Darlington

Enterprise quarterback Jackson Darlington (1) looks for yardage behind his blockers against Auburn.

The Enterprise Wildcats (1-2, 0-1) hit the road for the second consecutive week and were shutout 44-0 by the Auburn Tigers (1-1, 1-0) in a Class 7A, Region 2 showdown.

The win was Auburn’s third straight win over the Wildcats and their fifth straight win over Enterprise in Auburn.

After averaging more than 300 yards rushing in the first two games of the season, Enterprise’s offense couldn’t get much going and churned out just 196 total yards and 10 first downs against Auburn.

“I think Auburn is what we expected,” Enterprise coach Rick Darlington said. “They’re a very well-coached team that doesn’t make very many mistakes. They know what they’re doing and they’re good at it.”

The Wildcat defense also struggled to keep up with Auburn’s deadly balanced offensive attack as the Tigers racked up 231 yards on the ground and 221 yards through the air in their region win.

“Early on we had chances to stop them but we just couldn’t get them off the field on third (and fourth) down. Over half of their (yardage) came on five big plays. The big plays and not being off the field on crucial downs, or converting crucial downs on offense is what loses games.”

Auburn got its big day off to a quick start with an 8-play, 64-yard scoring drive to open the game, capped off by quarterback Patrick McGlon’s 24-yard touchdown pass to running back Killian Massey on a screen play. The PAT gave Auburn a 7-0 lead with 8:33 left in the first quarter.

Enterprise freshman Mykel Johnson then watched as the ensuing kickoff bounceed in front of him and then over his head as he finally corralled it and was knocked down inside Enterprise’s own 10-yard line. A Wildcat fumble then backed Enterprise up to its own 1-yard line and after a three-and-out, Enterprise punted the ball right back to Auburn.

After the Enterprise defense kept Auburn out of the end zone, Tiger kicker Josh Owsley booted a 24-yard field goal with 5:41 left in the first quarter.

On Enterprise’s next drive, the Wildcats managed to move the ball into Auburn territory before a Jackson Darlington fumble gave the Tigers the ball back near midfield. Auburn scored again on a 43-yard touchdown run from running back Aaron Digg with 10 seconds left in the opening period. The PAT gave Auburn a 17-0 lead.

Another Enterprise fumble backed the Wildcats up on their ensuing drive and they were forced to punt again. Enterprise’s defense had its best set of downs of the game on Auburn’s next drive forcing the Tigers to punt for the first time.

The Wildcat offense went three-and-out again, however, and Auburn made the Wildcats pay again when McGlon capped off a 73-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to receiver Ja’Zavion Ray with 24 seconds remaining in the first half. The PAT gave Auburn a seemingly insurmountable 24-0 lead at halftime.

“I think giving up that score at the end of the half really hurt,” Rick Darlington said. “There is a lot of difference in 17-0 and 24-0 right there.”

The Wildcats again went three-and-out to open the third quarter and then McGlon hit Ray for a 50-yard touchdown pass with 8:44 left in the period. Enterprise’s Jaylon Webster managed to block the PAT but Auburn still led 30-0.

Enterprise then had its best drive of the game, a 15-play drive, all the way down to the Auburn 13-yard line, but when the Wildcats got into the Auburn red-zone another fumble backed Enterprise up again. The Wildcats were unable to convert a fourth down attempt, and Auburn took over.

Auburn marched down the field in just five plays and scored on a 9-yard touchdown run from Massey as time expired in the third quarter. The Tigers took a 37-0 lead into the final period.

Enterprise and Auburn exchanged turnovers on downs on their next two drives and then Auburn closed out the game with a 32-yard touchdown run from backup quarterback Matt Caldwell with 2:40 left in the fourth quarter. The PAT made the final score 44-0.

Enterprise was led by Johnson with 59 yards on 14 carries, while Josh McCray had 57 yards on 10 carries. Jackson Darlington added 27 yards on 22 carries, while he completed just 1-of-5 pass attempts for three yards. Cole Killingsworth also had 38 yards on three carries.

“We just never could get anything going,” Rick Darlington said. “The times we did get something going (on offense) we’d have a penalty or a negative play and just shoot ourselves in the foot.

“We’re not an explosive, quick-strike team. So, penalties really make it hard to overcome, especially against a good team like Auburn.”

Punter Hunter Perry had a career night averaging 44 yards per punt and boomed a career-long 60-yarder in the second quarter. Linebacker LZ Leonard had 49 yards on three kickoff returns.

Leonard was one of the bright spots that Rick Darlington pointed to on defense, as he played inside linebacker for the first time.

“I thought LZ moving inside was a plus for us on defense,” he said. “Jackson also played well outside. Those were some bright spots.”

Leonard led the Wildcats with a career-high seven tackles, while Jackson Darlington had four tackles and one quarterback hurry. Jackson Darlington moved from safety to outside linebacker for the first time against Auburn, too.

Linebacker KD McCray added 4.5 tackles and a tackle-for-loss, while fellow linebacker Robert Ellis had 3.5 tackles and one tackle-for-loss. Josh McCray and DJ Turner also had 4.5 tackles.

Auburn’s McGlon had 56 rushing yards on eight attempts, while he completed 10-of-17 passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns. Massey rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown on 12 attempts. Ray caught three passes for 65 yards and two touchdowns.

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