MOBILE -- In their first playoff appearance since 2016, the Enterprise Wildcats (5-6) fell to Class 7A’s No. 1-ranked McGill-Toolen Friday night at Lipscomb Park by a score of 35-10 -- a margin of victory that might suggest McGill-Toolen dominated most of the night.
In reality, however, the visiting Wildcats spent much of three and a half quarters playing like the better team in a game that saw the Yellow Jackets clinging to a 14-10 lead to start the final quarter.
Enterprise -- in just the rushing column -- nearly outgained McGill-Toolen in total yardage. The Wildcats rushed for 265 yards and 14 first downs to McGill’s 270 total yards and 12 first downs. Enterprise totaled 331 yards of offense.
The clear difference in the game proved to be Enterprise mistakes, but for a long moment McGill-Toolen fans seemed to be holding their collective breath as the Wildcats put the Yellow Jackets on upset alert early in the opening period.
McGill-Toolen got the ball to start the first half and had their opening drive cut short when Enterprise’s Shaheem Gray scooped up a fumble at the Wildcats’ 36-yard line. Just three plays later, the Wildcats faced a fourth and two from their own 44-yard line and Rick Darlington elected to roll the dice.
Enterprise running back Josh McCray -- on his first carry of the night – gutted the Yellow Jackets’ defense for a 56-yard score. Hunter Perry added the point after for a 7-0 lead with 6:37 left in the first quarter.
The teams traded possessions for the remainder of the quarter, and perhaps the most impressive stat of the quarter came from the Enterprise defense – three sacks.
Heading into the second quarter, Enterprise ran two plays before committing the first mistake and fumbling on a would-be reverse. The Yellow Jackets recovered at Enterprise’s 11-yard line and ran in a score on the next play to set up a 7-7 tie.
After moving to McGill-Toolen’s 40-yard line on the ensuing drive, a Jackson Darlington pass was intercepted and the Yellow Jackets later turned the opportunity into points with a 49-yard pass from quarterback Jacob Arceneaux to tight end Byron Millsap. The Yellow Jackets went for a surprise onside kick and recovered but were forced to punt back to Enterprise with just over a minute left in the first half. Enterprise moved the ball and eventually trotted out Perry, who had his 51-yard field goal attempt blocked.
Perry had the only score -- and what turned out to be a last score -- for Enterprise in quarter number three, courtesy of a 37-yard field goal. In that quarter, Enterprise also had a long running score from Mykel Johnson wiped away on a holding call and overcame Perry getting his punt blocked at the Enterprise 11-yard line. The Wildcats’ defense would hold and force a field goal, which McGill missed.
The game didn’t break open until halfway into the final quarter. Enterprise was forced to punt after their first drive of the final period, and the home team scored three plays later on a 60-yard strike from quarterback Jacob Arceneaux to take a 21-10 lead with 6:52 remaining.
That might have been enough to fell most teams, but Enterprise -- one week removed from a late three-score comeback victory at Theodore -- still seemed confident. Mistakes, however, continued to take their toll.
On the kickoff, McGill-Toolen elected to kick it short and Enterprise failed to cover, leaving the home team to snag a free possession starting at the Enterprise 24-yard line. Arcenaux turned it into points four plays later for a 28-10 lead with 5:32 remaining.
Following a turnover on downs from Enterprise, the Yellow Jackets got their last score on a 28-yard run from tailback Garrian Betts.
Enterprise had two interceptions, a fumble lost, a blocked field goal and a blocked punt.
Leading the charge on the ground was McCray with seven carries for 96 yards and a TD. Darlington ran 16 times for 83 yards. Johnson had 57 yards on 14 carries.
Through the air, Darlington was 5-of-13 for 65 yards. Jared Smith hauled in four passes for 58 yards.
The loss ends a season in which Enterprise turned an initial 2-5 record into a 5-5 record and a playoff berth in Rick Darlington’s first season.
McGill-Toolen, meanwhile, is likely on a collision course with Central-Phenix City. Should the Yellow Jackets defeat Auburn next Friday and the Red Devils get by Prattville, the two teams would meet in the Class 7A semifinals.