BY GENE NARDI
The Seminole Ridge High School varsity football squad hosted Wellington High School on Friday, Sept. 21 at Callery-Judge Stadium, handing the Wolverines their first loss of the season. The 26-7 Seminole Ridge victory ended the Wolverines’ three-game win streak.
Previously winless, the Hawks desperately needed a victory in their first district match-up of the season. It was a must-win for both teams to stay in contention within a competitive district.
The game started as the rain poured in sheets onto the field. The stands were blanketed with umbrellas. The saturated conditions appeared to give the Wolverines (3-1) more of a problem as they gave up two early scores in the first quarter to the Hawks (1-2). Wellington had the initial spark, as the opening kick was nearly returned for a touchdown, but the Seminole Ridge kicker made a saving tackle in mid field. Wellington turned over the ball on the next play. Turnovers plagued both teams during the contest, Wellington’s first being the most costly.
On the Hawks’ first possession, running back Silas Spearman took the hand-off to the left then saw an opening to the right and sprinted down the right sideline for a 50-yard touchdown run. On the Hawks’ second possession, they sustained a long drive, consuming the first quarter, and fullback Alberto Hildago scored on a 1-yard run, extending the Hawk lead 14-0. Wellington continued to struggle offensively in the first half, moving the chains only twice.
Turnovers and penalties infected the Wolverine offense, with the help of the Hawk defensive line putting constant pressure in the Wellington backfield. Seminole Ridge decided to go on fourth down, and when Hawk quarterback Zach DeCosta made the decision to throw deep, the Wellington cornerback blundered to intercept the ball at the 4 yard line and was stopped on an attempted return. Three plays later, it set up the opportunity for the Hawks to extend their lead by tackling Wellington quarterback Cole Smallridge in the end zone for the safety, making the score 16-0. Seminole Ridge would add 3 points on the scoreboard with a 39-yard field-goal after both teams exchanged a series of fumbles to close out a messy first half with the Hawks up 19-0.
The second half started as the rain finally stopped, and it appeared Wellington was on the move for a comeback, stopping the Hawks on back-to-back possessions, including a blocked punt. This set up the Wolverines’ possession in Hawk territory. A few plays later, Wellington fullback Matt Sabatino broke through the Hawk defense, slipping tackles, and scampered 42 yards for the score, cutting the Hawk lead to 19-7.
Wellington’s defense would bend but not break to the powerful Hawk running game, keeping them out of the end zone. The Wolverines clawed their way down the field but were stalled twice in Hawk territory. Both fourth-and-10 situations, Wellington went to the air with well-placed throws by Smallridge that were dropped by the Wolverine receivers with nothing but open field in the way.
“We got bailed out, but we kept fighting and made it tough for them,” Hawks head coach Matt Dickmann said.
The Hawks would show no mercy, continuing to grind out yardage, eating away the clock. Seminole Ridge would put together a long drive from their own 35 yard line, and hammer the final nail with Spearman scoring on a short 4-yard run. The point-after attempt made the score 26-7.
Spearman finished with 203 yards on 21 carries. “I give credit to my line. When they open the holes, I just run hard,” Spearman said.
Elie Turene and E.J. Elien also contributed to the ground attack with the Hawks putting up nearly 300-rushing yards. Seminole Ridge dominated the battle in the trenches. “They manned up and did their jobs, but we still need more consistency,” Dickmann said of his squad, now 1-0 in the district. “We’ve been practicing with injuries, and the turnovers hurt us, but we were able to hide it a little due to the play of our offensive line and our running backs. After they turned the ball over near the end, we just went to a tight set from there.”
Seminole Ridge will look to carry over their momentum when they host Pahokee (1-2) on Friday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. Wellington will travel to Palm Beach Central (1-2) on Friday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m.
Above: Hawk running back Silas Spearman is hit from behind by Wellington’s Shamar Jackson after a first down gain.