Breaking news: rivalry games are important.
They create emotion and bring out the best in each side – especially when the two teams involved are jostling for playoff positioning.
On Friday, the West Creek vs Kenwood rivalry was renewed, and the visiting Coyotes took out the Knights 21-14.
Many noticed immediately that Kenwood starting quarterback Jaylen Washington was dressed but not in the game for their first drive. Nor the second. Nor the third.
In fact, Washington did not see the field until the second half due to violation of team policies. In the time he missed, the Knights punted three times, fumbled twice and threw an interception. West Creek took a 14-0 lead into the half.
The rivalry emotion mixed with the team’s inability to score boiled over at times, with players slamming helmets and letting frustrations get the best of them at inopportune times.
“We still have to play as a team,” said Kenwood coach Les Greer. “It’s still a team game, team football. Everybody else has got to execute, everyone has to practice (and) get better.
“The leaders on our team have to lead, be leaders. You come to practice so you can be prepared, have some confidence and play so that even when you make a mistake you know how to fix it. You fix it and play the next play. We have to practice every day and get better so we have that confidence and know exactly what we’re doing.”
For the second straight week, Greer noted that a lack of focus in practice leading up to Friday night cost his team, only adding to their frustration when things went wrong.
The Coyotes were not shy on capitalizing. Though they failed to convert on a fourth down attempt within Kenwood’s 10-yard line on their first drive, Ti Anthony Wagner hit Yashir Thomas on a screen that turned into a 59-yard touchdown just minutes later.
West Creek recovered a fumble a few players later, leading to a 30-yard touchdown from Wagner to Braxton Pitts.
“They’ve got some great athletes over there,” said West Creek coach James Figueroa. “We’ve got good athletes, and that’s what this football game was about. I’m proud of our players and what they did. I’m excited about this football team.”
The Coyotes could not get back to the field fast enough after taking a beating from Clarksville Northeast last week.
“I was eager to get back on the field. I hated the loss. I was just ready to get out here,” Wagner said. “The line gave me time. They did a good job giving me time. They executed on defense. We did a good job playing team ball.”
Wagner’s third and final touchdown pass came on a screen to DeAndrea Frazier. After bobbling the pass, he spun away from two defenders, tip-toed the sideline and escaped several more yellow jerseys to score the eventual difference maker.
Kenwood’s offense finally found some momentum once Washington entered the game. Down 21-0, they moved down to the 3-yard line, where Zion Moore punched in the Knights’ first score of the night.
Washington then scrambled for a 13-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to get within seven points. Their defense came through after a failed onside kick attempt to get the ball back to Washington and company, but their final effort came up eight yards short as time expired.
The late comeback left everyone wondering how different the game might have looked if Kenwood had come out of the gate with the same vigor they ended with.
“Football is an emotional game, so when you make mistakes and get frustrated, you have to learn to acknowledge the mistake,” Greer said. “Fix it. Move onto the next play and play a full four quarters of football.”
West Creek is now 1-2 in Region 7-5A (4-3 overall) while Kenwood drops to 2-2 (2-5). The Coyotes will host Henry County on Friday at 7 p.m. Kenwood remain at home to face Clarksville on Thursday night.