Two touchdowns from Wellington High School running back Jadien Durant were the difference in last Friday night’s game at Park Vista High School, as the Wolverines defeated the Cobras 14-8 before a capacity crowd.
Durant’s first score came on Wellington’s first play from scrimmage after receiving the opening kickoff. Freshman quarterback Blake Kendall hit Durant up the middle on a 78-yard touchdown pass, as he split both defenders and sprinted into the end zone.
“It was a pretty amazing feeling; that’s the least I can say,” he said. “It was just perfect execution by my team, making a hole for me to burst through.”
Morgan Suarez’ point-after kick gave the Wolverines an early 7-0 lead.
Wellington (2-1) continued to ride the momentum, blocking a Cobra punt, but a Park Vista goal line stand forced a Wellington field goal attempt that went wide. Both teams battled in the trenches through the first half.
The Wellington defense stopped a possible Park Vista equalizer. With fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, the Cobras ran it up the middle, but the Wolverines denied the score. The turnover on possession resulted in two points when the Park Vista special teams unit blocked a Wellington punt from their end zone and forced a safety. The Cobras dug into the Wellington lead, trailing 7-2.
In the second quarter, Wellington sustained a 70-yard drive that chewed up nearly six minutes off the clock, only to miss a 34-yard field goal attempt. The 7-2 score followed both teams into the locker room at halftime. “We got a lot of things to fix and take care of,” Wellington coach Tom Abel said. “One thing we have to do is get better on offense across the board.”
Park Vista (1-2) started the second half fumbling the ball away to the Wolverines, but two plays later, Wellington gave it back with an interception. The Cobras twice reached inside Wellington’s 30-yard line, but could not push themselves beyond the feisty Wolverine defense.
Opportunity knocked for the Cobras when they got their second blocked punt, which set up first-and-goal at the Wolverines’ 10-yard line. Three plays later, Park Vista completed a touchdown pass but failed on the two-point attempt and led for the first time in the game, 8-7 in the fourth quarter.
With 5:27 remaining to play, Wellington recaptured the lead when Durant notched his second score. He took a hand-off from Mark Richards, leaped over a Cobra defender, broke two more tackles and took off down the Cobra sideline for a 78-yard touchdown. Suarez’ kick gave Wellington a 14-8 advantage. “We saw Park Vista keying on Mark, and that’s what sprung the one at the end,” Abel said.
As both teams battled in mid-field, it came down to Park Vista managing 1:10 on the clock to try for the go-ahead touchdown. The Cobras traversed the field to the Wellington 11-yard line. The Wolverines’ defense would bend but not break, denying the Cobras the score they needed. The Wolverines ran out the remaining few seconds to secure the 14-8 win.
“The defense was amazing tonight,” Abel said. “Our defensive backs did a great job stepping it up, and our defensive line made plays when they had to.”
Wellington totaled 354 yards on offense, with Durant leading the pack with a combined 177 yards, including two touchdowns. Defensive end Stephen Passeggiata had six tackles and a sack. Linebacker Joshua Schwartz reeled in an interception. Matthew Barrios had a blocked punt and a forced fumble. Cornerback Cornelius Butler recovered a fumble with a 35-yard return.
The Wolverines improved to 2-1 and will be on the road to face Palm Beach Central (2-1) on Friday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. Not only is the Wellington Cup on the line, but it is the first game of district play.