Wildcat ‘D’ reigns down on unfeated Farmers

Brent Sumner
Staff Writer

    With so many standout players on Wilmington’s team, it is easy for one to have  a breakout game on any given day.
    Saturday was a little more of that occasion, along with a total team effort that simply dismantled the top seed team in the IHSA 3A football playoffs on Saturday.
    The Wildcats picked up a win over number one Farmington, 37-12, to advance this week to the Elite Eight round against IC Catholic.
    “First off, we were playing an explosive offense,” said Wildcat coach Jeff Reents. “They scored at least 40-50 points four or five times this season.
    “The quarterback is really good, not only at throwing, but running the ball as well. They are such a big play offense that we had to keep them two ways. We had to play good defense, but secondly, can our offense keep them off the field. We were able to do that.”
    The biggest tale of the game was Wilmington’s relentless defense.
    While there was a little stutter in the first quarter, leading to Farmington marching down for the first touchdown of the game, the Wildcats wound up tightening things up for the remainder.
    The Farmers would only muster six more points in the third quarter, and by that time the game was pretty much out of reach.
    “The biggest thing was how many guys can we put in coverage, and also stop the run,” Reents said. “If we couldn’t stop the run, then we had two problems.
    “We were able to stop the run with some stunts and stuff, and I didn’t have to commit my two safeties as hard to the run. I could say, hey, play the pass a little more.”
    The defensive tactic worked out for the Wildcats, as they picked up three interceptions in the second half thanks to Conner Dempsay, Brock Bolser and Antonio Tafoya.
    Dempsay was easily the player of the game, as he not only secured an interception  near the end zone, but also scored three touchdowns en route to the victory.
    “The kid loves to play, and I am glad he is on our side,” Reents added. “I will tell you, he is as quiet as they come, and he will get a pat on the back, smile, then get on the bus for the next one. You can really see his maturity this season.”
    Wilmington got on the board for the first time in the second quarter thanks to a field goal from Trey Shaw, scoring from 21-yards out.
    After the kick, the offensive side of the game continued to lean heavily in Wilmington’s favor.
    In typical Matteo Lombardi fashion, he continued to get the offense rolling, scoring on a 5-yard punch to put the Wildcats up for the first time, 10-6 midway through the second.
    Wilmington struck again before the half, with only five seconds left on the clock. Keaton Hopwood completed a six-yard pass to Dempsay for another touchdown, and the Wildcats headed into the locker room up, 17-6.
    During half-time, the Wildcats were faced with having to assess some injuries. However, that didn’t change the game plan, and Wilmington came out of the half just as fired up as the start.
    “Lombardi was hurt at the beginning of the second half, and he had to get out. The coaching staff did a good job of getting our number two’s ready. Tafoya and Jon Gholson, both of those guys came in and did a great job for us. Gholson, he hasn’t started at DB for a long time this year, and he got the start this game and did a great job.”
    In true Reents fashion, the Wildcats came out ready to add another score in their first possession of the third quarter. They did just that, thanks to a 40-yard breakout from Dempsay to put the team up, 24-6.
    Three minutes later, Farmington recorded their only other touchdown of the game off a little fade route, cutting into Wilmington’s lead, 24-12. They wound up missing the two-point conversion.    
    Farmington came back out, attempting an onside kick, but that didn’t go their way either.
    The kick was recovered by sophomore Cam Holman.
    “What a huge play that was,” Reents said. “He was the only guy over there, and he came up with it. What a huge play for us.”
    Spectators could just see the momentum deflate from the Farmers, and the Wildcats continued to take advantage.
    The remainder of the game pointed in Wilmington’s direction. Not only did the defense snuff out the Farmers’ change to a more aerial attack, but the Wildcats continued to pound the ball for two more touchdowns.
    Dempsay recorded his third and final score of the day off a 25-yard run midway through the fourth, while Josh Jones followed with a three-yard run for another touchdown.
    By that time, Wilmington had secured a substantial lead, 37-12, and were able to hold on for the win.
    “We haven’t had to travel like this all season, but we just kept playing our game,” said Dempsay after the win. “Coach had a good game plan, and we just executed it well.
    “It was great. I just did my job, and all the linemen did their job. We had a couple injuries, and had a lot of guys step up. It was good.”
    On the day, Wilmington finished with 387 yards of offense to Farmington’s 220.
    Hopwood had the one completion to Dempsay for six yards, while Dempsay also added 25 carries for 255 yards.
    Lombardi followed with 13 carries for 82 yards, Hopwood had four for 26, Jones added four for 14 and Jacob Rodawold went three for four yards.
    On defense, Dempsay also led the team with four solo tackles, 10 assists and one interception.
    Jones added one solo and six assists and Rodawold also added two solos and three assists.
    With such a team effort on Saturday, the Wildcats (10-1) will be looking to carry not only their momentum, but the camaraderie into this week, as they prepare for a rematch against IC Catholic.