BY GENE NARDI
The Wellington High School varsity football team hosted John I. Leonard High School in Wellington’s home opener on Friday, Sept. 11, and the Wolverines routed the Lancers 30-14. Wellington (2-1) started slow, going three downs and out on its first possession, and both teams battled for momentum during the first quarter.
Wellington’s offense finally clicked into gear. Quarterback Blake Dever connected with slot receiver Kevin Wright on a 22-yard touchdown pass, but the score was nullified by a penalty. Wellington failed on a 29-yard field-goal attempt.
John I. Leonard drove in the first score just before the quarter ended and grabbed the first lead of the game, 6-0. However, the Wolverine offense quickly responded, with Dever finding receiver Chris Atkinson for a 50-yard touchdown pass. Logan Robinson’s kick gave Wellington a narrow 7-6 lead.
The Wolverines extended that lead when Dever found Austin Gilman for a 60-yard touchdown pass. The point after gave Wellington a 14-6 halftime advantage.
The second half went south for the Lancers when Wellington’s Ahmmon Richards blocked a punt, giving the Wolverines the ball just outside the red zone. Wellington eventually settled on a 37-yard Robinson field goal to extend the margin to 17-6.
On the ensuing drive, the Lancers marched 75 yards and capped a drive that included four Wellington penalties to close the gap to 17-14. The Lancers converted on a two-point attempt, and now had a little momentum. Wellington’s defense began to show signs of fatigue.
The Wolverine offense continued its ways, this time on the ground. Running back Matt Mazzatti took off down the Wellington sideline for a big 59-yard gain that set up a 1-yard quarterback keeper by Dever. Wellington led 24-14.
“I cut back and thought I was free and didn’t see anybody; then I guess I slowed down,” said Mazzatti.
Wellington’s defense began to bend again, but didn’t break. Safety Sage Chen-Young intercepted a Lancer pass that set up a 49-yard pass from Dever to Richards into Lancer territory. The Lancers failed to expect the unexpected, and fell victim to a 24-yard touchdown run from Wolverine running back Mark Lopez. Wellington was able to secure a 30-14 lead, and victory, with the aid of workhorse junior running back Elroy Taylor, who tallied 69 yards rushing on the final drive to grind down the clock.
“I just wanted to help out my team,” Taylor said.
“We still have a lot of things to work on,” Wellington head coach Tom Abel said. “It was just sheer grit, but we still have to be able to stop the run, and we have to execute.”
Dever went 12 for 26, tallying 265 yards through the air with two touchdowns. He also rushed for a score. Atkinson and Gilman both had scores. Lopez is credited with a rushing touchdown. Mazzatti had 65 yards rushing and two sacks on defense. Taylor totaled 69 yards on the ground.
“We have Palm Beach Central Friday, so we have to regroup,” Abel said. “We’re expecting the whole Village of Wellington to be here, and it’s going to be one heck of a football game.”
Wellington hosts Palm Beach Central High School on Friday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.
ABOVE: Receiver Chris Atkinson takes off on a 50-yard touchdown pass for Wellington.