BY GENE NARDI
On Friday, Sept. 2, the Wellington High School football team hosted rival Royal Palm Beach High School in a non-district match-up. The Wolverines rallied late to push past the Wildcats 10-9 in a true thriller.
Both teams lost their regular-season opener and looked to get into the win column. Wellington dropped its opener to Atlantic High School 42-21, while Royal Palm Beach fell to Glades Central High School 16-0.
The first half ended scoreless, so it remained to be seen who would strike first blood. Wellington’s second-half opening drive ignited the home-field crowd when Wolverine running back Mark Anthony Richards broke for a 70-yard run down the far sideline that set up a 4-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ben Schmickle to tight end Tyler Jolly for the game’s first score. Logan Robinson’s point-after kick gave Wellington a 7-0 lead.
Both teams continued to struggle offensively against each other’s dominating defense. The Wildcats made a big play defensively, intercepting a Wellington pass in the end zone. Royal Palm Beach was able to get on the board when Teja Young ran the football in from 25 yards out to close the gap to 7-6. The Wildcats, with time ticking away, elected to attempt a two-point conversion to take the lead. The Wolverine defense denied the conversion to hold on to a one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
The Wildcat defense held Wellington to a three-and-out, which provided good field position to work with. Royal Palm Beach drove down field, where the team eventually took its first lead of the game when Roland Tyson booted a 28-yard field goal to put the Wildcats up 9-7 with 4:47 remaining on the clock.
Wellington needed something big to happen on offense, and it did. Schmickle found receiver Sage Chen-Young for a 74-yard completion that nearly resulted in a touchdown. Chen-Young was tackled, and his knee was ruled down at the 1-yard line. From there, the Wildcat defense forced the Wolverine field goal unit onto the field. Robinson put through an 18-yarder to reclaim the lead 10-9 with only 2:29 left to play.
Royal Palm Beach drove close enough to attempt a 46-yard field goal that sailed wide and short, but a Wolverine penalty gave the Wildcats a second chance in the closing seconds. This time, it was a 31-yard attempt, but Jolly, playing defensive end for Wellington, drove in from the outside and blocked the kick, which was returned by Royal Palm Beach down the sideline 15 yards and tackled out of bounds as time expired. The Wolverines held on for the 10-9 victory.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do; we’re leaving too many points on the field and too many opportunities,” Wellington coach Tom Abel said. “We had receivers open everywhere, and we have some things to fix, but they responded well.”
Jolly is credited with a score and the blocked field goal for Wellington. Chen-Young had 104 yards receiving, and Richards had 84 yards on the ground. Young had 101 yards on nine carries and one touchdown for Royal Palm Beach.
Wellington travels to John I. Leonard High School on Friday, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m., while Royal Palm Beach is on the road at the Oxbridge Academy, also Friday, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m.
ABOVE:Mark Anthony Richards breaks open a 70-yard run on the Wolverines’ opening drive of the second half.