Wheatland rides McCleary to victory
Give Andrew McCleary an inch and he'll take 30 yards.
Wheatland High's bruising running back ran over defenders, ran around defenders and simply pounded the Lindhurst defense on his way to 223 yards rushing and four touchdowns Friday night.
McClearly put the Pirates ahead early and despite a few second-half defensive miscues, Wheatland held on for a 40-27 victory at John J. Sohrakoff Athletic Field.
Offensively, we were able to move the ball and get into the end zone, but we have to learn how to stop the other team,” Wheatland coach Javier Lopez said.
McCleary scored on his first carry of the game on Wheatland's opening drive, taking a hand-off and racing 50 yards up the right sideline. It was just the first of many spectacular runs McCleary broke off.
He added scoring runs of 6 and 7 yards in the first half and then scored on a 22-yard jaunt in the second half. He added sprints of 26 and 36 yards as part of his 19 carries.
“Mostly the line was blocking and made holes and I just pumped my legs and hit the holes,” McCleary said.
Other than McCleary's punishing runs, the game was not well played.
Lindhurst threw four interceptions and Wheatland turned the ball over three times on fumbles.
The Blazers had trouble getting its offense going early on with a swarming Wheatland defense smothering ball carries in the backfield.
The Blazers were held to just 57 yards in the first half and finished with just 157. Ninety penalty yards also killed Lindhurst.
“Obviously that hurt us,” Lindhurst coach Mike Mason said about the penalties. “Part of it had to do with the intensity. It was the first time we showed what we're capable of doing. Now we just have keep our emotions on the field.”
Wheatland scored on three of its first four drives to take a comfortable 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
The Pirates added a 25-yard touchdown from quarterback Justin Peacock on an option with 6:33 remaining in the half for a 27-7 lead.
Lindhurst's Joey Villasenor ran back a kickoff 85 yards early in the second quarter, and quarterback Kinjite King threw a beautiful 25-yard touchdown pass to Eric Arroyo, cutting Wheatland's lead to 27-13 with 12 seconds left in the half.
“We were able to do a lot more things than in the first two games,” Mason said.
Lindhurst's defensive adjustments in the second half slowed Wheatland's running attack, and the Blazers used big plays to score.
But two interceptions on their first two possessions led to Wheatland touchdowns, and the Blazers didn't have enough firepower to close the gap.
The first interception gave Wheatland the ball at the Lindhurst 20, and after a 2-yard loss, McCleary scored from 22 yards out, breaking two tackles in the middle of the field, then bouncing outside and into the end zone.
On its ensuing possession, Lindhurst threw another interception, again giving Wheatland the ball at the Blazers' 20. The Pirates this time went with Rusty Hulsey. After a pass interference penalty on third down set Wheatland up at the Lindhurst 5, Hulsey slashed for the short touchdown, putting the game away.
Lindhurst scored 14 unanswered points over the final 12:09 of the second half.
King scored on a 5-yard run. He set up the score after tossing a 64-yard pass to Villasenor, who finished with three catches for 80 yards. King scored the Blazers' final touchdown on a 37-yard run.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Justin Miller can be reached at 749-4796. You may e-mail him at email@example.com