The Wellington High School football squad hosted perennial powerhouse Vero Beach High School on Friday, Sept. 1 in a non-district match-up, falling to the No. 5 state-ranked Indians 62-24.
The game was not all the Wolverines lost last Friday night. The team also had starting quarterback Connor Rogers leave the game late in the first half due to a shoulder injury.
It was a tale of two completely different halves. The first half was an offensive shoot-out from both offenses scoring on every possession. Together, they combined for 24 total points before the whistle blew to end the first quarter.
Wellington had trailed 14-3 but closed the margin with a 3-yard touchdown run by Josh Solomon to cut the Indian lead to four, 14-10, to end the first quarter.
Wellington’s defense could not stop the explosive Vero Beach offense, which went up 21-10 to start the second quarter. The Wolverines went blow-for-blow with the Indians on each possession. Running back Marvin Pierre crossed the goal line from three yards out to get Wellington closer at 21-17. Vero Beach continued to stack the points on the board, adding another score to make it 28-17.
Wellington seemed primed to threaten for another score from the Vero Beach 38-yard line, but a key interception returned for a quick score extended the Indians’ lead to 35-17. The Wolverines continued to crank out yardage on all cylinders on the next possession. Rogers connected with receiver Balitan Celestin on a 38-yard touchdown pass to carve into the Vero Beach lead and make it 35-24.
Momentum seemed to swing in Wellington’s direction when the Wolverines blocked a Vero Beach field goal attempt. Mark Anthony Richards returned the blocked field goal to the Indian 11-yard line. But with under two minutes to play in the half, the Wolverines could not convert the momentum into points.
Two plays later, Vero Beach threw a hitch pass that led to a 90-yard touchdown to lift the Indians to 42-24 and the end of the first half.
Rogers left the game late in the second quarter and did not return.
Backup quarterback Austin Wallace entered the game. Wallace threw for three touchdowns and ran for one in the Wolverines’ season opener against Royal Palm Beach. He could not find the same success against the Vero Beach defense.
The Wolverines turned the ball over four times in the second half, with another pick-six by the Indian defense. Turnovers and penalties plagued the Wolverines in the second half, and the team could not rekindle that first-half momentum to battle back. Vero Beach would pile on 20 more points in the second half.
“The first half was great,” Wellington coach Tom Abel said. “The second half, the wheels fell off.”
Rogers finished the first half completing nine of 15 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown pass to Celestin.
Pierre led the Wolverines on the ground with 99 yards and a rushing touchdown. Mark Anthony Richards had 57 yards rushing but played just about everywhere on the field.
“Vero is one heck of a football team. That’s why they’re the top five team in the state, and we aspire to be like that,” Abel said. “We’ve got some work to do, and we’ll see how we rebound.”
The Wolverines are 1-1 on the season and host Park Vista High School on Friday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m.