RICHMOND HILL, GA -- The monkey’s off their back.
The Richmond Hill Wildcats (1-3) (1-0) secured their first victory of the season in the Region 2-6A opener against the Bradwell Institute Tigers (0-3) (0-1).
The Tigers came from Hinesville to Richmond Hill to attempt to play spoiler of the Wildcats’ homecoming.
But the Wildcats and their fans happily left Wildcat Stadium with a 37-14 win over the Tigers.
The Tigers received the ball first, starting with a promising drive led by rushes by Michael Prince.
That came to an end once a flag pushed them back to 2nd and 25 with their drive ending two plays later.
“Our first drive, we have an opportunity to put seven on the board and we have an overthrow,” Tigers head coach Deshon Brock said in the locker room after the game. “Then we had a bad snap and a penalty that ends the drive for us. Those things are drive killers and we cannot consistently do that and expect to have winning outcomes. We stopped ourselves and got to get out of our own way in order to achieve success.”
When the Wildcats got the ball, they gained about 30 yards but was forced to punt back to the Tigers, who would just punt it back to the Wildcats before the first quarter ended.
Getting the ball on the Tigers’ 35, the Wildcats scored two plays into the second quarter after Caleb Easterling rushed the ball to the goal line, setting up Ty Goldrick to score on a QB sneak for the first score of the night with 11:32 left in the second quarter.
This was the beginning of 21 unanswered points for the Wildcats.
With 10 minutes left in the second quarter, The Tigers were pinned deep in their own zone, being forced to punt.
The punt was blocked by Hayden McCullough, leading the Wildcats to jump on the ball in the endzone, taking a 14-0 lead.
The Wildcats had three blocked punts on the evening: two by Tommy Bliss and one by McCullough.
Then with a little under five minutes left in second quarter, the reached the redzone once again before Zion Gilliard rushed for a 5-yard touchdown to 21 skunk the Tigers.
“Our guys were just executing,” Wildcats head coach Matt LeZotte said following the victory. “They were doing everything that we asked and that’s the most important part.”
It was time for the Tigers to do something.
Set up by a return to midfield by Jah Besant, the Tigers put together their own run to endzone, setting up in the endzone for quarterback Armando Hall to scramble for a 5-yard run for a touchdown to bring their deficit to 21-7 with 2:15 left in the first half.
Before the half, the Wildcats got in another score with the Goldrick finding Ravon Grant running free for a 50-yard touchdown pass.
Goldrick had a bounce back performance from the Northside game, passing for 196 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
His top target Ravon Grant had five catches for 137 yards and a touchdown.
The Wildcats missed the PAT.
With 31 seconds left in until halftime, the Tigers tried to get a score before the break, but Hall threw an interception to Ravon Grant.
No scores were made in the third quarter, but the Tigers had an opportunity after forcing a fumble on the Wildcats’ first drive of the second half.
The Tigers recovered on the Wildcat 38 and reached the two-yard line but turned the ball over on downs.
“We had our opportunities and chances, and we didn’t take advantage of them,” Brock said. “We have to hone in and understand situational football. We get in the redzone and have a formation bust at the two which backs us up to 3rd and 10 from the 12. We can’t do those things to ourselves and expect a different outcome. Once we execute, we’ll start winning ball games.”
The Wildcats scored one more touchdown off a Ryan Dekle 1-yard rush in the fourth quarter along with two field goals.
Dekle rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
“We rushed and threw the ball really well,” LeZotte said. “We were more patient in our run game which allowed us to stick with it a little bit longer.”
In the final seven minutes, the Tigers scored a garbage time touchdown when Hall hit Kamarion Melvin for a 65-yard touchdown pass.
The Wildcats will go to Statesboro next week for another Region 2-6A matchup.
“We’re ready for Statesboro,” LeZotte said. “All the focus goes to Statesboro. We’re taking this one step at a time. We’ve had a fantastic showing and got very tough team ahead of us and they’re going to get all of our attention.”
The Tigers will host Glynn Academy next week in a region battle.
“We’re going to get back to work on Sunday as coaches and reevaluate the plays that we called,” Brock said. “Every spot is open for competition. The best 11 is going to play. And Monday we’re going to come to work ready to play against a talented Glynn Academy team. We’re going to put in the work as coaches to make sure we put these kids in the best possible situation to win this ball game. Our kids want to win, and they’re tired of having this outcome, so we have to do something a little different.”