Jay Ashley lit it up against Union Grove with four scores.
(Photo by Michael Clifton / www.kombatkamera.com)
Win and you’re in. That’s what it came down to for the Whitewater Wildcats football team in their final game of the regular season at Union Grove. The Wildcats (7-3) did just that, as they dominated in all areas of the game en route to a 36-13 victory—and more importantly a birth in the state tournament.
“I don’t think we could have played any better than we did in that first half,” said Whitewater Coach Amos McCreary, whose team was up 22-0 at the half. “We came out and executed and did some good things early on and (I think) in a game like this, it’s the team that gets up first, and gets the momentum, that's going to win it.”
Even with the magnitude of the game, it was not surprising that Whitewater won the game this decisively as the Wildcats dominated in all four previous meetings between the two schools.
The catalyst for the Wildcats was the play of quarterback Jay Ashley (13-for-16, 142 passing yards), who has stepped up greatly in the final stretch of the regular season. Ashley’s three first half touchdown passes set the tone for the Whitewater. He added a 12 yard TD scramble in the third quarter to put the stamp on a very productive night.
“Jay played great and we had some receivers step up and make some good catches,” McCreary said.
Ashley’s first TD came on a 27 yard hookup with Luke Allen off of play-action with seven minutes left in the first quarter. Nearly two minutes later, Ashley used another play-action pass to find Matt Ogle in the end zone for an 18 yard score. In the second quarter, facing fourth down and four, Ashley rolled out to his right and found Avery Roth on a 19 yard catch and run.
“I think we came out and fired on all cylinders,” Ashley said. “We did what we needed to do. We just wanted it more I think.”
Whitewater’s solid quarterback play was complimented by the effective rushing attack of Christian Wafford and his backup Ryan May. They combined for 190 yards on the ground with May reaching the end zone on a powerful 20 yard run early in the fourth quarter.
Union Grove’s offense was lifeless for much of the contest as the Wildcats forced Wolverine QB Jonathan Slade into a 4 of 16 passing performance. Union Grove starting running back Chad Reaves didn’t fare any better as he was held to just 14 yards on nine carries.
Defensive linemen Matt Ogle and Alex Neal highlighted the Wildcats defensive effort by collectively bringing Slade down in the end zone for a safety late in the second quarter to give Whitewater the 22-0 edge.
Two garbage time touchdowns (four yard run, 15 yard pass to Robby Fouch) courtesy of sophomore Jake Kaufman saved Union Grove (6-4) from being shut out.
The win puts Whitewater back in the Georgia State Playoffs for the second straight year, where they will face Warner Robins (9-1) team on the road in the opening round.
“You always want to have a little momentum going in,” McCreary said. “You never know what can happen now.”