West Stokes traveled to 3A McMichael on Friday night for a non-conference football showdown. The Wildcats rallied for a fourth quarter comeback and scored a needed touchdown with 2:29 left in the game to win 20-14.
“McMichael is very athletic and a solid team,” said West Stokes coach Jimmy Upchurch. “Our kids played hard and never quit. This is the second consecutive week our kids have come back and won at the end of the game. Our defense played well and we won the turnover battle and that was the difference in the game.”
The Wildcats scored on their first possession and took a 7-0 lead when quarterback Tyler Smith found Dustin Blevins streaking down the left sideline for a 31-yard touchdown reception. Caleb Peters added the point after with 7:15 left in the quarter.
It took the Phoenix all but two plays and 41-seconds to tie the score. Starting from their 32-yard line, the first play was a 47-yard reception to Dominique Hairston and the next play Keishaun Mayo broke several tackles and dashed 21-yards for pay dirt. After the point after by Luis Bruno the score was knotted at seven.
Both teams traded punts and the Wildcats got the ball back on an interception from Blevins. With the Wildcats starting close to mid-field they looked to take advantage of good field position. The Phoenix defense stepped up and sacked Smith twice and then another for a two-yard loss forcing the Wildcats to punt from their 38. Tyler Little’s punt sailed 31-yards, but Bruno’s running catch and 69-yard punt return gave the Phoenix their first lead of the night with 4:42 left before the half.
McMichael forced a Wildcat turnover on their next possession and looked to add to their lead right before the break. Moving from the Cat’s 45-yard line to the ten with 18-seconds left, Tristen Carter sacked the Phoenix’s quarterback with the help of Tyler Walker. On the next play, from the 21-yard line, Little intercepted his first of two picks on the night in the end zone to keep the blue birds from scoring and adding to the lead.
To open the third quarter, the Wildcats got the break they were hoping for, but couldn’t capitalize. The Phoenix fumbled the kickoff and West had first and ten from the McMichael 27-yard line. Moving down to the eight-yard line, the Cats fumbled the ball back to the Phoenix giving them new life.
The Wildcats defense forced McMichael to punt after running seven plays and received the ball back with 5:09 left in the third. West ran ten consecutive running plays and scored when Amon Conrad ran in from three-yards out with no time left on the clock. Peters tied the game at 14 with his extra-point attempt.
Both teams traded punts to start the fourth quarter, but it was the Wildcats defense that forced the Phoenix’s fourth turnover of the game with 4:52 remaining in the contest. Little stepped in front of a McMichael pass and returned it to the bird’s 27-yard line. Conrad picked up seven yards on first down and Smith five-yards on second, but a Phoenix personal foul moved the ball to the eight-yard line where the Cats had first and goal. Conrad scored three plays later from two-yards out giving the Wildcats the lead back since the first quarter. Peters extra-point was blocked and the Cats only led by six.
“I had a sinking feeling when the extra-point was blocked,” stated Upchurch. “We needed our defense to step up and they did. We made it interesting in the end, but we bent and didn’t break.”
The Phoenix threw two incomplete passes to start the drive, but a screen pass picked up a first down and 21-yards to the Cat’s 43-yard line. Another big rushing play set McMichael up on the 27-yard line. Three plays later, the Phoenix faced a fourth and inches. The Wildcat’s defense clogged the middle of the field and a McMichael fumble kept them from getting the first down and turning the ball over to the visiting team where they took a knee.
“It always a battle when we play them,” Upchurch said. “It seems our games always come down to the fourth quarter and tonight was no different. I’m really proud of our kids.”
Conrad led the Wildcat’s offense with 79-yards rushing on 15 carries and two touchdowns. Walker led the defense with 15 tackles, but Little’s two interceptions tied a school record. Jordan Smith, Parker Pratt, and Palmer Elliott added nine tackles each to help West’s defense only allow 193 total yards.
The Wildcats improve to 3-1 on the year and will host East Surry (2-2) on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.