Both the Enterprise Wildcats and Early County (Ga.) Bobcats came into their spring football game on May 14 in Blakely, Ga., undermanned but Enterprise managed to control the game and pick up a dominant 42-13 win.
Enterprise came into the game with more than 20 players sidelined for the game, while Early County also had a number of players in quarantine. Some of the returning starters for Enterprise that were unable to play included quarterbacks Quentin Hayes and Aiden White, running back/receiver Sam Whittaker, tight end Wyatt Darlington and linebacker Jackson Blount.
With both of Enterprise’s quarterbacks sidelined with injuries, the Cats stuck to head coach Rick Darlington’s bread and butter offense as they played out of the “single wing” for the entirety of the game. The Bobcats had no answer for the Enterprise rushing attack and the Wildcats rolled up 385 yards on the ground enroute to the win.
“Once we lost our quarterbacks all we did was ‘single wing’ for all nine practices,” Darlington said. “It was very basic, very fundamental but I thought looking at the tape that we communicated well, we blocked whatever they threw at us and we looked like we knew what we were doing.
“There’s always things to clean up on the fundamentals, angles and everything but I felt, knowledge-wise, pretty good about it. You never know what the other team is going to do to try to defend you and I thought we handled everything they threw out there. It was good.”
Darlington said he was most proud of the effort he saw from his group of Cats.
“I thought they played hard, which is all we really wanted,” Darlington said. “We wanted to play physical and play hard. I thought our defense has a chance to be good. I thought they ran around and made plays for us out there.”
Enterprise kicked off the game with an 11-play, 70-yard drive that sophomore Amare Griffin capped off with a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Wildcats an early 7-0 lead.
After a quick Early County three-and-out on offense, Enterprise scored again with Griffin rushing for 25 yards to the end zone to put Enterprise up 14-0.
As the second quarter began, Enterprise defensive lineman Duwane Buckner dove on an Early County fumble but Enterprise was unable to pay it off and turned the ball over on downs inside the Bobcat red zone.
The Bobcats drove into Enterprise territory for the first time on their next drive but Enterprise forced a turnover on downs when defensive lineman Jamel Fils-Aime sacked the Early County quarterback on fourth down. A few plays later, junior running back Mykel Johnson waltzed into the end-zone for a 1-yard score to stretch the Wildcat lead to 21-0.
Early County scored just before halftime when a defensive lineman returned a questionable fumble 17 yards for a touchdown. Enterprise sophomore Keion Dunlap blocked the PAT to maintain a 21-6 lead for the Wildcats.
Early County drove into Enterprise territory again to start the third quarter but again the Wildcat defense pushed them back and forced a turnover on downs. Neither team managed to find the end zone in the third quarter and late in the period, Enterprise safety Eric Winters snatched the ball away from a would-be Bobcat receiver for an interception.
Junior Enterprise running back Zy’Air Boyd walked into the end-zone on a 1-yard touchdown run a few plays into the fourth quarter. The score was set up by a Johnson 20-yard run down to the 1-yard line the play before. Enterprise’s lead stretched to 27-6. The PAT was blocked.
Early County stayed alive on the very next play, however, as a Bobcat runner raced 70 yards for a touchdown to cut the Enterprise lead to 27-13.
Enterprise answered, however, as Jaxon Bailey raced to the end zone on a 26-yard touchdown run to extend the Wildcat lead to 35-13 after a successful two-point conversion. Enterprise cornerback Marshawn Fitzpatrick broke up an Early County pass near the end zone on another fourth down attempt and a few plays later Boyd scored again on a 31-yard run to give Enterprise the 42-13 lead, which would remain the score until the end.
In total, Enterprise amassed 395 yards of offense and held Early County to just 226 yards of offense. Johnson rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown and also completed 1-of-3 passes for 10 yards. Johnson goes into his junior season just 820 yards shy of the all-time rushing record at Enterprise, which is currently held by Steven Kelley, who played at Enterprise from 1992 until 1994. Kelley amassed 2,576 yards during his Wildcat career, while Johnson has rushed for 1,756 yards in just two seasons thus far.
Boyd also rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Boyd also caught one pass for 10 yards. Griffin – in his first appearance with the varsity – rushed for 67 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Bailey carried the ball four times for 40 yards and a touchdown.
Losing skill players like Josh McCray and Jared Smith – who will be playing in college next season – will be difficult to replace but Darlington liked what he saw out of his running backs and offensive line.
“I think the line has a chance to be good and we had three running backs in there that all put up some good yards,” Darlington said. “We also still have Quentin and Sam Whittaker back in the mix (in the fall). So, I feel good about that.”
When looking at the Wildcat defense fans will see a lot of new faces in 2021and many of those faces will be very young. Enterprise started five freshman or sophomores in the spring game and even more eighth graders and freshmen played throughout the game.
With all of the young players on the defense, Enterprise will look to its senior-filled defensive line to anchor that side of the ball.
“When you look at our defense we’re really, really young except for the (defensive line),” Darlington said. “Both of our outside backers are young and we have eighth and nine graders playing in the secondary. I think they have the potential to be the best defense we’ve had since we’ve been here, by far, though.”
On the defensive end sophomore Marzavious Reed tallied six tackles, two tackles-for-loss and a sack. Jace Himes totaled four tackles and a tackle-for-loss, while senior Duwane Bucker totaled two tackles and 1.5 tackles-for-loss. Junior Tysen Cole also netted three tackles and 1.5 tackles-for-loss, while senior Fils-Aime had two tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss and a sack. Freshman Winters had three tackles, one pass breakup and an interception.