When West Stokes hosted the Forbush Falcons on senior night Friday, the home team never thought the game would be as tight as it was because the predictions from simmonsratings.com had the Cats winning by three touchdowns. The Wildcats, who have never lost to the Falcons in eight meetings, overcame poor play and miscues to win 10-9 and close the season as Western Piedmont 2A runner-up behind North Surry.
“Our offensive execution at times was not good,” said Wildcat coach Jimmy Upchurch. “We made plays when we had to, but didn’t play well on offense. Our defense has led us for the last two weeks and put us in position to win with their tough play. I can’t say enough what Walker (Ty), Pratt (Parker), Little (Tyler), Jordan (Smith), and Julius (Smith) have done for our defense this season. I could mention every kid on that side of the ball because they all have allowed us to be in every game.”
For the first time this season, the Wildcats didn’t score first. With less than five minutes left in the first quarter, Falcons kicker, Josh Clark, connected on a 32-yard field goal after the Wildcats attempted a fake punt that gave the visitors good field possession at midfield.
On the ensuing kickoff, senior Tyler Little returned the kickoff back to midfield. Chris Brown gained 9-yards on first down and then starting quarterback, Tyler Smith, found Kelin Parson for a 34-yard pickup and gave the Cats a first-and-goal on the 8-yard line. After a 5-yard pickup on first down, the Wildcats lost 6-yards on second and had an incomplete pass on third down forcing the home team into a 26-yard field goal. Sophomore Caleb Peters nailed the attempt and tied the game at three with less than two-minutes left in the quarter.
After both teams traded punts to begin the second quarter, Little intercepted his first of two passes on the night giving the Wildcats possession on the 43-yard line. Five plays later, Brown dashed 21-yards for the score, Peters made the extra-point and West Stokes led 10-3 at the half.
The Falcons opened the second half with the ball and started on their 26-yard line. After a penalty by the Wildcats, Forbush picked up receptions of 18 and 29 yards giving them a first down on the 19, just inside the red zone. On the next play, preseason WPAC Player of the Year, Zane Johnson carried several Wildcats 19-yards for the score. The point after was never attempted as the snap was fumbled allowing the Purple Cats to stay ahead and ultimately win the game.
In the fourth quarter, the Forbush offense pushed the Wildcats’ defense on two different occasions. On the first possession, the visiting team ran nine plays and made it into West Stokes territory before the home team forced a turnover on downs on a deflected pass by Brown. After the Cats fifth punt of the night, the Falcons used the majority of the remaining clock and drove to the Wildcat’s 17-yard line. Facing a second-and-six with a little over a minute left in the game, Forbush decided to go to the air. Little intercepted his seventh pass of the season near the goal line and returned it 55-yards into Falcon territory. The Wildcats ran out the clock to secure the victory.
“I’m proud of this team for gutting this win out tonight,” said Upchurch. “We bent, but didn’t break. I’m happy for these seniors and tickled we got a win for them on senior night. This senior class has meant a lot to me and this program and they will be hard to replace.”
Tyler Smith led the offense with 78-yards rushing on 13 carries and had an additional 44-yards in the air on 4-of-9 passing. Walker led the defense with 18 tackles and broke the single season record of 169, held by former Wildcat and current linebacker at Emory & Henry College, Zack Manley. Jordan Smith added 14 tackles, while Pratt and Little had eight tackles each.
The Wildcats (8-3, 5-1), seeded as a nine seed, will travel to Bunn High School (8-3), an eight seed, and play in the first round of the NCHSAA 2AA State Playoffs Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.