West Brook Gets Revenge, hand Wildcats First Regular Season Defeat in almost Two Years

Late interceptions sealed a 48-34 defeat at the hands of the Bruins

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Adeen Rao

Senior Kale Berter stands over Bruins quarterback Bryce Anderson after wrapping him up for a tackle early in the first quarter of the game.

Adeen Rao, Editor

As they trotted into Beaumont ISD Stadium on Friday, the Wildcats were looking to defend their school-record streak of winning 17 straight regular season games, a streak that dates back to September 13th, 2019. I should say dated, as the Wildcats’ opponent, the West Brook Bruins, stunned the Wildcats, outscoring them 27-7 in the fourth quarter en route to a 48-34 victory.

West Brook fans attended the game fully knowing the result from the matchup between the Wildcats and the Bruins last season, which ended in a 66-63 win for the Wildcats. They also took note of the Wildcats star from that matchup, Joseph Manjack, who just made his debut this past Saturday at the University of Southern California. The Bruins student section chanted “No More Manjack” in an attempt to get in the heads of the Wildcat players, who promptly responded with three straight touchdown drives to open the game, giving them a 20-7 lead midway through the second quarter.

Going into the game, the key battle was going to be how the Wildcat defense was going to handle Bruins quarterback Bryce Anderson, and they started off flying with an early three-and-out. However, the next Bruins drive featured an Anderson quarterback draw taken the distance for a score, despite all the Wildcat defensive coaches hollering at their defenders that the play was going to be as such. Moments like that are when Wildcat fans realized that Anderson, who runs a sub-10.5 second 100 meter dash, was going to be a problem. Nonetheless, the Wildcat defense held Anderson and the Bruins offense to a mere 14 points heading into the locker room at halftime. Prior to the game in my preview article, I mentioned that senior Linebackers Kale Berter and Jesus Castanon were going to be key in containing Anderson and the two were key on Friday as they led the team in tackles combining for 19 while Berter also forced a fumble. The defensive line combined for three sacks, five quarterback hurries, and a fumble recovery while sophomore Colin Helmer highlighted the secondary’s performance with the Wildcats sole interception in the bout.

Senior Defensive Lineman Jared Durett pointing to the sky in celebration after a key sack in the third quarter. (Adeen Rao)

Trends in the Wildcat offense that were noticed in the Nimitz game were maximized in this game, as the Wildcats were again desperately trying to establish the running game but could not, leaving the passing game as the only reliable method to gaining big chunks of yardage throughout the entire game. The rushing attack was headed by junior quarterback Reed Odell and senior tailback Richard Rodriguez, who combined for 116 yards rushing and touchdowns at 3.6 yards per carry. The Wildcat receiving core’s big three consists of juniors Chase Lovick and Cory O’Bryant, alongside senior Zach Fields, for a combined total of 11 receptions, 340 yards, and four touchdowns. Their average of 30 yards per reception, while beneficial, made for many quick scoring Wildcat drives which in turn combined with the vastly ambivalent Bruins offensive approach of running the ball and wore down the Wildcats defense as the game progressed.

Sophomore Cory O’Bryant makes a leaping grab that he would run in for a touchdown early in the first quarter vs West Brook (Adeen Rao)

In the latter stages of the game, Wildcat coaches and players began to question the refereeing of the game, as many momentous calls and spots of the ball favored the Bruins, including a 4th and 17 reception that seemingly was stopped a yard short of the line to gain but was spotted just ahead of it, leading to an easy Bruins touchdown moments later. However, the Wildcats shot themselves in the foot time-and-time again throughout the game, failing to convert from 1st and Goal at the Bruins five yard line and often dropping passes on both the offensive and defensive side of the football which you could argue were pivotal in determining the result of this game.

For the second game in a row, both Odell and sophomore Lane Stockton got chances to showcase their talent at quarterback, with the two combining 13/24 for 363 yards and four touchdowns, but the glaring stat being two interceptions, both of which coming in the final two minutes of the game. The first of the interceptions came from an Odell throw down the middle and was returned all the way to the end zone by the Bruins, sealing the Wildcats fate in the game.

Special teams wise, sophomore Hayden Winsor excelled for the second game in a row in the punting game, averaging 43.3 yards per punt pinning one of his three punts inside the 20. Senior Burke Aubele started off the game shaky by missing an extra point, but rebounded and converted four out of five PATs.

While it is a tough loss for the Wildcats, the coaches have maintained that the purpose of this non-conference slate, which will see the Wildcats visit Top-15 Spring tomorrow, is to prepare them for the district games later in the season that determine their playoff hopes. The way this group handles this fresh breath of adversity will be a key factor in how their season plays out.