WAGENER-SALLEY 42, FOX CREEK 20
LaFayette Stewart sees things to build on despite what he called a disappointing loss Friday night in his Fox Creek head coaching debut.
The offense did big things in the first half, making big plays to pick up big yardage for a 20-12 lead midway through the second quarter over visiting Wagener-Salley.
Then the War Eagles went on a big run, and the Predators found themselves in big trouble. Wagener-Salley went on a 24-0 run over the last 6:12 of the first half, then shut out Fox Creek in the second half for a 42-20 victory.
"It just came to us truly not being able to stop them offensively. We didn't make the proper adjustments, and we just didn't execute defensively on our plan," Stewart said. "Hat goes off to them, just executing and taking advantage of our misalignment, our missed execution. That's why they're one of the top teams in 1A football.
"We took it on the chin tonight and didn't come back later on in that first half and in the beginning of that second half and fight and bounce back like we did earlier in the football game."
Sophomore quarterback Jadon Johnson accounted for 220 yards of total offense – 146 passing, 74 rushing – and three touchdowns. Deavion Scales and Jatonious Butler each caught touchdown passes, and Malik Williams teamed with Johnson to form a formidable 1-2 punch in the backfield.
Johnson's 35-yard touchdown pass to Scales down the far sideline tied the game at 6 just over 3½ minutes into the game, and it looked like the Predators' season opener could be a shootout.
Wagener-Salley's Kevin Jackson scored his second of three touchdowns at the 5:59 mark, and then Johnson ran it in from 8 yards out in the final minute of the first quarter for a 13-12 Fox Creek lead.
The Predators (0-1) were back in the end zone following a defensive stop, with Johnson finding Butler for a 12-yard score and a 20-12 lead with 7:58 left in the half.
The tide started turning when Kaleb Shaw raced in from 68 yards out to tie the game at 20 with 6:12 left in the first half. Fox Creek fumbled a handoff near midfield on its ensuing possession, and Jackson's 37-yard rush put them in scoring position before he found the end zone from the 4 for a 26-20 lead with 3:43 left in the half.
The Predators were in trouble on their next possession after a penalty on a short kick return, and they were facing a 3rd and 13 at their own 1-yard line. Wagener-Salley went offsides to give the Predators some breathing room, but the ball was snapped over Jackson Wray's head on the punt attempt for a safety.
Wagener-Salley went right back to work with a short field, with a 23-yard run by AJ Swedenburg down to the Fox Creek 17. He then took a short pass from Gaige Starnes and weaved his way into the end zone for a 36-20 lead with 28 seconds left in the half.
It was the type of run a veteran team makes to put a game away – and the War Eagles did it after they were forced to send some inexperienced players onto the field due to injuries.
"We had some freshmen step in tonight and play well. I'm very impressed with some guys, next man up mentality," said Wagener-Salley head coach Willie Fox. "Our defense stepped it up when they needed to. We were kind of on our heels a little bit early in the game, and they stepped it up when they needed to to win the football game. That's all I can ask for."
Wagener-Salley (2-0), the No. 3 team in Class A, rushed for 301 yards as a team.
Despite the disappointment, Stewart pointed out that this was just the Predators' first game of the season. He said they'll learn from it and build on the positives, and he added it may be a while before they run into another team as good as Wagener-Salley.
Fox Creek will have a chance to bounce back with another game at Lions Memorial Field next Friday. The Predators host C.A. Johnson.