Wellington High School hosted Boynton Beach in a kickoff classic game on Friday, Aug. 18 to start the 2017 high school football season, holding on to win 14-12.
In typical pre-season fashion, both teams struggled through mental mistakes and penalties. On the Wolverines’ turf, it was clear each had pre-season jitters that surfaced periodically through the game, but Wellington managed to weather through.
Head coach Tom Abel was pleased overall with his team’s performance. “We’re going to be OK,” he said. “I was really pleased with the way our defense played tonight.”
The Tigers won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half, a decision that nearly cost them on Wellington’s initial possession. Wellington quarterback Connor Rogers orchestrated a 78-yard drive to the Boynton 2-yard line. Wellington seemed flawless in its opening drive and looked primed to draw first blood, but a mishandled ball in the backfield resulted in a turnover, giving the Tigers possession.
Boynton had a difficult time figuring out the quick and aggressive Wellington defense, which pressured the Tiger quarterback often. The Wolverines moved the ball almost at will through the first half, hitting the red zone four times but producing only two scores.
Wellington finally reached the end zone in the second quarter when running back Mark Anthony Richards plowed through the line on a 2-yard touchdown run. The point-after kick gave the Wolverines a 7-0 lead late in the second quarter.
A strong Wellington defensive front continued to pressure the Boynton offense, which at times found some momentum from running back Deondra Smith. With less than two minutes left in the half, Boynton drove to the Wellington 32-yard line, but a turnover gave Wellington one more chance before the half to extend its lead.
With seconds left, Rogers connected with receiver Aniik McKenzie on a 3-yard touchdown pass. The point-after kick extended the Wolverines’ lead to 14-0 to close out the half.
“I told them they would run off tackle, and they did; I told them they would run to the outside, and they did,” Abel said about his halftime talk to his team in the locker room. “We need to go out there and play the way we know how to play.”
Wellington’s offense continued to move the ball at will, reaching deep into the red zone five more times in the second half, nearly on every possession, but could not add to the tally. What the Wolverines did rely on was the defense to carry them to the final whistle.
The Tigers scored twice in the second half to close the gap, but it would not be enough. Wellington would hold on for the 14-12 win.
Wellington will be on the road for the regular season opener Friday, Aug. 25 against non-conference rival Royal Palm Beach High School. Game time is at 7 p.m.