By Kyle LoJacono
The Wharton football team wasted little time on the road Oct. 12, smashing cross-town rival Freedom 38-0.
Wildcats (4-2) junior quarterback Chase Litton completed his first four passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Both scores were caught by senior wide receiver Keith “KJ” Hopkins, the first for 31 yards and the second for 27.
“Rivalry game,” Hopkins said. “I was so pumped up and ready. On the first touchdown, Chase scrambled, and I was just standing in the end zone waiting. On the second, I was supposed to run a hitch, but I saw the middle wide open, and he saw me break off my route and touchdown. … He always finds us when we’re open.”
Hopkins finished with 214 all-purpose yards. Litton went 15-of-23 passing for 299 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also added a 1-yard rushing score in the third quarter.
Litton said it felt good to get back on the right track after dropping their last two contests.
“It wasn’t a statement game, but it was a game where we needed to reboot,” Litton said. “When I say that, I mean we need to realize we’re not some turnover team. We started out 3-0, and then went 0-2. We got to realize that when we were 3-0 we were on top of the world. Now we were facing adversity, and when you face adversity you have to respond. We did that tonight.”
The Wildcats started to establish a bit of a run game in the second half.
Junior Jeff Keil ran for 31 yards after halftime, including a 2-yard plunge up the middle to put his team ahead 35-0. He also scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter, and finished with 40 yards on the ground.
“Originally I didn’t feel too good, and we weren’t running the ball well,” Keil said. “We came out in the second half ready to run, and we came out running. … I think the scheme that we used in the second half confused them. We were putting a lot of guys in motion, and just the heart. We just found the holes and went.”
Litton added, “Keil just ran all over them. There was that one run where everyone was just clogged up the middle. He just broke two tackles shook a safety and got a 30-yard run. When we establish that it makes the passing so much easier.”
Wharton’s defense locked up the Patriots (2-5), allowing only 49 yards of total offense and two first downs, one coming on a holding penalty. The D also recorded four sacks.
“They’ve done that the whole season, really,” Litton said. “They’ve given up a total of 30 real points on defense. They balled out. These past three weeks have been defensive games, defensive games. They shut down Durant. They shut down Plant. The past two games we just didn’t respond. This game we just responded to let them know that we’re still here.”
The combination of high-powered offense and shutdown defense forced a running clock with about three minutes left in the third quarter.
“I love getting running clocks on them,” Keil said.
It is the third straight victory for the Wildcats against the Patriots. While the win over their rival is nice, Wharton coach David Mitchell said they need to be ready for what looms on the horizon.
“The timing was down, which is good because we really need to get back on the horse here,” Mitchell said. “As I always say, we’ve got to have amnesia right now, and put everything behind us because you know we’ve got Bloomingdale on a short week. Play them on Thursday, and that’s a district game. We need to win it to get in.”
Freedom hosts Class 7A-District 9 rival Gaither Oct. 18, while the Wildcats travel to 8A-6 opponent Bloomingdale. Both games start at 7:30 p.m.
—Follow Kyle LoJacono on Twitter: @Kyle_Laker