“It was a really hard-fought game, one of those games where you hate to see one team have to take a loss,” Pardue said. “My hat is off to [Whitewater head coach] Amos [McCreary] and those guys. They did a heck of a job. Our guys just kept fighting. It was a battle of wills out there tonight.”
Both defenses held the upper hand for most of the first quarter and a half, but the offensive units found their rhythm late.
Following an East Coweta punt into the Whitewater end zone for a touchback, the Wildcats took over on their 20-yard line with nine minutes to go before halftime. With the score tied at 7-7, senior quarterback Jay Ashley led a 10-play, 80-yard march, capped off by a 30-yard touchdown pass to running back Christian Wafford, to give Whitewater a 14-7 lead with a little over four minutes left in the quarter.
But the Indians responded on their ensuing possession. Mixing passes by sophomore quarterback Will LaGuardia and runs by sophomore running back Devonte Brown, East Coweta drove 45 yards to the Whitewater 19 yard line, where senior kicker Cole Antley nailed a 36-yard field goal as time expired to cut the deficit to 14-10 at halftime.
Midway through the third quarter, the Indians took advantage of a Whitewater turnover to take the lead for good. With the ball at the Wildcat 41-yard line, Ashley and Wafford fumbled a zone-read handoff and East Coweta recovered. Six plays later, LaGuardia snuck in from inside the 1-yard line on fourth and goal for a 17-14 lead.
Whitewater would commit three more costly turnovers, one inside the East Coweta 20-yard line late in the third quarter. With just under four minutes left in regulation, the Indians thwarted another Wildcat drive on an interception by senior cornerback MaKenzie Martin. The offense failed to produce a first down, but Antley came up big again, this time with a booming 50-yard punt that penned Whitewater at its 12-yard line with 1:55 remaining and no time outs.