Wildcats

LZ Leonard (3) returns a kickoff for the Wildcats. 

In a game that came down to the wire, the Enterprise Wildcats (3-5, 2-3) snapped a three-game losing streak to keep their playoff dreams alive on Friday, Oct. 18, with a 29-27 win over the R.E. Lee Generals (6-3, 3-3) in Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl.

Despite getting down 21-7 at halftime, the Wildcats battled back to eventually take the lead in the fourth quarter and ultimately the game.

With 5:31 remaining in the game – and Enterprise trailing 21-14 – the Wildcats capped off a 12-play, 80-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run from returning running back Josh McCray to bring the Wildcats to within 21-20. This was McCray’s first game action since injuring his hip against Smiths Station on Sept. 13.

McCray then caught a quick snap, as Enterprise looked to be lining up for the PAT, and bulled his way into the end-zone for the two-point conversion to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game 22-21.

Lee drove into Enterprise territory on its next possession, but the fired up Wildcat defense forced a turnover on downs and got the ball back with less than three minutes remaining.

Just three plays later McCray scored on a 25-yard touchdown run with 1:44 left. The PAT extended Enterprise’s lead to 29-21, but still gave Lee a shot to tie the game up with a touchdown and two-point conversion.

As Lee faced a fourth-and-10 from its own 10-yard line, quarterback Tyrone Franklin avoided the Wildcat pass rush and scampered 53 yards for a massive first down with less than a minute remaining.

A few plays later, Franklin found running back Reginald Davis for an 8-yard touchdown with 52 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Generals lined up for the two-point try – with the game on the line – and Franklin’s pass to Davis fell incomplete as the quarterback tried to avoid the Enterprise pass rush and Wildcat outside linebacker Robert Ellis got a paw on the football and deflected it.

Lee’s attempt at an onside kick didn’t travel the needed 10 yards and Enterprise was able to run the clock out and secure a huge win for the program.

“I’m just proud of those guys to be down 21-7 and come back like that,” an excited Enterprise coach Rick Darlington said after the game. “We blistered some paint in the locker room at halftime but they really responded.

“They had a chance to pack it in – and you’ve seen that before – and in the past we would come back and fight but just couldn’t quite pull it off. Tonight we were able to pull it all together and were able to get a huge region win.”

That win keeps Enterprise’s hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 2016 alive, which served as motivation for the Wildcats leading into the game.

“Absolutely it was,” Rick Darlington said of the motivation. “People may think Enterprise shouldn’t say that right now but we’re going to build a winning program here and a team that competes for state titles. I don’t know if it’s going to be sooner or later but we’re going to do it.”

Also on Friday, Auburn defeated Prattville 17-3, which was another key cog in helping Enterprise into the playoffs. If Enterprise can defeat Jeff Davis next week – at home – then Enterprise and Lee will be tied for the fourth place spot in Class 2A, Region 2 with Enterprise holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Lee.

Things didn’t start off too well for the Wildcats against Lee as the Generals scored in just three plays to open the game, as Davis scored on a 30-yard touchdown run with 11:20 left in the first quarter. The PAT gave Lee a 7-0 lead.

The Enterprise offense – which started the game off in the old “flexbone” offense that longtime Wildcat fans would certainly recognize – went three-and-out to start the game, but the Wildcat defense was able to hold the Lee offense on its second drive and force a punt.

Enterprise then switched between the “flexbone” and the “I-formation” on its next drive to further knock the Lee defense off balance as the Wildcats drove down the field on a 14-play scoring drive that bled over into the second quarter.

McCray – who played primarily on defense until the fourth quarter – capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 11:57 left in the second quarter. The PAT tied the score up at 7-7.

Lee and Enterprise exchanged three-and-outs on the next two possessions but then Lee got back on the scoreboard with a 1-yard touchdown plunge from Franklin with 3:56 remaining in the half. The PAT extended Lee’s lead to 14-7.

The Wildcats were forced to punt again and Franklin got Lee into the end-zone again as he found a wide-open Davis for a 62-yard touchdown pass with 1:06 remaining in the first half. The PAT extended Lee’s lead to 21-7 heading into halftime.

Enterprise and Lee traded three-and-outs to begin the third quarter and then the Wildcats gave the General defense something else to think about as they went back-and-forth between the “flexbone,” “I-formation,” “spread” and “single wing” formations for the remainder of the game.

The multiple looks seemed to confuse Lee and Jackson Darlington managed to find receiver Jared Smith for a huge 64-yard pass down to the Lee 21-yard line. A few plays later, Jackson Darlington bulldozed his way into the end-zone for a 5-yard touchdown run with 6:07 left in the third quarter. The PAT cut Lee’s lead to 21-14.

The Wildcat defense forced back-to-back three-and-outs leading to Enterprise’s furious comeback in the fourth quarter.

McCray and Jackson Darlington bullied a tired General defense throughout the fourth quarter, eating up clock and churning out yards in the final period.

“They did great,” Rick Darlington said of his son and McCray. “I’m really proud of them and the way they played down the stretch.”

For the game, Enterprise gained 216 yards on the ground but the most impressive thing was that eight different Wildcats carried the football throughout the game. Adding new wrinkles to the offense and getting more players involved was part of Enterprise’s game plan coming into the game, according to Rick Darlington.

“It was good to try and get some new guys the ball and get some new stuff (on the offense) and see what we can do,” Rick Darlington said. “We’re going to keep hammering at it and figure out what we do best.”

Enterprise totaled 310 yards of offense and Lee churned out 367 yards but the second half numbers truly told the tale. Enterprise piled up 223 yards in the second half and held Lee to just 144 yards. The Wildcat coaches were especially proud of the Enterprise defense despite giving up a few big plays.

“They battled, man,” Rick Darlington said. “We gave up some big plays at the end of each half – which was really disappointing – but they really fought out there. I’m just so proud of them. (Lee) is a heck of an opponent and it was tough but I’m proud of our guys.”

McCray rushed for 55 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on 11 rushing attempts. He also recorded four tackles, 0.5 tackle-for-loss and two pass breakups on defense. Jackson Darlington rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, while also throwing for 94 yards on 4-of-10 passing.

Smith caught three passes for 85 yards and rushed for 16 yards for 101 total yards. Mykel Johnson rushed for 43 yards on 10 carries, while sophomore Jordan Tacey had 35 yards on nine carries.

The Wildcat defense was led by linebacker LZ Leonard, who was all over the field with 11.5 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, two pass breakups and two quarterback hurries. Nose tackle Anthony Calloway added 4.5 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss and two quarterback hurries. Safety Jaylon Webster also had five tackles, 0.5 tackle-for-loss and two pass breakups.

For Lee, Franklin rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown on seven carries, while he also tossed for 218 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-33 passing. Davis rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown, while also catching five passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns.

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