Whitney muscles up, but Central’s speed too much

McNally praises Wildcats’ progress
By: Jim Linsdau, Sports Editor
-A +A

Although a 49-10 loss typically would not be looked upon as improvement, in the eyes of the Whitney High football program it was a step up.

The Wildcats suffered their second loss of the young season, but neither the coaches nor the players considered those games anything more than a learning process.

Whitney lost 42-28 in their opener against Placer and lost by 39 to Central of Fresno Friday, but a coach’s discerning eye understood the difference and measured the progress.

“The physicality that is what we emphasized this week. Physicality, last week that was an issue,” said Wildcats new head coach Zac McNally. “Placer is a physical team, so that was the emphasis this week was understanding leverage, physicality and just coming out of the gates and being an attacking-style football team offense and defense.

“We’ve still got eight more opportunities,” McNally added. “It’s football. We’ll try and go 1-0 next week.”

Next week is a renewed meeting with previous Pioneer Valley League foe Lincoln. The game is in Zebra Town for that community’s Stars and Stripes game honoring law enforcement, fire protection and military.

Against Central Friday, Whitney got a dose of pure speed.

Receiving the kickoff to open the game, the ‘Cats drove to the Grizzlies’ 19-yard line. After turning the ball over, Central’s drive stalled and they punted to Whitney’s 33-yard line.

On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Robert Jones hit junior running back Nick Miller. Miller blazed down the sideline for a touchdown and Zach Schreiner added the point-after kick for a 7-0 lead.

After the following kickoff return was stopped by a saving tackle, the Grizzlies covered 65 yards on three pass plays to even the score 7-7.

On the Wildcats’ next possession, they drove to Central’s 26, where Schreiner’s field-goal attempt missed the mark. Entering the second quarter, the Grizzlies backed Whitney up to their 4-yard line with a punt.

Jones and Miller began to mix pass and run to reach the 44, but three straight penalties move the ‘Cats back to their 29.

After Whitney was forced to punt, the visitors went 61 yards, helped in part by a first down conversion on fourth down, and scored again. After another Wildcats’ punt, Central scored on a 41-yard TD pass, with 1:54 remaining in the half.

Following Jones’ third punt of the period, the Grizzlies scored on a 47-yard pass play, raising the score to 28-7 at the half.

After falling behind 35-7 in the third quarter, Whitney defensive lineman Brody Stone fell on a Central fumble at the visitor’s 18-yard line. That set up a 37-yard Schreiner field goal to cut the Grizzlies’ lead to 35-10, but that would end the scoring for the ‘Cats.

Central closed out the game scoring on a 95-yard kickoff return and a 35-yard pass play.

“Central had a bunch of speed and we’ve just got to make plays and execute. Central made the plays down the stretch that we didn’t make,” said Jones, shrugging off the loss. “You’ve just got to start from scratch. You can’t dwell on the past or anything that’s gone before. This isn’t the end for us; this is nothing.”

Jones and company did take good care of the ball, with zero turnovers. The senior had 280 yards passing and 33 rushing.

Miller had 94 yards on the ground and 85 through the air. He also returned a kickoff 30 yards.

Although the Grizzlies had 392 yard passing, they had just 189 rushing, with no ball carrier breaking the century mark.

Defensively, Central’s pass defense was superb; helped in part by the backfield’s amazing speed.

“We’ve still got eight more opportunities. It’s football. We’ll try and go 1-0 next week,” McNally said. “These kids are resilient and I’m really excited about their growth individually and collectively. … I’m really happy with the progress; it’s just that we have to continue climbing up this mountain.”

The Stars and Stripes contest in Lincoln is set for 7 p.m. Friday.