Cats lose big lead, game in opener

Mykel Johnson (22) finishes off a 66-yard run on the first play from scrimmage for a Wildcat touchdown.

After building a 23-6 lead heading into halftime, the Enterprise Wildcats eventually fell after a late interception sealed a 34-31 win for North Miami Beach.

Perhaps the biggest story of the game was the 300-plus passing yards posted by the Chargers, who ran for just over 60 yards in the game.

Though the first game of Rick Darlington’s tenure ended in defeat, there were flashes of how good Enterprise could be, including a 66-yard Mykel Johnson rushing touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. Josh McCray bulldozed his way to a two-point conversion after that score to take an 8-0 lead.

The Chargers, however, responded on their first offensive play from scrimmage with a double pass that went 84 yards for a TD. Their two-point try was stuffed by the Enterprise pass rush leaving the score at 8-6 with 10:46 remaining in the first.

Enterprise ate clock on the ensuing drive and quarterback/fullback Jackson Darlington hustled to the left pylon from two yards out for a TD and fought his way in for another two point conversion to bring the lead to 16-6.

Both teams traded possessions before Darlington and McCray willed the Wildcats to a first down on third-and-nine. After the snap went low, Darlington scooped it off the ground, danced around in the backfield and found McCray -- who juked a defender and broke the tackle of another on his way to a 24-yard gain. Johnson finished the drive with a 22-yard scamper on the next play. Hunter Perry’s kick was true for the 23-6 score with 24 seconds left in the first quarter.

The game’s second quarter was scoreless for both sides. Defensively, Romaine McFarland had a couple of big pass breakups downfield and late pick in the half to end a North Miami Beach scoring threat.

In the third quarter, penalties and big pass plays hurt the Wildcats, who would finish the game giving up over 100 yards in penalties including a roughing the kicker call that extended a Chargers’ drive and led to a TD. With 7:32 left in the third, North Miami Beach went for back corner of the end zone and connected for a 21-yard score. Pressure in the backfield again forced the two-point try to be no good and brought the score to 23-12.

Enterprise looked to be in good shape late in the third when McCray -- who played safety in the game, as well -- picked off a pass and returned it 20-yards for a TD. A successful two-point try brought the score to 31-12.

For McCray, the interception was the first of his career.

North Miami Beach had an answer, though, starting with a big return to the Enterprise 45-yard line followed by a run that got the Chargers 43 of their 60+ total rushing yards down to the two-yard line. They punched it in from there to start the fourth quarter and this time made the two-point conversion to narrow the gap to 31-20.

A few drives later, after Enterprise’s offense stalled, the Chargers went back to the double pass and picked up 39 yards. Two plays after that, they added another 39-yard completion and then punched it in from two yards out and added a two-point conversion. Enterprise’s lead was cut to 31-28.

Enterprise’s offense again stalled. On North Miami Beach’s final drive, they completed another 33-yard pass that was well-covered and added another short TD run and two-point conversion to take the lead 34-31.

The Wildcats tried to answer, and almost succeeded. Facing fourth-and-10, Darlington rolled out and found Terrell Hudson open along the sideline for a 27-yard gain and an additional 10-yard personal foul tacked on. With 26 seconds left, on the Chargers’ 19-yard-line, Darlington went for the end zone and the pass was snagged by a North Miami Beach defender to seal the win.

Offensively, Johnson rushed for 158 yards and two TDs on 13 carries. Darlington finished 5 of 13 for 101 yards and an interception and had 10 carries for 18 yards and a TD. McCray carried 10 times for 59 yards, hauled in three passes for 27 yards. Hudson hauled in two passes for 74 yards.

Defensively, both Robert Ellis and Dortaveon Turner each had a sack. McFarland had a pick and two pass breakups. McCray had a pick-six.

The Wildcats go on the road to Troy to take on Charles Henderson next week.

Score by quarters

North Miami Beach         6              0              6              22 -- 34

Enterprise           23           0              8              0 -- 31

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