in two plays. During that lightning quick drive, Waterford LB Christian Jimenez was forced to make a game saving tackle. The clock was still running. There was time for just one more play. Time for one last throw into the end zone. The ball snapped and Mountain House QB Sami Dahoui scrambled to the left. Dahoui scanned the end zone and let the ball loose into the air. One could hear the collective gasps of the Waterford fans, the Mountain House fans, and the entire stadium as this one pass would determine the outcome of this emotional roller coaster game. Waterford DB Adam Montez would grab the ball out of the air and fall with in clutched to his chest down in the end zone. It was a game saving interception, if Montez was not there it would have been a sure touchdown reception. It was a magical moment for the Wildcats who flooded the field in celebration with the clock at zero. It was a heart-breaking moment for Mountain House. It was a last second thriller that should remind us all why we watch and why we enjoy this great game called High School Football.
A COACH DETERMINED
Head Coach Lonnie Statzer can be heard easily from the stands. Sometimes what you here is the joy of a true fan of the sport willing his team on. Sometimes what you hear is the agony of a coach admonishing mistakes, but what you hear is always passionate. This team feeds off their Coach’s passion. When asked what this game meant to his team Coach Statzer said, “This game meant everything (to us). We had in week one a blowout (win). Week two we had the game slip away and (tonight) we had to come from behind to win. We covered every situation in our pre-season against schools in higher divisions. We are now battle-tested and (we are) 2-1 ready to drop down into league.” He added, “Buckle your seat-belts.” Coach Statzer is a first year head coach and that by itself is a challenge. However, he has built an early confidence in the Waterford fans who could be heard buzzing with excitement as they left Wildcat Stadium. He also has the early confidence of the Waterford High School administration. I asked Waterford’s young 29 years old Athletic Director, Josh Whitfield, what he thought so far about Coach Statzer’s tenure. He said, “Lonnie has his troops fighting as one unit. His troops are disciplined on the sideline. They have a mental toughness on the field that I like a lot. Everyone needs to remember there is a lot of road left to travel on this season and there are some tough teams in (league). But man, they have pride and mental toughness. I like that, I like our chances to surprise some folks in league.” High praise from a Veteran turned Athletic Director.
Coach Statzer will get his shot to surprise league rival Le Grand after Waterford’s bye week. The Wildcats (2-1) host Le Grand (0-2) Friday September 23rd at 7:30. It is Waterford’s homecoming night. If Waterford and Coach Statzer win, it would be the first time in school history that the Wildcats defeat the Bulldogs.