The first-ever meeting between Lexington and Gilbert had a little bit of everything. Big plays, an overflow crowd that created a playoff atmosphere and, luckily for the host Wildcats, a defense that would not wilt under a pressure-packed second half.
Lexington held on for a 21-14 victory Friday night to remain unbeaten three weeks into the season.
“This was a great team win,” Lexington coach Perry Woolbright said. “The first half, the offense played great. The second half, we sputtered on offense and got our backs against the wall. Our defense had to keep going out on the field, but they kept responding. We played with a lot of effort and toughness.”
Cal Herndon helped guide the Wildcats to three first-half touchdowns before departing with an injury. Herndon threw a 19-yard touchdown to Forest Alvarez on the first series and later added an 80-yard run.
He departed late in the half, but Akeem Nicholas scored on a 17-yard run that gave Lexington (3-0) a 21-7 halftime lead.
“We preach all the time about closing before the half,” Woolbright said. “We did a good job of that and, obviously, that helped us.”
Lexington had 20 yards of offense in second half after having 330 in first half.
Gilbert (2-1) pulled within a score on the opening drive of the second half on Dre Cook’s second touchdown, this one a three-yard run.
But after that the Lexington defense took control. The Wildcats limited the Indians to 231 total yards despite the fact they had to play a lot of snaps in the second half.
“They’re so tough in the box,” Gilbert coach Chad Leaphart said. “Their D-line and linebackers are really good. The linebackers, especially. They’re coached up well and give you all kind of different looks. They did a good job of slowing us down.”
Leaphart thought his team wasted some opportunities. They dropped a sure touchdown pass, had another one called back and fumbled a punt when they had a chance to start a drive in Wildcats territory in the fourth quarter.
“We can go back and nit-pick a lot of things, whether it’s a dropped touchdown pass that was wide open or a penalty on another touchdown when we had a guy downfield,” he said. “The muffed punt. You can go on and on. We had our share. We just didn’t get it done.”
THREE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. Cal Herndon is proving that he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the area. The first-year sophomore starter totaled 197 yards of offense in less than a half. His 80-yard run was as good as you will see.
2. Gilbert will still be a force in Class 3A. The second-ranked team had several self-inflicted errors but they have time to get them corrected going into region play.
3. Lexington has a chance to be a factor in the region race. The Wildcats are battle-tested and will be ready for the rigors of facing Dutch Fork, River Bluff, White Knoll and Chapin.
HOW THEY SCORED
L – Forest Alvarez 19 pass from Cal Herndon Brady Bolin kick) 7:41
G – Dre Cook 1 run (Rajan Cheema kick) 4:08
L – Herndon 80 run (Bolin kick) 3:17
L – Akeem Nicholas 17 run (Bolin kick) 0:58
G – Cook 3 run (Cheema kick) 10:12
Rushing: G: Dre Cook 18-64, Cody Peoples 6-52, Josh Strickland 4-20, Dre Harris 1-5, Jy Tolen 6-21, Ty Walker 3-0. L: Akeem Nicholas 31-117, Cal Herndon 2-102, Elijah Ogden 7-53, Ahmad Bynem-Scott 3-(-17), William Crouch 1-9, Bradley Foulks 1-(-7)
Passing: G: Strickland 5-8-0-45, Tolen 4-16-2-24. L: Herndon 3-9-0-95, Ogden 1-9-2-15.
Receiving: G: Matt Reed 4-30, Harris 2-26, Walker 2-4, Jacob Smith 1-9. L: Foulks 2-61, William Crouch 1-30, Forest Alvarez 1-19.