The Wellington High School football team traveled to a neutral location Thursday, Sept. 26 to take on Forest Hill High School and defeated the fifth-ranked Falcons 17-6. The game was played at Santaluces High School due to field issues at Forest Hill.
The Wolverine victory was led by a stellar performance by the defensive line, combining for 10 sacks on the night. The Wellington defense also forced two fumbles and picked off the Falcon quarterback three times. Two of the interceptions landed in the hands of senior safety Jagger Ruiz.
The newcomer to football has taken his three years of basketball experience onto the gridiron to play a critical role, averaging one interception per game. “I just wanted to get bigger and get more scholarships for college,” Jagger explained. “I’m open to playing football in college. Basketball translates into football and football translates into basketball, because my defense is improving.”
Jagger returned his second pick 60 yards, nearly scoring. He also had a third interception in the end zone that was nullified by a penalty.
The Wolverines’ option to defer to the second half paid off early. Wellington’s defense forced a fumble inside the Forest Hill 10-yard line and recovered the rock. Two plays later, running back Joshua Schwartz powered in from two yards out to lift the Wolverines into the lead 7-0.
Forest Hill found some momentum and elected to attempt to convert on a fourth-and-inches, but a stubborn Wellington defense denied the Falcons. The Wolverines quickly struck again when quarterback Blake Kendall connected with receiver Adrian Hector on a 48-yard touchdown pass to extend the Wellington advantage to 14-0 with 1:20 left in the first quarter.
The Wellington defense continued to pressure the Forest Hill offense, but penalties helped move the chains for the Falcon offense. The defense stopped a Falcon threat of closing the margin, but a Wolverine fumble gave Forest Hill a second chance. The Falcons drove in their first score from 2 yards out to make the score 14-6 in the second quarter.
The Wolverines fell victim to an onside kick, something the team typically relies on through the season. The Falcons recovered but were unable to convert the possession into points. The Wellington defense forced another Falcon fumble that paved the way for the offense to cap a 62-yard drive with a Morgan Suarez 37-yard field goal to lift the Wolverines up 17-6. That score would hold until the end.
The Wellington offense struggled to add to the lead, while the defense got more aggressive. The Wolverines picked off a Falcon pass inside the Wellington 5-yard line on Forest Hill’s final drive of the game.
Schwartz, also at linebacker on the defense, stepped in front of the Forest Hill receiver and returned nearly 50 yards to put Wellington in Forest Hill territory, where the Wolverines would run out the remaining time on the clock to secure the win.
“We have three running backs, so I feel it adds diversity to our offense,” Schwartz said of playing on both sides of the ball. “It feels great being able to run the ball.”
Defensive end Mike Cotter led the defense with five sacks, and Stephen Passeggiata recorded three. Tackle Isaiah Favors and Schwartz teamed up for two and a forced fumble.
Wellington (2-4, 1-1) is at home Friday, Oct. 4 for homecoming and will host Boca Raton High School at 6:30 p.m.