BY GENE NARDI
The Wellington High School varsity football team hosted district rival Palm Beach Gardens High School on Friday, Nov. 21 in the Class 8A regional semifinal game and held on for a 16-10 win to advance to the regional final for the first time in the school’s 25-year history.
The Wolverines also boast the school’s best record ever at 11-1.
Last year, the Wolverines finished the season 4-6, losing all three of their district games, and have demonstrated that a wind of change has blown through the school’s football program.
With inclement weather looming, both teams battled in ugly fashion. The two squads combined for 162 yards in penalties and five turnovers. The Gators got on the board early with a field goal to take a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, but Wellington battled back.
Quarterback Shannon Patrick led the Wellington offense with 65 yards in eight plays, and capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jean Rene. The extra point after was blocked, and Wellington sat on a 6-3 lead. Palm Beach Gardens responded, retaking the lead with a Tommy Monday 44-yard run to make it 10-6 in the second quarter.
The Wolverines took their turn, as Patrick connected with receiver Austin Gilman for a 9-yard score that capped a 88-yard, 11-play drive. Alex Ng’s point after gave Wellington a narrow 13-10 lead at the half.
A third quarter Wellington drive that traveled 57 yards in 12 plays capped the only score in the second half. Ng’s 40-yard field goal extended the Wellington lead to 16-10. Plagued by dropped passes by Wellington in the second half, the Wolverines relied on their defense to seal the win, coming up big when it mattered most.
The Gators drove 56 yards to get inside the Wellington 10-yard line with 58 seconds on the clock. On fourth-and-1, Wellington safety Christian Goss blitzed and recovered a Gator high snap fumble. The Wolverines ran out the remaining seconds and sealed the 16-10 win.
“It was a hard-fought battle tonight, on both sides of the ball,” said Wellington coach Thomas Abel, who will take his team to Pembroke Pines Flanagan in the regional finals game Friday, Nov. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
“We’re not done, it’s our time, and our boys wanted it tremendously,” Abel added.
Patrick threw for 193 yards and two touchdowns on the night. Wellington combined for 267 yards of total offense and 16 first downs.
ABOVE: Wellington’s Christian Goss recovers a late fumble to seal the Wolverine victory.