Wildcats overcome early deficits with big second half at St. Helena

File photo – Tanner Pidgeon

Sophomore Tanner Pidgeon scored five touchdowns on Friday night, as the Ferndale Wildcats won an always-tricky 4 vs. 5 seed matchup in the North Coast Section Division-7 matchup at St. Helena.

In a game that was closer than the final score would suggest, the Cats pulled away late for a 41-13 victory that sends the No. 5 seeds on to a semifinal showdown at No. 1 Clear Lake next Friday.

Pidgeon did the bulk of the scoring in Friday’s win, but on a night of big plays he got plenty of help from his teammates, who continually put him in position to score.

Despite the 28-point win, the Wildcats had to overcome a pair of early deficits and trailed 13-6 at halftime.

Pidgeon opened Ferndale’s account in the first half, when teammate Trent Titus broke free for a 40-yard run before handing off to him inside the five-yard line just as he was being tackled.

Pidgeon was in the perfect spot after making two big blocks on Titus’ big run.

The Saints would respond with another TD to re-take the lead before halftime.

But the Cats would respond again on their opening possession of the third quarter when Pidgeon found the end zone from 10 yards out, with Titus again playing a key role in the score after converting a big fourth down on the drive

A Dayton Comer PAT tied the game at 13-13.

Pidgeon scored his third TD later in the quarter, this time on defense when he recovered a fumble and ran 38 yards to the end zone, while carrying a Saints player on his back for the final few yards.

Levi Dixon recovered a fumble early in the fourth quarter to set up a QB sneak by Pidgeon to put the Cats up two scores.

Prescott Langer would add to the lead on a one-yard TD run, before Pidgeon scored his fifth TD on a 14-yard option after Thomas Fergison recovered a fumble on defense.

“That was a hard-fought football game,” head coach Clint McClurg said. “Our offense did a good job taking advantage of what our defense set up.”

There were several standouts in the win, including four starting sophomores.

In addition to Pidgeon and Prescott, fellow sophomores Ethan Weitzel and Jake Kurwitz both started on the offensive line, the latter after just being brought up from the JV team this week.

File photo

“This young man really wanted it,” McClurg said of Kurwitz. “It was really cool to see a young man come up for depth, for lack of a better word, and start and do so well.”

Weitzel, meanwhile, has been outstanding all season long at center and he continued to make a big impact on Friday.

“The more he plays football, the better he gets,” the head coach said. “He was amazing up front for us, on both sides of the ball. He is our leader.”

Dixon and Kacey Luster set the tone on defense.

Luster was “very disruptive,” according to the coach, while Dixon played “probably his best game at middle linebacker. It was critical for us in the second half.”

Henry Westfall also had a big game at nose guard, including making a key stop on a Saints fourth-down play just as the Wildcats were building some momentum.

Andrew Clevenger also played a big role on an offensive line that featured two new starters after the coaches were forced to make some changes on the unit this week, with a couple of players missing for various reasons.

“All year long he’s been a rock for us,” McClurg said.

Clear Lake had an opening round bye in the seven-team bracket.

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