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Wildcats beat Winfield, get home playoff game

Charles Chaney
cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com
Gannon White races to the end zone to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Winfield Vikings on Friday, Oct. 23. White finished 85 yards rushing

El Dorado overcame the cold and a sluggish first half behind the back of their defense and the legs of Zach Wittenberg to beat the Winfield Vikings 32-14 to finish the regular season.

The win gives El Dorado four on the season, the most the program has seen since 2017.

It is also the first winning season since 2000 when they won seven games.

“It’s great for the team and the school,” El Dorado head coach Wes Bell said. “Now, it’s 0-0.”

It didn’t appear it would happen as Winfield stopped El Dorado on their final three possessions of the half, limiting the opportunities, including forcing a fumble that ended an El Dorado drive at midfield.

“I don’t know who that team was in the first half,” Bell said. “Luckily, we fought through and came through in the second half.”

After leading only 8-7 at the break, Winfield was driving on their first possession when Winfield quarterback Riley Yingling found Aiden Harper downfield for the big pass. However, sophomore defensive back Drew Veatch, who has been tested all game, came up with the biggest play.

Harper, fighting for more yards as Veatch tried to wrestle him to the ground, fumbled and Veatch recovered.

“That’s a testament to how hard these guys work and never quit,” Bell said.

The Wildcats with renewed confidence after the fumble, drove down the field, going nine plays that was capped off by a 39-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Gannon White.

“I just saw the defense adjust and I adjusted,” White said of the run. The quarterback finished with 85 yards rushing and the touchdown.

Last year, Winfield doesn’t fumble the ball. This year, El Dorado stepped up and made big plays and showed confidence in their team to get the stops when needed.

“We’re just different than last year,” Veatch said. “We try so hard and we never want to quit or give up on a play or our teammates.”

The flood gates had been opened.

Another sophomore, Barry Summers stepped in front of a Yingling pass on the very next play from scrimmage, forcing another turnover. The Wildcats marched down the field in another nine plays. This time it was Wittenberg capping off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to push the score to 24-7 with 4:22 remaining in the game.

Wittenberg finished with 249 yards rushing with three touchdowns on 44 carries, which could be a school record.

Winfield scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 10 with 3:10 remaining. However, it was Wittenberg’s big legs that powered through for a 33-yard run after the recovered onside kick and the ensuing touchdown to push it to the game’s final score.

“Everyone worked really hard to night,” Bell said. “From the line to the defense to Zach [Wittenberg].

The Wildcats made sure Winfield struggled to score by not allowing them to touch the ball much in the second half. El Dorado controlled the clock for 19:10 of the 24 minutes in the second half. In the four drives, they forced two turnovers and a turnover on downs.

Now, El Dorado will head back home and prepare for the same Vikings for next week’s Class 4A playoffs. It will be El Dorado’s first home game since 1997 and only the third in school history (1971).

The two schools met in the first round last year, but in Winfield, with the Vikings come out on top 37-0.

“We’re changing the way people look at us,” Veatch said. “We’re no that team from last year or the year’s before.”

That game will kick off at 7 p.m. at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex.

“Whether it’s Winfield or whoever,” White said. “We don’t care. We’ll play anybody.”

El Dorado – 8;0;0;24 – 32

Winfield 7;0;0;7 – 14

1Q (7:27) WIN – 10-yard TD pass from Riley Yingling to Braden Ledford (Austin Bryant kick good).

1Q (5:02) ELDO – 9-yard TD run by Zach Wittenberg (Veatch run good).

4Q (11:25) ELDO – 39-yard TD run by Gannon White (Wittenberg run good).

4Q (4:22) ELDO – 1-yard TD run by Wittenberg (Wittenberg run good).

4Q (3:10) WIN – 65-yard TD pass from Yingling to Trent Beckwith (Bryant kick good).

4Q (2:55) ELDO – 9-yard TD run by Wittenberg (Wittenberg run good).

RUSHING: Winfield – Acosta 5-16; Yingling 5-10; Thomas 6-11; Tate 2-13; Beckwith 1(-2). El Dorado – Wittenberg 44-249; White 11-85; Sundgren 2-10; Wade 3-8; Rice 1-(-1); Veatch 1-(-3).

PASSING C-A-I-YD: Winfield – Yingling 10-21-1-184. El Dorado – White 0-3-0-0.

RECEIVING: Ledford 3-31; Austin 1-21; Beckwith 3-80; Harper 2-48; Thomas 1-4. El Dorado – none.