Wildcats reclaim bragging rights

The Shelby County Wildcats (9-0) took back ownership over their arch rival Friday night with a 34-20 victory over the Chelsea Hornets.

Throw the records aside and insert high emotions when the Hornets and the Wildcats square off for their annual gridiron reunion.

“We just kept it in the back of our head that we were going to get some redemption for our seniors from last year. Last year our rival team stopped them from going to playoffs, so it was redemption for (those seniors),” Shelby County fullback Darion Sutton said.

The Hornet offense quickly went to work on their first possession with a lengthy 15 play scoring drive with Blake Yance muscling in from the Wildcat 1-yard line. The Hornets delivered a shot to the gut and led the Wildcats 6-0.

Shelby County had two offensive possessions as the first quarter came to a close without a first down.

Two plays into the second quarter, Zac Hilliard coughed up the football to put SCHS in business at the Hornet 36-yard line.

The turnover set up the Wildcats’ first score. After a 28-yard over-the-top catch by Dustin Wood, Darion Sutton stumbled in from the Hornet 1-yard line two plays later to take a slim lead, 7-6.

Interceptions have been the ‘Cats forte in recent games and Kevin McNorton chalked up his seventh of the season when he picked off Yance at midfield.

SCHS capitalized yet again off a Hornet turnover with Tae Lewis cutting up the field for a 12-yard touchdown scamper.

“We made some mistakes in the first quarter and in the first half that put us behind the sticks and took us out of what we needed to be doing,” Chelsea head coach Wade Waldrop said. “The two turnovers obviously hurt us. They got a short field and that changed the momentum.”

Shelby County head coach Ryan Herring said he thought it was the defense that kept the Wildcats in the game.

“We knew it was going to be a struggle. We knew they were going to play us hard and they were going to do different stuff on defense than what they’ve fone all year, and they did a good job of it,” Herring said. “Our defense played good. We didn’t play great, but we played good enough to win.”

With the game close, 14-6, coming out of the half, a series of three-and-outs highlighted the first part of the third quarter from both defenses.

SCHS struck first with a play that has been fruitful for them all year. Braten Dill hit Lewis on a swing pass at their 44-yard line for a 56-yard touchdown strike to open the lead, 21-6, midway through the third.

On the ensuing Hornet possession, Sutton pried the football from Garrett Salter to put the Wildcats back in business at the Hornet 38.

Sutton found the end zone quickly thereafter from the Hornet 1-yard line. After a partially blocked McNorton point-after attempt, the Wildcats’ lead stood by three touchdowns, 27-6.

With momentum swinging in the Wildcats’ direction, a fumbled punt return by Wood gave the Hornets new life. Chelsea then capitalized on the first play of the fourth quarter when Salter bolted untouched to the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown run.

With practically a full quarter remaining, the Hornets felt optimistic only trailing 27-13.

“We thought we had it pretty much from the beginning,” Sutton said.

SCHS countered with a 15-play scoring drive consuming over six minutes of the game clock. Sutton capped the drive with his third score of the night from the 6-yard line.

Yance would then connect with Salter for an 11-yard scoring strike on their next possession to pull within two scores, but time had diminished.

The Wildcats quickly punched the ball down the field, setting up a first-and-goal inside the 5, but took a knee with more than a minute to play.

“What goes around comes around,” Shelby County head coach Ryan Herring said. “I’ve had people score on me late before and it’s just a matter of do you have class or not, and we have class at Shelby County.”

The Wildcats finished the night with Sutton and Lewis combining for the majority of 228 yards on the ground and 133 yards through the air. Dill completed 10-of-16 passes from the field with one scoring toss. Waldrop said it was the passing that caught his team off guard

“I thought we did a great job we did a great job stopping the run. I thought they hurt us with the passing game,” Waldrop said.

Chelsea rolled up 162 yards rushing along with 117 passing on the night. Yance went 7-for-21 from the field with one scoring strike and an interception.

The Hornets (3-6) will close its season at home Thursday against Calera, while Shelby County will host Jemison Friday at 7 p.m.