By Richard Sharp
Lake Area Sports
HECTOR-Leading 8-6 at the half and 22-20 after three quarters of play, the Hector Wildcats got some much needed insurance in the final session while holding their opposition in the Quitman Bulldogs scoreless to hold on for a 30-20 victory in each team’s conference and regular season finales.
Hector senior Gunner Garrison opened up the scoring with a 20-yard dash up the middle to the endzone using a quarterback keep play to trick the Quitman defense, clipping on a two-point conversion courtesy of a run from classmate Jacob Casto with 3:34 in the opening quarter.
The Bulldogs would answer on the ensuing drive, beginning with a 35-yard run from junior quarterback William Litton that would end up setting the table for a connection from Litton to Trevor Locke, who took it to the house on a 45-yard play to cut their deficit to two at 8-6.
Following a scoreless second quarter, both teams combined for 28 points over the course of the third period, starting off with a touchdown from Garrison on a short run with 7:43 left, pushing it to a double-digit advantage at 16-6 following a two-point run from Casto crossed the plain.
It wouldn’t take long for the visitors to respond as Litton threaded the needle to Locke for a 70-yard touchdown before throwing to senior Erin Mathes for a successful two-point conversion, making it 16-14.
The speedster Ty Day brought the Wildcats within the red zone before Garrison took back over the reins and slashed his way in for yet another touchdown, coming up short on a two-point try to keep it a one-possession game with Quitman taking over possession.
Litton got the Bulldogs past midfield on a 20-yard run before an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the ball back near the 50, leading to Litton lining out a long pass to Mathes that was tipped and then caught for a gain of 43 yards as the next play resulted in Litton running it in the rest of the way for six points, trailing 22-20 with one quarter remaining to be played.
Quitman forced a three-and-out to get the football in great field position around the 45, however the Bulldogs had to punt right back after going three-and-out, giving the ball back to the hosts with 3:16 left in the contest.
Senior Austin Haynes got to Garrison for the quarterback sack to bring up third and seven, but Garrison pitched to Day on the next play, who would find sophomore Landon Coffman for a 37-yard completion, putting the nail in the coffin courtesy of a 25-yard touchdown run from Day, who would also break through for a two-pointer, holding the Bulldogs at bay the last 34 seconds to hang on for the victory.
Litton stuffed the statsheet once again after completing 16 of 28 passes for 280 yards for a touchdown while also rushing 18 times for an additional 117 yards. Locke led the receiving game with 10 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown, followed by Mathes hauling in two receptions for 61 yards.
The defense was guided by four Bulldogs who racked up double digit tackles in senior Jett Silor (17), Litton (15), Mathes (14) and senior Austin Haynes (11). As for total offense, Quitman accumulated 412 yards and 12 first downs on 50 plays, compared to Hector’s 359 yards and 17 first downs on 53 plays.
The Bulldogs (5-5) hosted Murfreesboro (5-5) in the first round of the Class 2A State Playoffs, the first time in school history the program has gotten the honor to host one such game. Stay tuned for the full story in next week’s edition.