Wildcats regular-season win streak snapped at 22
October 4, 2016
Last season, the South Summit High School football team went undefeated in the regular season on its way to a state championship berth. A perfect run before the playoffs begin is hard enough, but doing it for two seasons in a row, with the turnover of graduating players, makes it that much harder.
But when the Wildcats started this season 6-0, including dominant wins in the last three weeks, the feat was within reach. Summit Academy, last Friday's opponent, had different plans, though. Thanks to a hot start, the Bears were able to fend off South Summit in the final minutes 49-42, giving the Wildcats their first loss of the 2016 campaign.
"We have a goal to be region champions, but more so, state champions," said South Summit Head Coach Mike Grajek. "So keeping that in mind, there was disappointment there with the loss."
With the loss, South Summit's winning streak of regular-season games ends at 22.
Summit Academy, in front of its home crowd, found the end zone first with a 21-yard pass from quarterback Isaac Hamilton, who finished the game with 509 yards and four touchdowns, to receiver Baylor Harding. That was just the beginning of a poor start for the Wildcats; by the end of the first quarter, they were trailing the Bears by three possessions, 20-0.
Things didn't get all that much better in the second quarter with the two teams trading scores. South Summit trailed 27-7 by the time the halftime horn sounded.
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"We got off to a slow start and faced a three-touchdown deficit," Grajek said. "Then after that, we just settled down and played Wildcat football."
Summit Academy piled it on with a touchdown right at the end of the third quarter and the game looked all but lost for the Wildcats. Heading into the fourth quarter, they trailed the home team 42-14, a deficit that South Summit hasn't faced for quite some time.
But that Wildcat football in the final frame made for an exciting finish. Despite boasting a strong rushing attack, Grajek was forced to call throwing plays to save the clock and quarterback Nick Beasley came to play. He threw for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and ran for another, playing a part in all 28 points that helped pull South Summit to within a score.
From a 28-point deficit to a chance to steal the game on the road, the Wildcats lined up in the onside kick formation to try and get the ball back with under a minute to go in the game. The failed attempt, though, sealed their fate and gave South Summit its first loss of the season.
"Finishing with 28 points in the fourth quarter, the kids felt like they fought back and there was no quit in the kids. They fought clear to the end," Grajek said.
Despite the loss, Grajek feels that this might be a "humbling experience" for his team. After the weekend, the players were back at practice, watching film with the coaches and preparing for this week's upcoming game against Millard. If anything, Grajek feels as if this might serve as motivation for the remainder of the year.
"I think the kids responded well," Grajek said. "They were excited to go to work and we had a great film session. The detail wasn't lacking. We didn't have our tail between our legs, they were more eager and excited to get to work. … I heard a lot of kids yesterday say, 'Hey, we're gonna see them again. [We] can't wait to play them again.'"
The Wildcats are back in action when they return home to host the Millard Eagles on Friday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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