Hernando outlasted Cleveland Central to score a home win in a 49-42 shootout.
The Tigers were forced to play four quarters of football, but held on all throughout the match, trading touchdowns on the night against a very athletic opponent.
Head Coach Will Wolfe said he knew at halftime that the team was in for a shootout.
“It was just a great high school football game,” Wolfe said. “They have a heck of a team. I hoped it wouldn’t be (as high scoring) as it was. But it’s early in the season and you never know. But I’m happy that we were able to come out on top.”
At first it seemed like neither team was going to get the ball into the end zone. The Tigers and Wolves traded punts and turned the ball over on downs for most of the first quarter.
But Hernando got on the board first scoring on a 14 yard pass from quarterback Zach Wilcke to Jalen Smith to take a 6-0 lead with no time left on the clock to end the first quarter.
The Wolves tied it with 8:50 left to play in the second scoring on a two yard touchdown run to make it 6-6.
Hernando retook the lead three plays later after Wilcke connected with Joey Davis on a 38-yard pass to make it 12-6. Curdarrious Bullock ran it in for the two-point conversion to put the Tigers up 14-6 with 8:25 to play.
Cleveland Central answered with a 28-yard touchdown of their own and converted for two points to knot it at 14-14 with 5:47 to play in the second.
Hernando added two more touchdowns to take a 28-14 lead at the half. Wilcke found Davis again on a 65-yard pass reception with 5:39 to play, then added another touchdown after Wilcke ran it in 28 yards with 54 second to play in the half.
The Wolves capitalized on a turnover by Bullock, who fumbled on the 46- yard line, to trim Hernando’s lead to 28-21 with 8:38 to play in the third quarter.
Hernando scored on its next possession with Wilcke firing a 20 yard pass to Tyler Starnes to take a 35-21 lead with 5:31 to play in the quarter. But the Wolves answered back, running the ball 19 yards into the end zone to pull to 35-28 with 2:17 to go.
The Tigers widened their lead to start the fourth quarter with Eli Mahburn scoring on a 35-yard pass from Wilcke to pull ahead 31-28 with 10:02 to play.
The shootout continued though when the Wolves added a touchdown of their own on a 4-yard yard run to make it a one score game 41-35 with 7:02 left in the fourth quarter.
And that wouldn’t be the end of the scoring as both teams had one more spark left in them.
Wilcke put Hernando up 49-35 with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Starnes and successfully converted for two-points with 3:33 to play. The Wolves scored their final touchdown of the night with 2:41 to play but fell just short 49-42.
“We have some things to work on,” Wolfe said. “But I’m just glad we found a way to win tonight. That’s the biggest thing.”
Wolfe praised his quarterback who figured in all seven touchdowns for Hernando, passing for six and running one in.
“He’s a great player,” Wolfe said of Wilcke. “I am super proud of him. I’m glad he’s my quarterback.”
Wolfe told his players in an after game huddle that he was super proud of their effort.
“You stayed in it and fought against a big-time high school football team that was physical as hell,” Wolfe said. “That’s what we wanted.”