Two quick Wellington touchdowns early in the game on Thursday, Oct. 18 made it difficult for district foe Palm Beach Gardens High School to recover as the Wolverines held on for a 24-13 homecoming night victory.
Early on, both teams traded punts, but the Wellington defense forced a Gator fumble, giving the Wolverines (6-3, 3-1) a chance to take an early lead. On the first play from scrimmage, running back Mark Antony Richards took off to the outside for a 91-yard touchdown run. The score gave Wellington a 7-0 advantage.
Palm Beach Gardens attempted to convert on a fourth and four, but the Wellington defense refused to let the chains be moved. Four plays later, quarterback Austin Wallace connected with Balitan Celestin on a 67-yard touchdown pass. The score extended Wellington’s first quarter lead to 14-0.
At the start of the second quarter, penalties put Palm Beach Gardens with prime real estate to score. The Wolverines defensive unit forced a fourth and goal, but the Gators threw a short one-yard touchdown pass to close the margin to 14-7.
The Gator defense pressured Wallace, sacking twice, to force a Wolverine punt. Palm Beach Gardens drove to the Wellington two-yard line, where Gator running back Antonio Outler ran in a score that could tie the game. However, Wellington blocked the Gator kick to keep a 14-13 lead at the half. It was the last time that Palm Beach Gardens would find the end zone.
Wellington would later put up a Morgan Suarez 40-yard field goal to extend the lead to 17-13, in addition to forcing two more Gator fumbles.
“Morgan has a big leg, and he is going to compete for the Lou Groza award,” Wellington head coach Tom Abel explained. “He has been striking the ball very good, and you can hear the thud off of his foot and banging it through, and that’s what he did tonight.”
Freshman quarterback Blake Kendall entered the game late in the fourth quarter and added to the Wellington lead when he found Celestin on a 20-yard touchdown pass to lift the Wolverines up 24-13.
“They’re a very worthy opponent. We’ve had some epic battles with Palm Beach Gardens,” Abel said. “You can’t sit on your heels against a good team, and they made some quality adjustments. But, in the end, we saw that the middle of the field was open, and we took a chance. Balitan caught a nice one over the middle and sealed it for us.”
Richards is credited with six carries for 115 yards and a touchdown. Celestin had six catches for 105 yards and tallied two scores, while Suarez logged the 40-yard field goal.
The Wolverines improved to 7-3 overall and 3-1 in district play. They have a week off and will finish the regular season hosting Atlantic High School on Friday, Nov. 2.