Week 1 Recap

Watterson 16, Walnut Ridge 6

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Football has seen many changes through the years, but one thing remains constant: The smarter, more fundamentally sound team usually winds up the winner.

Visiting Walnut Ridge seemed to throw an entire playbook at Watterson’s defense last night, but the Eagles never blinked and carved out a 16-6 nonleague victory at Hagely Field.

“We knew they were really fast, and they were going to show us a lot of spread and try to get their athletes in space,” Watterson senior linebacker Jack Haley said. “We had to meet their intensity, play assignment football and just rely on each other to do their jobs. The coaches did a phenomenal job in getting us ready for this game.”

Teddy Walter and Ben Kaminski each made fourth-quarter interceptions of Malik Harrison that sealed Watterson’s second straight opening win over Walnut Ridge, which managed just eight first downs and was thoroughly dominated on special teams.

“I thought we played some pretty good defense, but it’s hard to say whether that’s going to be the strength of our team this early because we’re going to see a lot of different type offenses the next few weeks,” Eagles coach Dan Bjelac said.

“As for Walnut Ridge, we knew they were a good football team with a dangerous offense. We had some film, but we knew they had a new offensive coordinator (Anthony Thornton), and they might try some different wrinkles. We had a lot of inexperienced kids out there, but they showed us a lot in terms of staying disciplined. 

“We made a few mistakes that cost us, but nothing that we couldn’t make up for.”

Walnut Ridge coach Byron Mattox shook his head at his offense’s inability to sustain drives or create big plays.

“We couldn’t find our rhythm, but I have to attribute a lot of that to Watterson,” he said. “I’d like to think we have big-play athletes and big-play capability, but they seemed to know everything we were going to run at times. They’re coached up really well. Give it them. We’ve got to go back to the film and find out how to eliminate mistakes and get better.”

Quarterback Sam Maglicic capped a 10-play, 59-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter.

Michael Harper made the first of his three field goals with 5:36 left in the half to give the Eagles a 10-0 lead.

Walnut Ridge responded with a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive that was capped by a somewhat fluky 23-yard touchdown catch and run by Jaisean Johnson in which he took a screen from Harrison, avoided two tacklers, reversed his field and scooted into the end zone.

“They went to halftime with a little bit of momentum, but we didn’t let it get us down,” Kaminski said.

Coming out of halftime, Bjelac attempted an onside kick that Walnut Ridge recovered, but the Scots were assessed successive 15-yard penalties for late hits and squandered the opportunity. Most of the Scots’ best plays came on scrambles by Harrison.

Harper tacked on field goals of 25 and 40 yards and sent all of his kickoffs and punts soaring over the heads of would-be returners.

“He’s a huge weapon for us,” Bjelac said, “especially when we’re not able to punch it in the end zone. When you’re playing good defense and special teams, you like your chances.”

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