CHILDRESS – The difference between a finished product and a work in progress, at least in terms of the playoffs, was rarely more pronounced than it was Thursday night at Fair Park Stadium.
At least that’s what the West Plains Wolves can take out of their first season as a football program, as they produced something which showed genuine promise.
That didn’t mean a whole lot in terms of on field success in a Class 4A Division I area round game against Wichita Falls Hirschi. Far more established Hirschi simply made too many plays for first-year West Plains to keep up, which meant that the Wolves saw their first year end with a 42-17 defeat.
If nothing else, the Huskies can serve as a reference point for West Plains (7-5) in developing a program which has begun auspiciously and looks as if it has a long way to go.
“They’ve got good athletes and when you’ve got that kind of talent you’ve got to play disciplined,” West Plains coach Adam Cummings said of the Huskies. “That’s the playoffs. You’ve got to play at a high level and you’ve got to be consistent. This is the level we want to play at against the best teams.”
Big plays were the difference throughout, and they mostly went against West Plains. Hirschi (9-2) had three scoring plays over 40 yards and never trailed, as the Wolves struggled to stay in the game after the first quarter.
The Wolves had a tremendous opportunity late in the first quarter trailing 7-0 but couldn’t fully capitalize.
Hirschi’s Jimmell McFalls, who scored on a 1-yard run on fourth and goal to open the scoring, fumbled at the Hirschi 9-yard line and it looked like a huge turning point for the Wolves. But West Plains couldn’t get further than the Hirschi 3, and Joseph Estrada kicked a 20-yard field goal to cut it to 7-3.
“At that point we were just trying to get points,” Cummings said. “I thought we had a shot to punch it in. Again, credit to (Hirschi).”
On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Hirschi’s Terrius Causey hit Wagonner on an out pattern, and Wagonner turned it into a 69-yard scoring pass to make it 14-3 before the end of the quarter.
That was just the first example of Hirschi’s speed advantage in the first half. Causey hit another big pass late in the second quarter, hitting Jamarion Carroll for a 46-yard gain up the sideline to the West Plains 23. A’Marion Peterson carried it in on the next play for a 21-3 lead.
The Huskies got the ball back in the final two minutes and scored with 18 seconds left in the half on a 26-yard pass from McFall to Jordan Petty to make it 28-3.
Freshman quarterback Reid Macon, who was near-perfect in the 56-7 bidistrict win over Pecos, was 11-for-30 for 87 yards and often ran for his life. It didn’t help that his receivers had a hard time getting open down the field.
The only real bright spot offensively for the Wolves was the performance of junior running back Jordi Hernandez, the team’s most consistent offensive weapon this season. Hernandez ran for a game-high 160 yards on 27 carries, and had the only two touchdowns for West Plains on two fourth quarter running scores.
“It was nerve-wracking at first,” Hernandez said. “It felt like it took just a little bit to get into it. I’d say we didn’t exceed our expectations because we definitely could have gone further, but we did what we could and played our hearts out.”
Hernandez can leave the game claiming to have outrushed Peterson, who has committed to USC. Peterson still ended up with 149 yards on 22 carries and also caught a 48-yard touchdown pass.
The Wolves can take things like that into next season and know that they’re on a track faster than most people could have figured.
“I like being in that spot,” Cummings said. “I like it when the expectations are high. There’s more pressure and I think that brings out the best in people. The thing about football and competitive athletics is the whole idea about competition that raises the standards.”