Wildcats avoid upset, edge Klein 29-14

Wildcats move to 6-0 ahead of the Bye Week


Christopher Kibler

Senior Joseph Manjack and the Wildcat offense were held to seven first half points against Klein, as junior Sima Dumbuya helped the Wildcats pull away to a 29-14 win in the second half.

Adeen Rao, Staff Writer

The Wildcats went into Klein Memorial Stadium expecting a win in their faceoff against the Klein Bearkats, and senior wideout-turned-quarterback Joseph Manjack’s 71-yard run on the opening play seemed to confirm those expectations.

As Oscar Wilde once said, however, “Expect the unexpected.”

A defensive battle which saw a combined 16 out of 21 offensive drives end without score provided for an unusual sight for the Wildcat faithful. Wildcat fans saw their defense earning their marks, and their offense stumbling.

The Wildcat offense had five turnovers, a 37.5% conversion rate on third and fourth down, and their lowest point total of the season by almost half. Yardage wise, the team put up 536 yards, their lowest mark of the season. That distinction should be taken with a grain of salt, however, as 536 yards would be a season high for four out of the other six teams in the team’s district.

The Wildcats achieved their lowest QBR of the season with a 71.4, which could be attributed to senior Joseph Manjack throwing double the amount of passes than he did in his first two games as signal-caller combined. Manjack had his third straight 200+ yard performance on the ground, complemented by three touchdowns. Manjack came into the game just a day removed from announcing that the University of Southern California, one of the nation’s most prestigious college football programs, had given him a full-ride scholarship to play football.

Complimenting Manjack in the running game was junior Sima Dumbuya, with 119 yards at 6.3 yards per carry. Dumbuya provided a spark in the running game in the second half of the game that was much needed, stringing together a few chunk gains to get the Wildcats their only consecutive scoring drives of the night to open the third quarter.

In the field position game, the Wildcats actually surpassed the 36.7 average starting field they achieved last week vs. Klein Cain by just a smidge, notching 36.8 on Thursday. Much of the Wildcats great field position can be attributed to their defense providing turnovers throughout the game.

“Defense showed out tonight,” assistant coach Ryan Fritsche said. “Cannot stand those people who doubt out defense, just let the record speak for itself.”

Defense held Klein to a measly 136 yards on offense despite the Bearkats gaining back D1-bound tight end Mason Tharp. Senior defensive back Tre Jordan picked up the only Wildcat turnover of the night, a leaping interception after being shoved in the process of the catch by a Klein wideout. Jordan also led the Wildcat defense in tackles with 11, but Thursday night’s defensive performance was a showcase of how the Wildcat defense has just as much of a chance of dictating a game as the Wildcat offense does.

Klein player Mason Tharp stands in front of senior Joseph Manjack while awaiting the coin toss prior to the game.

The defense has been stout on third down the past two weeks, holding opponents to 2/17 on third down against Klein and Klein Cain. Klein’s 12.5% third down conversion rate can be attributed to seven out of their eight third down attempts being from beyond five yards of the first down marker. Numbers like that are thanks to the defensive line clogging up running lanes and forcing runners to cut to the outside allowing for reliable tacklers like senior Jad Oestrike and senior Kaleb Crawford to eat up runners in the backfield.

Additionally, the Wildcat defense held Klein to 2.36 yards/play, more than five yards less than their previous matchup with Klein Cain. The unit was well aware of the threat of Klein’s Mason Tharp, a 6’8″ target, and they held the large tight end to three catches on seven targets for 50 yards and no scores. Junior Dylan Hayward and senior Jad Oestrike achieved the only sacks of the night, but Klein’s lower than normal numbers can be attributed to sound, fundamental pass coverage from the defense.

On the special teams front, it was almost a flawless night for the Wildcats. Senior kicker Lorelai Stramrood made it two weeks in a row being perfect on extra points, and senior Haydon Davis blocked a punt in the end zone to force a safety. However, the Wildcat’s kickoff unit surrendered a 75-yard return touchdown in the lower half of the third quarter, which put a blemish on the special teams night as a whole.

Klein deserves a lot of credit for their defensive performance, as they held the Wildcats to seven first half points, 28 less than their previous low set in the season-opener against Langham Creek. Klein’s offensive game plan provided a better opportunity for the Klein defense to succeed, as they shed lots of the play clock in the first half by neglecting to snap the ball until the last seconds of the play clock, a strategy they abandoned as they lost control of the game.

UP NEXT: A Bye Week, with the Wildcats next matchup being a home conference matchup against Klein Forest on 11/13