BY BRIAN BESCH
What started well turned quickly on the Lions, as the Wildkats of Willis claimed a 53-15 victory Friday in Berton A. Yates Stadium.
Livingston (2-6, 1-4) took the ball to begin the contest falling on the kickoff at the 17-yard line. A long drive would follow, as Livingston ran all three phases of the triple option to near perfection.
"Playing an option team like that, you have to play disciplined defense. In the first series, we didn't handle it very well," Willis coach Audie Jackson said.
A total of 13 plays without putting the ball in the air carried the Lions downfield 83 yards culminating in a Jamal Barnes two-yard dive over the goal line.
"It started off great and finally worked out for us," Livingston coach Brian Broussard said. "We moved the ball down the field. On our second series we had a penalty. We were moving the ball, but had a 15 yarder. After that, we kind of go back and it snowballed on us."
David Caddie had a gain of 24 yards and B.J. Mottu sprinted for 23 on the drive. The Lions finished the possession without penalty and took the opening 7:10 from the clock.
Willis (4-4, 2-3) would take over from there. Drives of 71, eight, 65, and 52 all ended in touchdowns. The Wildkats never needed more than six plays or three minutes, and were successful on four two-point conversions for a 32-7 scoreboard at the half.
"We made a few adjustments and the kids played great the rest of the game," Jackson said. "What we did was a personnel change. We got Jimmar Davis on the field and he's been good for us the last three years. It is difficult because you go from most teams playing a spread to a triple option. Kids have to know their assignments and cannot make mistakes, and that's what you saw in that first series. We were able to settle down and make some plays."
Wildkat quarterback Mark Richardson spread the ball to five different receivers in that span, throwing for 129 yards and two touchdowns missing just three times on 11 attempts.
Livingston's Caddie ran the ball nine times for 80 yards in the first two quarters.
The third quarter provided more of the same, as the second half kickoff was returned to Lion territory. Three plays later, Willis scored on a 34-yard pass to Ke'Eldrick Holiday.
On their second possession, the Wildkats needed just two plays to go 26 yards. Scoring from 11 yards out was Darius Reece, his second of the game.
The third and final drive for Willis took only one play. After a fumbled snap on a punting attempt, the home team had only 20 yards to travel. Shane Harrison pulled in his second touchdown reception, widening the margin to 53-7.
"Our kids get down and I understand that," Broussard said. "I don't like it, they don't like it, and they are frustrated. Penalties killed us. We're completing passes and we're running well, but something seems to happen at the end that keeps us from scoring."
Fumbles, penalties and missed assignments did indeed plague the team's play throughout the game.
But Livingston continued to give effort in the final period, scoring a touchdown with 11:40 left before the final gun. A seven-play drive over 3:05 ended with a David Caddie two-yard plunge. A toss to Mottu on the two-point conversion gave the Lions one last positive result.
"After the game, I told them it is about patience and perseverance," Broussard said. "It's going to happen, whether it's next week, the week after, or next year. We're not getting the results we want right now, but sometime in our lives it's going to happen with patience and perseverance."
Christian Mitchell ended the game with 59 yards rushing, while Caddie left the fourth quarter at 119 on the ground. Quarterback Cameron Merchant ran the option well in spurts and threw for 63 yards on four completions in six attempts.
The Lions finish the road portion of the schedule Friday in Huntsville versus the Hornets. The following week, the regular season concludes in a match with A&M Consolidated.