It was the best of times, it was the worst of times for the Winfield High School football team Friday night at Richard L. Jantz Stadium.
Ten seniors were recognized on Senior night, and a fall homecoming king and queen were crowned, but that was about the only positive from the Vikings 22-7 loss to the Wellington Crusaders.
Questionable penalties, questionable placement of the football, and a ridiculous gaffe by the officials that saw an ejected player return to the game were just a part of the sloppiness not usually associated with varsity high school football.
The Vikings (3-4) did their part to aid in the sloppiness.
“Just very disappointing,” WHS coach Linn Hibbs said. “I thought we had a pretty good week of practice, and we stressed being physical because that’s what we felt like last year we didn’t do a good job of. Just how the flow of the game went was very disappointing.”
The Winfield coaching staff was just as upset with the lack of ball movement as it was with the calls. The Vikings had just 33 total yards in the first half, including a measly nine on the ground. They managed just two first downs and were 1 of 5 on third-down conversions.
Then there were the penalties.
Winfield was assessed eight infractions for 90 yards in the game, including four personal fouls and a critical pass interference call on third-and-long. The Crusaders (6-1) had zero penalties until there was 2:30 left on the clock, and finished with two miscues for 20 yards.
“It’s a highly emotional game, from a lot of different factors. I don’t want to get into that,” Hibbs said. “I thought we had a good week — I thought our kids were prepared to play. Maybe we were too hyped up — I don’t know. This is kind of new territory for us, late in the season, playing a really good team and a lot of things on the line tonight. I have to step back and look at our approach and make sure that we’re approaching it the right way as we move forward.”
Wellington sliced through a porous defense, opening the game on a four-play, 72-yard drive capped by a 35-yard touchdown burst by tailback Grey Hatfield, who was nearly untouched through the line.
The Winfield defense buckled down, though. Hatfield finished with 160 yards on 35 carries, but had just 18 yards on 13 totes in the second half.
“To tighten up after the first drive, our defense was very encouraging,” Hibbs said. “Proud of the kids’ effort on defense tonight.”
Junior lineman Jake Kaufman was called for the first 15-yard penalty with a little more than seven minutes left in the first quarter. When the flags flew with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the quarter, Kaufman was called for unsportsmanlike conduct and was ejected.
Kaufman left the field, but soon returned and was inserted back into the game.
“They have a new rule in that if you get two unsportsmanlike, you’re ejected. He got the second one, they say he’s done,” Hibbs said. “I said, ‘OK.’ I was very disappointed in Jake and his behavior, to be honest with you. I don’t know if the first one was legit or not, but the bottom line is it got called on him. The second one for sure — he pushed a guy. So they come back about 10 minutes later and said that they didn’t think that was the right call, that one of them was a personal foul and one of them was unsportsmanlike, and the way I understand the rule, both of them have to be unsportsmanlike. So we brought him back.
“It’s great that they brought him back, but that conversation should have taken place 10 minutes before that,” Hibbs added. “You should make that conversation and let us know what’s going on. They tell me he’s done, so what am I supposed to do? I can’t argue that. … Let’s get it right before we get a kid thrown out of the game.”
The Crusaders went on a time-crunching, 13-play, 86-yard drive capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Michael Ledbetter to Silas Popplewell with 1:21 left in the first half that gave the Crusaders a 14-0 lead. Hatfield carried the ball 11 of the 13 plays.
The Vikings set themselves up near midfield on the second-half kickoff, but during a stoppage of play on third-and-12, another flag came flying that pushed Winfield 15 more yards back, and the drive stalled.
Junior defensive back Chance Price intercepted Ledbetter to set up Winfield again near midfield, but the Vikings went three-and-out.
Winfield shifted to a wildcat offense, with senior tailback Jack Mull taking direct snaps, and the Vikings began moving the ball. He ran seven such plays on a 10-play, 53-yard drive, finding the end zone on a 10-yard wildcat run with 8:52 left in the game.
“We can’t move the ball the other way, so we’ve had this package in place. … That was the only way we could move the ball,” Hibbs said.
The Vikings went three-and-out on the next drive, and returned back to a basic offensive set. But on fourth-and-2, quarterback KC Crandall threw a screen pass to senior Brock Rolo, who was stripped of the football. DeAndre Washington picked up the ball on the run and rambled 15 yards for a backbreaking touchdown for Wellington.
“It starts where you have to block people,” Hibbs said. “You have to block people. Wellington has a good front. And it came back to haunt us again — we can’t throw and catch again. We reverted back to Weeks 1 through 4. You see the result of that. Really, really disappointing that we revert back to what we did Weeks 1 through 4. I thought we were past that. I’ve got some work to do to figure that out.”
Mull finished with 63 yards on 18 carries. Crandall was 9-of-21 passing for 70 yards and didn’t throw an interception for the third straight game.
Ledbetter finished 6 of 13 for 54 yards. The Crusaders were held to 32 total yards in the second half.
“I think we got the speed of the game better defensively as the game went on,” Hibbs said. “We really played good enough defense to win the game.”
The Vikings play the final game of the regular season next Friday at Buhler. Those Crusaders (3-4) lost Thursday at Hays 41-21.
Wellington 22, Winfield 7
Wel — Grey Hatfield 35 run (Karsten Gill kick), 10:38.
Wel — Silas Poppelwell 3 pass from Michael Ledbetter (Gill kick), 1:21.
Win — Jack Mull 10 run (Mark Clifford kick), 8:52.
Wel — DeAndre Washington 15 fumble return (Zander Vargas run), 2:30.
3rd Down Conv3-133-14
4th Down Conv3-42-5
Punts No-Avg Yards4-34.06-35.8
Time of Poss25:4222:18
RUSHING — Wellington, Grey Hatfield 35-160, Michael Ledbetter 6-9, DeAndre Washington 1-3, team 2-(minus 12). Winfield, Jack Mull 18-63, KC Crandall 3-17, Brock Rolo 2-9, Trevin Biddle 2-5, Ethen Owen 2-(minus 3), team 2-(minus 16).
PASSING — Wellington, Michael Ledbetter 6-13-1 54. Winfield, KC Crandall 9-21-0, Brock Rolo 0-1-0 0.
RECEIVING — Wellington, DeAndre Washington 3-38, Julian Jimenez 1-8, Christian Buckman 1-5, Silas Popplewell 1-3. Winfield, Brock Rolo 4-33, Jacob Weber 2-23, Mark Clifford 2-15, Jordan Chism 1-(minus 1).
MISSED FIELD GOALS — None.