'Doubters' motivate Whitefield Academy, defeats Darlington to advance to GHSA 1A Div. 1 second round
On Friday the Whitefield Academy Wolfpack kept their season alive as they defeated the Darlington Tigers 28-14 in the opening round of the Georgia High School Association Class 1A Division 1 state championship tournament. The Wolfpack made their presence felt defensively as they snuffed out Darlington’s opening drive thanks to a Mac Wotton interception, his first of two on the night. With great field position on the ensuing possession, the Wolfpack, already deep in Tigers’ territory, would get a rushing touchdown on the second play of the drive from Mason Hollingsworth and with the extra point, Whitefield would take a 7-0 lead.
As the game entered the second quarter, the Wolfpack was once again on the move as quarterback Callum Neese would connect with Parker Shim to set up a first and goal and on the next play, Neese would quarterback sneak behind his offensive line across the goal line for the first of his three touchdown, as Whitefield would eventually take a 14-0 lead. With their backs against the wall early, Darlington would put together a drive that they would cap with a D’Marion Floyd rushing touchdown helping them cut into the Wolfpack lead and they would trail 14-7 at the half.
In the third quarter, Whitefield would push the back up to 14 as Neese would rush for his second score of the night, however on the next possession for the Tigers, Talan Shirey would haul off a 60 yard rushing touchdown to cut the Whitefield lead back down to seven as they trailed 21-14. But later in the quarter, the Wolfpack would once again drive the field to finish the drive with Neese’s third rushing touchdown of the night to put Whitefield up 28-14, which would be the final score thanks to the Wolfpack defense stepping up to stop the next two drives of Darlington.
“For these seniors and all the noise they’ve heard and all the negative stuff that they’ve heard around us, they’ve just come to work every single day,” Whitefield Academy head coach Robert Walsh said after their win as he praised his players for their efforts throughout the season. “And at the end of the season, we’re playing our best football and there’s nothing better than that,” Walsh added. And asked about Wotton and how his two interceptions helped the Wolfpack gain early momentum, Walsh said he spoke with Wotton and his players about how Darlington seemed to fall short on recognizing Wotton as a key player for the Wolfpack.
“Coach Groves has a nice coaching show and he talked about a lot of defensive players, but he didn’t talk about number four,” Walsh said and explaining to his players that when they are facing doubt and disrespect about what they are capable of doing, they simply need to do what they did on Friday night, “you go earn it tonight”. Now as Whitefield moves on to the second round, they will turn their sights to Rabun County, who they fell to earlier this season, and Coach Walsh and the Wolfpack know to expect another “tough opponent but we have to increase the physicality and continue to get better running the football,” Walsh said.