Weaver certainly didn’t Friday night as the Bearcats used four timely interceptions, a safety and a 90-yard kick return to down previously unbeaten Saks 29-19 at Bill Bryan Stadium.
Weaver finished the game with only 56 yards of total offense — 37 coming on the Bearcats’ first drive — but the defense rose to the occasion time and time again.
“Defense sets our tone,” Weaver coach Daryl Hamby said. “They set the tone. They set it where we had a short field to play on.”
After the Bearcats’ first drive stalled inside the 5-yard line, Malik Anderson knifed into the backfield on Saks’ first play from scrimmage, dropping Joshua Reynolds in the end zone for 3-yard loss and a safety.
Chris English returned the ensuing kickoff all the way to the Wildcats’ 25-yard line, but Weaver went three-and-out and was forced to punt.
Backed up deep in its own territory once again, Saks went to the air. After completing passes of 12 and 14 yards, quarterback Timothy Johnson made a mistake. Weaver’s Trey Moore stepped in front of Johnson’s intended receiver, picked the ball off and took it back for a touchdown, putting the Bearcats up 9-0 with 1:54 to go in the first quarter.
Saks got things rolling on its next possession — a 13-play drive — but came away empty handed after English partially blocked Joshua Wilson’s 22-yard field goal attempt.
English made his only mistake of the night on Weaver’s ensuing possession, fumbling and giving the ball back to Saks at the Bearcats’ 14-yard line.
Two plays later, Saks’ Ladarious Young found the end zone from 10 yards out to cut the deficit to 9-7 midway through the second quarter.
The Wildcats had a chance to pull ahead before the break, but Wilson’s 41-yard field goal attempt hit the crossbar.
“We came out, and they were sky high,” Saks coach Clint Smith said. “They put it to us early on. We just never could get in a rhythm in the first half. We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot time and time again.”
After a big return to open the second half, Saks took its only lead of the game, as Young scored his second touchdown of the night from 15 yards out to give the Wildcats a 13-9 lead after a failed 2-point conversion.
Fortunately for Weaver, English had an answer.
Chris Troge fielded the ensuing kickoff and handed it to English on a reverse at the 10-yard line. The speedy sophomore did the rest, going 90 yards to give the Bearcats a 15-13 lead after a blocked PAT.
“That was big,” Hamby said of the kick return. “Chris English, you can’t say enough about that kid. He is a fabulous athlete, got fabulous character. He is going to play at the next level for somebody, either basketball or football, and make somebody a happy coach.”
On Saks’ next possession Moore came up with his second interception of the game, and took it all the way back to the Wildcats’ 14-yard line. English found the end zone a play later, giving Weaver a 22-13 lead with 8:30 left in the third quarter.
Johnson threw his third interception of the game on Saks’ next drive this time to Drake Ledet.
Weaver was forced to punt, and the Wildcats marched down the field, cutting the deficit to 22-19 with 8:59 left in the game after a Cordarius Cooper 8-yard touchdown run.
The Bearcats went three-and-out on their next possession, setting Saks up with good field position. Johnson attempted three passes on the drive, but all were incomplete as the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs.
Saks would get one last shot to close the gap, but English came up with another big play, intercepting Johnson for the fourth time.
“In the second half, we came out and played hard,” Smith said. “But once again we just couldn’t put that big drive together when we needed to.”
Brandell Massey’s 4-yard touchdown run with 15 seconds left set the final.