GLADEVILLE "” The Wilson Central Wildcats got a key win over the Riverdale Warriors in a Region 4-5A game 21-14 Friday night.
"We are back in the hunt," Wildcat coach Traye Aric said after Central moved to 6-2 for the season and 3-2 in the region. "We told our kids before the game that it would be a 48-minute slugfest."
Wilson Central won the battle of field position in the first half, starting three drives inside Riverdale territory. The Wildcats scored twice to take a 14-0 lead into the second quarter.
One drive started on the 45-yard line and only lasted two plays. Jordan Poole raced 40 yards to the end zone and with almost three minutes left in the first quarter it was a 7-0 lead for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats had to punt on their next possession and the team covered the punt, pinning the Warriors on their 1-yard line.
Riverdale was forced to punt from its end zone and the return was a short one. After the return, the ball was set at the 26-yard line.
The scoring drive took six plays and was capped by an 18-yard pass from quarterback Kelten Stewart to JaJuan Brooks.
After the touchdown, Brooks was called for a celebration penalty in the end zone which was be assessed on the kickoff.
After Wilson Central kicked the ball from the 25-yard line, Riverdale set up shop at its 36, the Warriors' best starting position of the first half.
On the drive, Riverdale converted three third downs – two on runs by Aaron Ebalaroza and one on a pass from quarterback Cody West to DeQuinton Sherrill.
The scoring drive took 11 plays and covered 64 yards. It was capped by a 5-yard run by Trey Oliver, cutting the lead to 14-7 for the Wildcats at the intermission.
Another Wildcat punt was covered well by the Centaral special team as it downed the football at the 5-yard line.
The next play, Riverdale fumbled and Wilson Central recovered at the 1.
After Stewart fumbled on first down and a penalty forced the Wildcats back to the 7; Wilson Central scored on fourth down as Poole took the ball in from 2 yards out, his second touchdown of the night.
Late in the third quarter, the Wildcats started another possession deep in their territory at the 10-yard line.
Two key plays kept the ball with the Wildcats. One was on a punt on fourth down when Riverdale was called for roughing the kicker, giving the Wildcats the ball first down at their 30-yard line.
The second key play also came on a punt as punter Ross Strong ran a fake and got the necessary yardage for the first down.
The drive eventually ended as Stewart threw an interception to C.J. Overton, giving the Warriors the ball on the Wildcat 45-yard line.
After a 38-yard pass from West to Joseph Roberts set them up at the 7-yard line, the Warriors eventually scored on a run by Ebalaroza, cutting the deficit to 21-14 with over six minutes left to play.
Wilson Central threw another interception and this one set Riverdale up at the Wildcat 30-yard line.
The Warriors got a first down inside the 20, but two penalties backed them up and it was third down and 20 yards to go.
West went back to pass and fired the ball deep. It was intercepted by Wilson Central, but a pass interference penalty gave the ball back to Riverdale at the 15-yard line.
The Wildcat defense then stiffened, forcing two quarterback sacks and an incomplete pass on fourth down, giving the ball back to the Wildcats with under two minutes to play and Riverdale out of timeouts.
Wilson Central could not make a first down and was forced to punt the ball back to the Warriors, giving them one last chance near midfield.
With less than a second on the clock, West threw the ball as far as he could, but it was intercepted giving the Wildcats a 21-14 win.
"I am extremely happy with our football program," Aric said. "It was a hard-fought football game and we beat a good football team tonight. IF we win next week we will be in the playoffs and if you can make the playoffs from Region 4-5-A you have accomplished something,"
Wilson Central will travel to LaVergne next Friday night to take on the Wolverines at 730 p.m. Riverdale, which was eliminated by the Wildcats in last year's playoffs, fell to 4-4, 2-3.