Saturday, September 04, 2010

SPORTS>>Wildcats strike back

Leader sports editor

Seth Keese’s knee looked completely healthy Friday night.

The only thing in better shape was his spirits.

Keese, Harding Academy’s senior quarterback, had close to 300 total yards as the Wildcats beat defending 3A state champion Fountain Lake 28-20 at First Security Stadium on Friday.

Fountain Lake knocked Harding Academy out of the 3A state semifinals last year and injured Keese’s knee with a late hit on the third play of that game. But Keese got even Friday, rushing for over 155 yards and two touchdowns and passing for 130 yards and two more scores.

“It feels great, this is probably the best I’ve ever felt,” Keese said. “Everybody on our team did amazing. It was awesome.”

Keese, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in last year’s playoff — though he finished the 42-10 loss — had surgery in December and rehabbed in the offseason, skipping basketball to do so. But after leading the Wildcats to a 21-6 lead and throwing in a 97-yard run to set up his second score, he said the hard work was worth it.

“We were so motivated,” Keese said. “I don’t think I said a word in the lockerroom before the game. This is the game I tore my ACL. This is the game I wanted to win. If we lost every other game and we won this, I’d be happy.”

But clearly, after Friday, the Wildcats expect win more.

“They were the No. 1 team in the state, it can’t get better than that,” Keese said. “We’re the team to beat right now. People have to come and prove that they’re better than us.”

Harding Academy coach Roddy Mote was clearly jubilant when he spoke to the Wildcats, whose only loss last year was to Fountain Lake, after their victory. But he cautioned his players that, while they could have a special season, they had won just one regular season game so far.

“We just played hard, I thought we were well-prepared and our kids executed our game plan,” Mote said. “It’s just a special bunch of kids and I think that was evident tonight.”

Keese had rushing touchdowns of 33 and 2 yards and had passing touchdowns of 5 yards to Corey Guymon and 6 yards to Jay
Bona with the last scoring completion making it 28-6.

Fountain Lake got touchdown runs of 35 and 15 yards from Dale Smith in the final 3:25, with Harding Academy playing many of its reserves. The late scores weren’t enough to diminish the effort of the Wildcats’ defense, which recovered a fumble and made four fourth-down stops.

“We played fast,” Mote said. “I felt like our kids did a great job of reading keys and we had a lot of people around the football.”

Harding Academy took a 14-6 halftime thanks to Keese’s two long runs, one that was decidedly longer than the other.

Keese capped a 58-yard drive on the Wildcats’ first possession when he ran in from the 33, but an offensive facemask penalty cost Harding Academy a chance at the conversion and left the score 6-0 with 7:27 left.

Harding Academy’s Seth Ransom sacked Coleman Crawford on third down to help stall Fountain Lake’s possession, and Jace Davis ended another Cobras drive when he recovered a fumble at the Harding Academy 1 with 7:20 left in the half.

Keese then broke off tackle and raced 97 yards before he was dragged down at the Fountain Lake 2. Keese ran it in on the next play and completed the conversion pass to Bona to make it 14-0 with 7:01 remaining.

“It was a zone right and it was a great block,” Keese said of his long run. “I didn’t get touched until the very end when I got horse-collar tackled. But it was great. I just kept running.

“Maybe if I was a little faster I would have scored.”

Fountain Lake took the high short kickoff at its 35 and the Cobras marched for reserve quarterback Michael Pope’s 1-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds left in the half. The biggest gain of the drive was Mark Makin’s 12-yard run for a first down.

John Curtis’ extra-point kick failed to leave it 14-6 at halftime.

Keese led Harding Academy with 143 rushing yards in the first half and Makin led Fountain Lake with 76.

“Seth’s a great high school football player,” Mote said.

“He’ll have an opportunity to play somewhere and he’s a fierce competitor and obviously it meant a lot to him, third play of the ballgame last year, having an ACL, coming back off an ACL injury. He played fast between the lines tonight.”