September 11, 2019The Floyd Central Highlander football team did it right at their road game at Providence on Aug. 30, going into the Labor Day weekend with junior Wenkers Wright taking over in the second half of Floyd Central's 28-7 win. It came after a not-so-spectacular first half by the Highlanders.
"It was our character to come back in the second half," Floyd Central coach James Bragg said. "It was 7-7 at halftime, and we didn't run the ball very well. The second half we put it on our linemen and our running back Wenkers Wright, and he took it to the house. Our physicality helped us in the second half to win that game."
The Highlanders got off to a rocky start on their first drive, fumbling the ball on their fourth play but managing to recover for an 11-yard loss on the play. From there, Floyd Central had to boot the ball away after coming up well short of a first down.
Providence had a better showing to begin its first possession, returning the ball to the 34-yard line on the punt return for good field position. Colin Flake had the biggest play of the drive with a 31-yard run to the Floyd Central 13-yard line. Two plays later, Flake got the ball again and ran in the first touchdown of the night with a 12-yard run and a 7-0 lead following Nathan Striby's extra point.
That didn't last long, however. Wright brought the ball out to the 34 on the return then ran four of the next five plays, scoring on a 5-yard run to put the Highlanders on the board with Cole Hussung getting the extra point for a 7-all score. Neither team scored the remainder of the half, leaving things even going into the second half.
"We competed very well last week against Male, and then I think we were a little bit too cocky tonight," Bragg said. "We just didn't perform the first half. We've got to come ready to play four quarters, not just one half."
"(Providence) did a great job," Bragg said. "Their best defense was their offense. When (Providence coach Larry Denison) is in that double tight, double wing, double kings mixing around and shifting and running the play hitting three to four yards a pop, it's hard to get your offense back on the field. That was a great game plan by those guys at Providence. Those kids fought tough, but that speaks to what we did against Male. We were able to move the ball against Male with the passing game, and (Providence) came flat out and said, 'You're not going to pass it'."
The Pioneers made several dramatic line shifts throughout the first half that caught the Highlanders by surprise to give Providence significant yardage. Floyd Central made some adjustments during the half-time break with fewer problems.
"They hadn't shown that on film," Bragg said. "We knew they had a wrinkle, and that's one thing where these are all high school kids and they're all geeked up. Once they see a twitch, they're going to jump offsides. We had a few early and after that we fixed it."
The cicadas took their songs to crescendo in the surrounding trees to begin the second half, and Wright brought his game to a crescendo on the field. Providence managed only four yards on its first drive and had to kick the ball away. A short Pioneer kick gave Wright all he needed as the Floyd Central offensive line opened up three holes for the junior, the third play providing a hole big enough for a 25-yard touchdown run and a 14-7 lead.
Providence failed to convert after running eight plays on its next drive. The Pioneers got a break on the punt with Providence getting a bounce that pushed the Highlanders back to the 13. A bad snap put the Highlanders in even more dangerous territory, pushing the ball back to the 3. On the next play, the Floyd Central o-line opened up a hole big enough to push a battleship through and Wright ripped his way through the Providence defense with a 97-yard run for a 21-7 lead with 3:50 to go in the third quarter.
"When I see a hole open up like that, I'm the happiest man alive," Wright said. "My linemen hit their blocks, and I'm right behind them and then on the outside the receivers are doing their blocks too. The hole is open, then I follow right behind them and I see green fields and it's daylight."
The Floyd Central defense continued to do its job, keeping Providence off the scoreboard through the second half. In the fourth quarter, Wright put the final nail in the Providence coffin, breaking away from several tackles with an 80-yard run for his fourth touchdown of the game and a 28-7 lead and Floyd Central win.
"That one you've just got to make something out of what they give you," Wright said of his last score of the game. "There was a hole; I followed it. Then, you've got to mess with the linebackers some and get every inch that you have to fight for."
"To ice the game there ... we went 97 yards," Bragg said. "I think that's a record. That was a team effort. Our wide receivers, we told them at halftime we're not going to be throwing the ball very much. We've got to stop-block to help us on the edge, so they did a great job tonight."
Wenkers Wright finished the game with 363 yards on 23 carries with four touchdowns. For the Pioneers, Colin Flake carried the ball 16 times for a total 118 yards rushing with Providence's lone touchdown.
"At halftime, we talked to the linemen," Bragg said. "We made some corrections on some of their blitzes. We said, 'Hey, it's on you guys and Wenkers Wright to bring this one home for us.' They did a great job."
"My thoughts were, this is not over," Wright said. "We've still got over at least a half of football left. We've got to keep pounding it down there and keep making a statement that we're Floyd Central and that we're here to play."
It was the last time the Highlanders would play on the Providence field. After next year's game at Ron Wiegleb Stadium, the series between the two teams will end.
"We're getting bigger and they're getting smaller, and I totally understand it," Bragg said. "It stinks that a rivalry game like this has to go by the wayside, but the big picture is about the kids. We have 1,900 kids, and Providence is below 400. It makes it hard to keep playing this football game. Me and Larry have talked about a game not on the schedule but playing on the younger levels still and then maybe playing a scrimmage down the road when we both need a new scrimmage. We might just play them in a scrimmage, just to keep that going."
Floyd Central 7 0 14 7 – 28
Providence 7 0 0 0 – 7
P – Colin Flake 12 run (Nathan Striby kick); FC – Wenkers Wright 5 run (Cole Hussung kick); FC – Wright 25 run (Hussung kick); FC – Wright 93 run (Hussung kick); FC – Wright 80 run (Hussung kick).