Woodcreek makes Whitney pay for mistakes, 35-13

Turnovers bounce in Timberwolves' favor
By: Jim Linsdau Placer Herald Sports Editor
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Woodcreek High School’s football team came in a slight underdog visiting Whitney High for their final preseason game without regular starting quarterback Shaun Mize. But the visitors were quick to turn Wildcats’ mistakes into a Timberwolves’feast, Friday night, and come out with a 35-13 victory. With matching records of 3-1 it made it a good conclusion to non-league play for both clubs. Whitney was coming off a convincing win over Christian Brothers, and Woodcreek was coming in smarting a bit from a 24-10 loss to Bear River a couple weeks before. It might have been the Wildcats were looking a little bit past the T’wolves to the start of league play. The first half looked to be an exciting game as billed when both scored touchdowns in the first quarter. Woodcreek struck first when Brandon Knapp batted a Stephen Nogosek pass into the air and into the hands of nearby teammate Jake Hassell who completed a 38-yard scoring pass play. Not to be outdone, Whitney took the following kickoff down to the Timberwolves’ 23-yard line in five plays. Wildcats signal caller Jake Rodrigues then hit tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick on a crossing pattern and Cope-Fitzpatrick hurdled a would-be tackler to take the ball into the end zone for a tying touchdown. In the second quarter, Whitney appeared to be headed for another six when Christian Daniels lost the handle on the ball and Woodcreek recovered to stop the drive. The T’wolves worked their way to midfield and then punted on fourth down to put the Wildcats back on their own 36. Whitney’s ground game sputtered so they went to the air and put the ball back in Woodcreek’s hands when JR Jones picked off a Rodrigues’ pass and returned it to the home team’s 25. Nogosek wasted no time in hitting Shaun Mize for a 25-yard scoring strike and put the Timberwolves up 13-7 just before intermission. Chris Thompson missed the point-after kick. Woodcreek took the opening kickoff to begin the third quarter and marched for another touchdown in 14 plays. The drive was aided by a ‘Cats penalty and some fine running by Vincent Fernandez. Nogosek found Knapp in the end zone from 5-yards out, and then scrambled out of the pocket to connect with tight end Justin Rogers for a 2-point conversion. “We found they were blitzing in our T gaps and our coach John Hildebrand came up with a great idea guiding our tackles to block them out,” said Rogers. “That opened up the running game, which opened up the passing game for us.” Whitney could get no farther than Woodcreek’s 42 before turning over the ball on downs. After short gains on the first two downs, Nogsek passed to Fernandez who took the ball down the sideline 51 yards for another Timberwolves’ score and a 28-7 lead at the 1:24 mark of period three. That seemed to put some spark into the Wildcats as they came back with a 67-yard scoring drive capped by a 6-yard touchdown run by Connor Graves to cut Woodcreek’s lead to 15. The point-after attempt failed, and that’s when things turned sour for Whitney. After kicking off to the T’wolves, the ‘Cats pinned back their opponents on the 4-yard line. The maroon-and-gold defense went after the punter in the end zone and was flagged for running into the kicker. The ensuing penalty gave Woodcreek some breathing room, but the offense was again forced to punt, this time from their 25. The ball took a wild bounce and struck the back of a Whitney player and the Timberwolves recovered at the Wildcats’ 36-yard line. Still, the defense held and Woodcreek again punted, this time to Whitney’s 17. The Wildcats went to the air, but matters only got worse. After an incompletion and a sack by Luke Summers for a 4-yard loss, Rodrigues next aerial landed in the hands of the Timberwolves’ Cameron Torres at Whitneys’ 20-yard line. “Fumble the ball on the 20 going in, fumble the ball on the 15 going in, those are game-changing plays,” said Whitney head coach Mike Gimenez as to his squad’s struggles. “Those turnovers take a little bit out of you and that derailed us.” After marching to the Wildcats’ one, Nogosek scored on a keeper for the evening’s final score. “It’s just the little things,” said Rodrigues following the game. “The team with the most turnovers, obviously, is not going to come out on top. That killed us.” Rodrigues said the Wildcats would work on securing the ball before opening Capital Athletic League play against Mira Loma, 1 p.m., Sept. 8 at El Camino. Woodcreek will host cross-town rival Roseville, next Friday, 7:30 p.m., to begin Sierra Foothill League competition. Woodcreek 35, Whitney 13 Woodcreek 7 6 15 14 35 Whitney 7 0 0 6 13 PASSING Woodcreek – Nogosek 16-26, 194, 4. Whitney – Rodrigues 1-16, 102, 1, 2. RUSHING Woodcreek –Layton 13, 47, Fernandez 10, 46 Nogosek 5, 38, 1 Beaber 1, 2 Astor 3, 30. Whitney – Graves 10, 81, 1 Daniels 9, 67 Palin 1 13 Rodrigues 8, 35. RECEIVING Woodcreek – Hassell 2, 39, 1 Williams 1, 4 Knapp 4, 27, 1 Mize 2, 13, 1 Beaber 1, 15 Fernandez 2, 56, 1 Rogers 4, 40. Whitney – Cope-Fitzpatrick 2, 39, 1 Palin 1, 4 Torres 2, 40 Daniels 1, 19.