BY GENE NARDI
On Friday, Aug. 26, the Wellington High School varsity football team hosted Atlantic High School for the regular season opener. The Wolverines fell 42-21 to the Eagles before a capacity crowd. Both teams entered the 2016 season ranked in the county’s top 10.
Atlantic took advantage of a Wellington mishandled punt on their 20-yard line, giving the Eagles the ball within the red zone. The following play, the Eagles struck through the air, taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Atlantic delivered another blow, jumping out to a 14-0 lead to end the first quarter.
The Wolverines fired back in the second quarter with three unanswered touchdowns to take a brief 21-14 lead with less than two minutes left in the first half.
Mark Anthony Richards notched the first score that closed the gap with a 12-yard fumble recovery return. The Wolverine defense dropped the hammer again when cornerback Sage Chen-Young intercepted a pass to give possession to Wellington on the Atlantic 46-yard line. Chen-Young then caught another pass, but this time on offense, for a 46-yard touchdown from quarterback Ben Schmickle.
The Wellington defense continued the momentum when linebacker Vlad Vital gave the Wolverines their first lead of the game with a 12-yard pick-six return for the go-ahead score that put Wellington up 21-14.
Atlantic sustained a drive into the red zone and punched in the equalizing score. Wellington worked the clock and drove to the Atlantic 36-yard line but could not convert the drive into points. The half closed deadlocked at 21-21.
The second half started slow for both sides, with neither team mustering enough offense to log more points on the board through the third quarter. Both defensive units played strong most of the second half.
Wellington’s defense cracked first. Atlantic found the holes they needed to put up three late scores in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach for the Wolverines, grabbing a 42-21 win in a game that was knotted up through most of the clock.
Chen-Young is credited with a touchdown reception and an interception. Vital logged an interception for a touchdown, and Richards recorded a score from a fumble recovery.
Wellington starts the season 0-1, but will look to rebound Friday, Sept. 2 as the Wolverines host Royal Palm Beach High School at 7 p.m.
ABOVE: Wellington quarterback Ben Schmickle scrambles to find a receiver down field.