WORCESTER — The Massachusetts State Wolverines defeated the Worcester County Wildcats, 22-6, in a New England Football League season-opener at Commerce Bank Field at Foley Stadium Saturday night.
Running back Alexander Givens-Perry had a rushing touchdown for the Wildcats in the loss.
“There are a lot of little pieces and moving parts that we just weren’t able to have clicking,” Wildcats coach Dennis Faulkner said. “There was never a point where we just didn’t have it. It’s just the little mental mistakes. Those are the things that stopped the ball from moving.”
The Wolverines struggled to find a reliable way to pick up yards for most of the night. The Wildcats’ only touchdown opportunity was created by an interception by defensive back Luis Figueroa with 1:46 left in the second quarter.
Figueroa returned the interception to the Wolverines 10-yard line. Givens-Perry cashed in on the opportunity and ran in for the team’s lone touchdown on the next play.
Despite the loss, a bright spot for the Wildcats was the play of their defense, especially in the passing phase. Figueroa, linebacker Emile Bazile and linebacker Andrew Reid were a big part of the unit’s performance.
Bazile wreaked havoc in the open field with big touchdown saving tackles, and racked up crowd-enthusing tackles for losses in the Wolverines backfield. With 2:06 left in the third quarter, Reid came up big with a red-zone interception to give the Wildcats some life.
The Wildcats mixed it up offensively to start the second half and started to run, the appropriately named, “Wildcat” offense. Wide receiver David Jones moved over to the quarterback position and made a few dazzling plays down the sideline with his speed. Jones also made good decisions orchestrating the triple-option to pick up a couple big chunks of yards for the Wildcats in the second half.
While the Wildcats continued to try and find a way to consistently pick up yards with Jones under center, the Wolverines lethal aerial attack started to click late in the game.
Wolverines quarterback Najee Hillman had the biggest play of the game when he threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to receiver P.J. Smith down the middle of the field with 10 seconds left in the first half.
Hillman continued to find men open in pockets near the sideline and had big throws down the middle of the field throughout the rest of the game to chip away at the Wolverines’ secondary.
Although the Wildcats couldn’t pick up the win. Faulkner is looking forward to how his team will respond in practice the next few days.
“I have a lot of faith in these guys,” Faulkner said. “We have a lot of great guys on this team. Guys were hungry and willing to put the work in. I am pretty confident that next week we will turn things around and get back on track.”