It’s only one game into the season, but he learned that he has a first-string offense that can score quickly.
In their season opener Friday night at longtime rival Sprayberry, the Wildcats needed two plays or less to reach the end zone on all but one of their first-half possessions, built a 34-point halftime lead and preserved a 44-14 victory at Jim Frazier Stadium.
The 44 points marked Wheeler’s highest output against Sprayberry since it scored 63 in 1973. The Wildcats (1-0) lead 33-13 all-time in the series dating back to 1966.
Devontae Jackson had three carries for 216 yards for Wheeler, with all three touches going for touchdowns. When Sprayberry’s special teams pinned the Wildcats deep in their own territory twice in the first half, Jackson responded with a 93-yard touchdown run and a 97-yard burst at the start of the second quarter.
“We knew we were going to shock some people this year, but this was a shock to me,” said Wheeler quarterback Elijah Staley, a Mississippi State commitment who was 6-of-7 passing for 172 yards and three touchdowns.
Wheeler’s longest drive of the first half came as the game opened, when it needed five plays to score, capped by Jackson’s 26-yard run up the middle. The Wildcats’ remaining touchdown drives were two plays or less.
On the next possession, Staley hooked up with Harland Howell for a deep 55-yard score on the second play. After Wheeler opened each of its next two series with touchdowns runs of more than 90 years, Staley connected with Jacobi Green for a 37-yarder on the second play.
The Wildcats’ final score of the half also came on the second play, when Tabius Padgett caught a screen pass from Staley that resulted in a 49-yard touchdown.
“We came out focused early, but it’s still a long season,” Collins said. “We took care of the football, and that was crucial to the game. It happened to be one of those nights for us.”
Wheeler pulled its starters after the first half, and its only score of the second half came on a 28-yard field goal by Victor Alves.
While Sprayberry’s defense struggled to find answers, the Yellow Jackets were able to sustain drives offensively. Their final first-half drive was a 15-play touchdown drive that ended in Shane Young’s 1-yard touchdown run.
Sprayberry made it into Wheeler territory on two earlier drives, but it couldn’t capitalize.
The Yellow Jackets needed just two plays to score on their first drive of the second half. Young scrambled for 34-yard gain to put Sprayberry on the Wheeler 6, and Shane King finished off the drive on the next play.
“We obviously didn’t play Sprayberry football,” Yellow Jackets coach Billy Shackelford said. “Wheeler made plays and we didn’t. It was a combination of Wheeler playing well and us playing poorly.”
Young was 11-of-18 for 186 yards for Sprayberry and rushed for 82 on 13 carries.