BY GENE NARDI
On Friday, Nov. 13, the Wellington High School football team traveled to Atlantic High School for the Class 8A regional quarterfinals and suffered a 34-0 loss to the Eagles, putting an end to the Wolverines’ postseason run.
The loss is the second for the Wolverines this season to the Eagles. Wellington faced Atlantic in the first game of the regular season and fell 49-7. From there, Wellington finished the regular season 6-4, 3-1 in their district, and earned district runner-up in Class 9-8A, while the Eagles racked up an unblemished 10-0 regular season, earning the No. 1 Class 8A state ranking.
Atlantic drew first blood on a 76-yard touchdown pass to take an early 6-0 lead. The kick was blocked. Wellington was not without opportunities, getting inside the Eagle red zone twice, but came up empty. The Atlantic defense kept the Wellington offense off balance the rest of the half, as the Eagles went back to work, scoring twice more before the end of the quarter to take a 20-0 lead.
Wellington’s defense finally cleared the cobwebs, and settled into a rhythm, shutting down the powerful Eagle offense to end the first half 20-0. It was the Wolverine offense that just could not fire up all cylinders to mount any kind of a threat. Turnovers also plagued the Wolverines, with two fumbles.
Atlantic’s defensive pass rush combined with tight coverage on the Wellington receiving corps made it difficult for the Wolverines to overcome. Wellington quarterback Blake Dever, who averaged 260 yards passing per game entering the contest, was held to under 150 yards through the air. Dever often scrambled in the backfield, attempting to shake the Atlantic pressure to find an open receiver, but could not make any magic on the night. The Eagles sacked Dever four times.
The second-half woes continued offensively for Wellington, often going three-and-out, forcing the defense to play a majority of the second half. The Eagles scored twice more to extend the lead on a fatigued Wellington defense late in the third quarter. Credit was due to the Wellington defense for holding the Eagles out of the end zone in the fourth quarter, including an early fourth-and-5, where the Eagles attempted to convert, but a stubborn Wolverine front forced the turnover on downs. Defensive end Tyler Somers came up big with a sack for the Wolverines.
The Wellington offense sputtered through the fourth quarter, unable to find the end zone, and Atlantic held on to the 34-0 victory.
The loss ends the Wolverines’ postseason play, and the team finished 6-5 overall. The Wolverines have recorded back-to-back postseason appearances. Last season, Wellington won the district title and made a regional finals appearance, where they eventually fell to Pembroke Pines-Flanagan.
ABOVE: Wellington running back Elroy Taylor shakes an Atlantic defender for room to run.