Warriors start new streak
Maybe it’s appropriate players named Wiggins and Warnick led the way to putting the “W” back into Whittell Warriors football on Saturday.
Whittell High’s team – and maybe its program – rallied back from the brink of football death on Saturday to win its first game in more than two years, 24-22 over visiting Incline. With the win, the Warriors erased a 14-point lead, snapped a 21-game losing streak, and announced their presence in the Northern Nevada 3A Division II, with a league win. Whittell last won in the 1996 regular season before losing all their games in 1997 and 1998, forfeiting the 1999 opener to Battle Mountain, and losing to Rite of Passage Sept. 11.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Wiggins, a two-way starter for Whittell at running back and defensive back. “I’d probably give most of the credit to our line. All I do is run, and they do all the work up front.
“We just never lost heart.”
Wiggins did more than just run. He also lead the way for junior running mate Chauncey Lane as a blocker, picked off an Incline pass, picked up a key fumble, and barreled through Incline’s goal-line defense for the two-point conversion that provided Whittell with their margin of victory. Wiggins finished with 101 yards on nine carries, while Lane, who followed his teammate’s blocks most of the day, finished with 106 yards on 10 carries, and two touchdowns. Wiggins, who three times left the field for the sideline in apparent pain, said nothing would have kept him out of the game.
“We all did a great job,” Wiggins said. “We all worked our butts off, and it paid off for us.”
Warnick was equally impressive on defense. He highlighted his 15-tackle linebacking effort with a play that simultaneously crippled Incline’s offense and set up Whittell’s improbable rally. After building a 22-8 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Highlanders drove inside Whittell’s 20 and appeared ready to put the game away. On second and goal from the six, Warnick popped the ball loose from Incline running back David Walker, and Wiggins pounced on it.
“The coach called a blitz for me as middle linebacker, and I just blitzed in there as fast as I could, and got to the quarterback before he could give it to the running back,” said Warnick, a junior.
The play killed Incline’s drive. It also swung the momentum back toward Whittell. One play later, Warriors quarterback Trent Gordon tossed an 89-yard touchdown bomb to wideout Luke Forvilly. Lane rambled in for the two-point conversion, and Whittell cut Incline’s margin to 22-16 with nearly 12 minutes to play.
“Joel Warnick made a nice play, and we put two plays back-to-back,” said Whittell head coach John Summers, who finally received the traditional Gatorade shower after earning his first win in his second season as Whittell’s head coach. “They seemed to get their second wind then.”
The Whittell defense killed off three more Incline drives in the quarter. Incline pushed as far as Whittell’s 35 on the second of those, as the clock dipped near the four-minute mark. The defense responded, hitting Highlander backs for two losses on first and second downs. Whittell snapped the Highlander offense back, despite the fact most of its line – Matt Miller, Matt Lincoln, Jacob Corners, Mike Kiger and Jake Summers – played every snap on offense.
“It feels great,” said Miller, the only senior and the only 1998 starter who returned to the line. “So much pressure is taken off. It’s just the greatest feeling in the world.”
A motion penalty gave Incline third and 25 at the 50, and an incompletion forced the Highlanders to punt.
Wiggins moved Whittell in for the kill with a 43-yard return. Two plays later, Lane rambled in from 17 yards out to tie the score at 22 with 1:51 left. Wiggins rumbled through Incline’s defense for the go-ahead conversion on the next play.
Incline pushed ahead one more time, getting as far as Whittell’s 45-yard line as the clock approached the one-minute mark. Following three Incline incompletions, a 15-yard clipping penalty and a 15-yard pass to Walker, Incline quarterback Ben Langridge faced fourth and 15. Lane and junior defensive back Richard Fore both tipped the last-gasp pass, giving Whittell first and 10 near midfield.
But Whittell’s work wasn’t done. Incline called time-out twice, and forced Whittell to make one more play on third and seven with less than 30 seconds left. Gordon picked up six yards on a keeper around the left side. On fourth and one, he plunged ahead, the Warriors picked up the first down, and ran the clock out on their first win since 1996.
“We’re starting to work as a team, I think, and we’re starting to come together as one,” Warnick said.
As famous as Whittell’s losing streak has become, its end is not the first thought in the minds of the Warriors. Whittell now is 1-0 in Division II, with at least three more teams on the schedule Summers considers beatable – two of them the next two weekends. The Warriors, 1-2 after forfeiting their first game to Battle Mountain and losing at Rite of Passage, may bring a new attitude to practice today.
“It’s tough coming back on Monday every week when you’re not having much success, or having success and not winning,” Summers said. “It’d be nice to put two together now.”
Whittell will have just that chance Friday, when it travels to Dayton for a 7:30 p.m. game with the Dust Devils.
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