The El Dorado Wildcats kept their postseason hopes alive by routing their Butler Country rival for their first win in their new home at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex 39-7 Friday night.
The victory was the Wildcats' first home win since the 2008-09 El Dorado team beat Augusta 28-7. The victory was also the first for EHS first-year head coach Jared Anderson.
"I am real proud of our guys, we have fought and battled all season. We have been in some close games and some not-so-close games, but we got our first win at home and we go into next week hoping to get something done," said Anderson.
The Wildcats set the tone for the game from the opening kickoff as El Dorado got a stop on defense to begin the game.
The Wildcats took over on their 31 yard line and drew first blood on a Travis House quarterback keeper going for 34 yards to pay dirt. The Wildcats led Circle 7-0 with 7:36 to go in the first quarter.
"We wanted to pick up the tempo on them early and set the tone early with our run game and, despite them having eight guys in the box all game, we kept running it. We wanted to make a statement and our kids responded really well to that," said Anderson.
On their second offensive possession, the Wildcats doubled their advantage when Travis House found Isaac Johnson on a 29-yard go route for a touchdown, the second of the first quarter.
On Circle's next offensive set, the Wildcat defense came up big again and forced a turnover on defense as Tucker Sherman recovered a fumble. With the short field, El Dorado capitalized when Travis House ran for his second touchdown, breaking several would-be tacklers on a 14-yard quarterback draw.
Following the House touchdown, El Dorado went for the jugular with a onside kick and it was recovered by the kicker House at the 50 yard line. An unsportsmanlike penalty moved the Wildcats to the Circle 35 yard line.
A few plays later, El Dorado struck again when House threw his second touchdown of the game to Kody Melugin a 28-yard strike. The Wildcats went up 26-0 with 10:09 in the second quarter.
El Dorado looked to add to its tally late in the second quarter, but a Wildcat fumble on the 1 yard that was recovered by Circle's Clayton Perry for a touchback halted that effort. Circle quarterback Jake Smith threw a hail mary at the end of the half and was intercepted by Brandon Triboletti and the Wildcats took a commanding 26-0 lead into the locker room at the half.
The Wildcats fumbled on their first drive of the second half and Circle drove into El Dorado territory. Circle cut the deficit by getting on the board on a three-yard carry by Kaden Fowler. El Dorado led 26-7 with 7:47 left in the third quarter.
Page 2 of 2 - El Dorado answered Circle's score with a solid drive that was capped off by House's third rushing touchdown of the game. House followed his fullback on a one-yard plunge to go up 32-7 with 3:56 left in the third.
Garrett Howland crushed Circle's hopes of a late comeback by stopping Jake Smith on fourth down short of the first-down markers.
"It was real nice to play here and get the win. It is all about next week and taking the win into next week," said senior Gage Armstrong.
Armstrong put the icing on the cake for the Wildcats, scoring on a 14-yard rush to put El Dorado up 39-7 with less than three minutes left in the game.
"Travis (House) really stepped up for us tonight to go along with our other seniors, and our underclassmen, like Dacota Motter and Zac Ruff, came up big for us," said Armstrong.
Motter intercepted a pass for El Dorado to clinch the game for the Wildcats.
"I am proud of our seniors, they have worked hard for four years and had not won at home until tonight and it feels good for them," said Anderson. "One more week for us, and we have split this season into four quarters and right now we are in the third quarter, I want to get to the fourth quarter," said Anderson.
El Dorado plays Hesston next Thursday at home for a chance to make the playoffs.