The best ability is availability. The Wildcats know this all too well, as they have suffered through injuries of several key players this season. With the return of many of those players on Friday night, the Wildcats looked like a completely different team as they dominated Circle at home by a score of 34-14.
In week two, a 19-6 loss to Buhler, the Wildcats lost several key player to injury.
“It was a very, very physical game that knocked out five or six starters that play both sides of the football,” said El Dorado head coach Bill Shaw.
“It has taken a while to get everybody back, and we’re still not 100 percent.”
With the return of many of those players tonight, including senior tailback Braden Morgan, the team controlled the game from start to finish in a battle of two teams with a record of 1-3.
Morgan provided a reliable run game, finishing the night with 226 yards and two touchdowns, while breaking dozens of broken tackles.
“Having Braden Morgan back in the lineup, his physical presence sends a message,” said Shaw.
Morgan was faced with a heavier workload tonight, due to a high ankle sprain suffered by junior running back Jackson Schell.
El Dorado senior quarterback Cody Wittenberg also had a phenomenal night, finishing with two touchdowns on the ground and one through the air to senior Zach Buckley.
Morgan scored his first touchdown of the night on the Wildcats opening drive. El Dorado put together an 11-play drive after the opening kickoff to take a 6-0 lead. Neither team scored again until Cody Wittenberg scampered in from five yards out with 1:16 remaining in the half. Braden Morgan put the Wildcats up 14-0 with the two-point conversion.
Circle threatened to score on their first drive of the second half, as some costly El Dorado penalties gave the Thunderbirds a first down at the El Dorado 22 yard line. After two sacks in the following three plays, the Thunderbirds were forced into a fourth-and 35 situation and had to give the ball back to the Wildcats.
After a three-and-out possession by both offenses, El Dorado got the ball back. On the sixth play of the drive, Braden Morgan broke loose for a 51-yard touchdown run to give El Dorado 20-0 lead right before the end of the third quarter.
Circle finally showed signs of life early in the fourth quarter as Luke Myers hit Jake Miler on a 12-yard touchdown pass. Myers found Kaden Smith in the end zone on the two-point conversion to make it 20-8.
Braden Morgan ripped off another long run on El Dorado’s next possession, taking the ball down to the two yard line. After a fumbled snap, El Dorado found themselves facing a fourth down from the nine yard line. Wittenberg found Zack Buckley across the middle for a nine-yard touchdown on fourth down with 7:36 left in the game.
With 3:34 remaining, Luke Myers threw another touchdown pass, this time to Jacob Brand for 21 yards to make it 26-14.
Two minutes later, Cody Wittenberg scored again on a four-yard touchdown run, and followed it up by finding the end zone for the two-point conversion to put El Dorado up 34-14 with 69 seconds left in the contest.
Last week Circle won their first football game in over two years, defeating Rose Hill 20-10.
“We were very concerned about [Circle]. They looked really good last Friday night, beating Rose Hill,” said Shaw.
“We just physically wore them down. We’re pleased with the effort tonight.”
The Wildcats are now 2-3 on the season, and believe they should win the remaining games on their schedule.
“Obviously this football team was highly motivated to play their arch-rival tonight, but we’ve got to take that same intensity the rest of the way out. We look at our schedule and feel like if things don’t go backwards somehow, we could make a run and win the rest of the way out,” added Shaw.
El Dorado’s remaining opponents are Winfield (2-3), Mulvane (3-2), and Augusta (1-4). If the Wildcats were to win out, they would finish 5-3. No El Dorado football team has finished above .500 in over a decade, but this year’s squad has the chance to make their mark on the program.
The Wildcats will travel to Winfield next Friday to take on the Vikings at 7 p.m., while Circle will host Buhler (2-3).