The Enterprise Wildcats (2-0, 1-0) have had a bad taste in their mouth since losing to their rival Dothan Wolves (0-2, 0-1) last season, but Enterprise’s 42-13 win on Sept. 4 will help wash away that bad taste.
The Wildcats - wearing throwback style uniforms - dominated the game from the opening whistle and never let up in a throwback style of play with a punishing running game and relentless defense.
After going into halftime last season down by a touchdown, the Wolves pulled away in the second half but this time the Wildcats left no doubts on the field.
“That was a tough one last year because we felt like it got away from us in the second half and we thought our kids kind of laid down in the second half,” Enterprise coach Rick Darlington said. “To win this one is a big rivalry game but more so it’s a region game. You have to win those region games to make the playoffs. So, that was a crucial win for us.”
For the last several years Enterprise’s defense has struggled mightily but against Dothan, the Wildcat defense smothered an offense that features one of the top college recruits in the country in Dothan running back Jaylin White.
For the entire game, Dothan netted just 225 yards of total offense with 80 yards coming on one play. Enterprise also forced two turnovers in the win. An efficient Enterprise offense also controlled the clock for the entire game.
“We hit some passes on them in the first quarter, which was good but running the ball is always going to be our thing and we were successful at that, but really the defense played great,” Darlington emphasized. “The defense did a great job of not giving up the big play and not letting them run all over us. Stop the run and don’t give up big pass plays and you’ll win more than you lose. That was a big win for our kids.”
Enterprise defensive coordinator Jed Kennedy came to Enterprise with the goal of making a once feared Wildcat defense mighty again.
“People have questioned the defense here for the last few years and I said our goal is to change that,” Kennedy said. “It’s all about the kids and we have great players that do what we ask them to do, that work hard and that are unselfish.
“I’m just so proud of how hard they played. Our kids play fast and we tell them all the time if they get lined up and play really fast then we have a chance to do some really good things. We’re tackling better, we’re swarming to the football and what I love to see is that even when we miss a tackle there’s three or four guys there to clean it up.”
The Wildcat defense started things off by forcing a quick three-and-out and then the Wildcats went on an 11-play, 75-yard drive that took up more than five minutes of playing time. Quarterback Quentin Hayes capped off the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to running back Mykel Johnson with 5:29 remaining in the opening period to put Enterprise up 7-0.
After forcing another Dothan punt, Hayes found a streaking Jared Smith on third-and-long for a 44-yard touchdown pass with 31 seconds left in the first quarter to extend the lead to 14-0.
Dothan went three-and-out to start the second quarter but a trick play backfired on the Wildcat offense. Enterprise attempted a double pass but a fumble gave Dothan the ball on the Enterprise 7-yard line. White made the Cats pay on the next play with a 7-yard touchdown run to cut the Wildcat lead to 14-7 with 10:02 left in the first half.
Enterprise and Dothan spent the rest of the second quarter exchanging punts but the fireworks weren’t over yet. Enterprise athlete Josh McCray took the opening second half kickoff 65 yards inside the Dothan red-zone but a penalty flag brought the ball all the way back to the Enterprise 22-yard line.
Enterprise then went three-and-out but the Wildcat defense stepped up and defensive tackle Preston Powell pounced on a Dothan fumble two plays later.
Hayes then found Smith again for a 9-yard touchdown pass to give Enterprise a 21-7 lead with 2:49 remaining in the third quarter.
White – who was almost Dothan’s entire offense in the game – showed why he was an elite college prospect two plays later when he got matched up with a linebacker on an 80-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Bauer Sharp with 2:27 left in the third quarter. Dothan missed the PAT and Enterprise still led 21-13.
McCray returned the ensuing kickoff 40 yards and then Johnson took an option pitch 37 yards inside the Dothan red-zone. A few plays later McCray scored on a 4-yard run. The PAT was no good giving Enterprise a 27-13 lead with 23 seconds left in the third quarter.
As the fourth quarter began, Enterprise safety Jaylon Webster made a leaping interception at midfield and then raced for a 50-yard return for a touchdown. McCray scored on a two-point conversion to extend Enterprise’s lead to 35-13 with 10:57 remaining.
Dothan managed to drive into Enterprise territory on the next drive but the Wildcat defense stiffened and forced a turnover on downs. On the next play, Hayes fit a laser of a throw past two Wolves defenders to Cole Hooper, who then raced 44 yards. Hayes finished off the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run to put Enterprise ahead 42-13 with 7:16 left.
After another Dothan punt, the Wildcats were able to run the clock out with more of their punishing ground game. In total, Enterprise rolled up 290 yards on the ground and amassed 429 yards of total offense.
Hayes had another big night with 82 yards and a touchdown rushing along with completing all seven of his pass attempts for 139 yards and three touchdowns. McCray added 77 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries, while also catching a pass for 14 yards and returning a kickoff for 40 yards. Smith caught two passes for 53 yards and two touchdowns.
Johnson rushed for 76 yards on 11 carries and caught a pass for 20 yards and a touchdown. Freshman Keion Dunlap added 33 yards on six carries. Dunlap also caught two passes for eight yards.
Linebacker Tanner Rogers had a big night for Enterprise with eight tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, 2.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries. Webster recorded five tackles, one tackle-for-loss and an interception return for a touchdown. LZ Leonard added six tackles, one tackle-for-loss, one sack and a quarterback hurry. Moore also recorded two tackles, two tackles-for-loss, two sacks and a forced fumble.
The Wildcat defense held Dothan to just 58 yards rushing and White to 54 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. White also caught one pass for 80 yards and a touchdown as he missed the majority of the fourth quarter with cramps.
Sharp completed 7-of-20 pass attempts for 167 yards, one touchdown and one interception while being harassed all night by a relentless Enterprise pass rush that sacked him six times and hit him many more.
“I thought we could get after them a little bit,” Kennedy said. “We thought the kid had a great arm and if we let him have to time and just sit back there and throw it on us it was going to be a tough time for us. The pick six was huge and Webby was due because he’s one of the better players around.”