BY GENE NARDI
The Wellington High School varsity football team traveled to Palm Beach Lakes High School on Friday, Aug. 19 for its preseason kickoff classic, and fell short as the Rams took the thriller, 38-31.
One thing this contest was not short on was scoring; the teams combined for 69 points. Despite the loss, Wolverine quarterback Ben Schmickle threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns.
Both teams exchanged the lead throughout the game. Wellington got on the board first. Schmickle connected with receiver Sage Chen-Young on a 10-yard pass in the first quarter. Logan Robinson’s kick gave the Wolverines a 7-0 lead. The Rams quickly retaliated, scoring twice to take a 12-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Wolverines regained the lead when Schmickle found receiver Jymetre Hester on a 41-yard touchdown pass to give Wellington a 14-12 lead. Robinson extended that lead to 17-12 with a 43-yard field goal to end the first half.
Palm Beach Lakes responded with a touchdown to take an 18-17 lead in the third quarter. Wellington drove down to the Rams’ 5-yard line on a Schmickle pass, but the Rams forced a fumble, then went to work for the score. The touchdown gave Palm Beach Lakes a 25-17 lead. The Wellington offense drove to the Rams’ 27-yard line, but a deflected pass was picked off, nullifying the drive.
Things finally clicked for Wellington when Schmickle aired out a 70-yard bomb to Chen-Young down the sideline for the touchdown to close the gap to 31-24 after Robinson’s point-after kick.
One thing Wellington has been known for is the onside kick, so why should a preseason game be any different? The Rams were caught off guard. A perfectly placed kick bounced into the possession of the Wolverines. However, the effort went unrewarded.
Wellington’s defensive special teams blocked a Palm Beach Lakes punt and recovered it on the Rams’ 6-yard line. On the next play, a Wolverine receiver was stripped of the ball by the Rams cornerback, who then ran 95 yards untouched for the score, making it 38-24.
“We had a lot of stupid mistakes and missed assignments,” Wellington coach Tom Abel said. “We fumbled the ball, and threw a pic.”
A big return by Chen-Young on the ensuing kickoff gave Wellington good field position to work with but little time on the clock. Schmickle found receiver Will Perez open in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass. The score brought the Wolverines within one score, 38-31.
Wellington had yet another opportunity to tie the game, after getting the ball back with less than a minute on the clock. Schmickle led the Wolverine offense to the Rams’ 4-yard line and threw a dart to Chen-Young across the middle in the end zone, but the play was broken up by the Rams secondary. Palm Beach Lakes ran out the remaining seconds to hold on to the 38-31 win.
“It’s a kickoff classic. We wanted to win, and it does sting, but it doesn’t define who we are,” Abel said. “We found a lot of outstanding things that we can do with this football team, and we’re going to use this to add fuel to the fire.”
Wellington will host Atlantic High School on Friday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. for its regular-season opener.
ABOVE: Wellington receiver Sage Chen-Young sprints down the sideline 70 yards for a touchdown.