But their collars were as blue as the moon.
Shorter and lighter at many positions, Wellborn took its blue collars and went to work, defeating Saks soundly, 34-14, in the opener at Jack Stewart Field.
“We knew they’d have better athletes ... ,” said Wellborn quarterback Judd Smith. “For us to win, we had to outhit them.
“I think that’s what we did.”
But there was no “think” about it.
The final tally of 439 yards rushing with underclassmen included backs Kevin Mixon and Chantz Goodman with 153 and 149 yards, respectively. Granted, their line provided wide holes the duo dashed through, but once they got to the linebackers and into secondary, they were adamant about making their intentions clear.
One play more than any other summed the night up perfectly. It didn’t come on a touchdown, though the duo combined for five of those, but on one of their trademark big gains.
Just past midfield, Mixon broke into the open field, not meeting another Saks defender until he crossed the 20. Converging on the sideline, both players lowered their shoulders anticipating the collision.
With Mixon upright and the Saks defender sprawled on the sideline, Mixon uttered no words. Instead he gave a long, icy cold stare.
“You just have to let them know who the better team was,” he said of the play.
Mixon scored the first and last Wellborn touchdowns, covering 44 and 2 yards, respectively. His first came on Wellborn’s second drive and resulted from an exceptional effort. The sophomore broke one tackle near the line of scrimmage and then tore away from two other Saks defenders before racing down the right side and into the endzone.
Goodman’s 21 carries included three scores of his own. He followed Mixon’s lead on the Panthers’ (1-0) second scoring drive, starting it with a highlight-quality hit as he broke open for a 12-yard gain. He finished the drive three plays later from 6 yards out.
The score came as a result of a Saks fumble, which wouldn’t be the last on the night. The Wildcats laid the ball on the ground four times before the night was over, spoiling the debut of first-year head coach Jonathan Miller.
The problem, Miller said, sprung up out of nowhere.
“It’s not a problem that we’ve had a practice,” he said. “We had a jamboree last week, and we didn’t turn it over a lot there … so I don’t know.”
While the fumbles came at inopportune times, Wellborn used opportunity to create turnovers as well.
Following Goodman’s touchdown, the Panthers called an onside kick and recovered. The drive stalled 8 yards from paydirt, but it helped to accomplish what Wellborn coach Jeff Smith called a key to the game.
“Saks has got an absolutely good football team,” he said. “Very good. … We didn’t want them to have the ball.
“We knew we could control the clock, and with our line, I thought we were able to do that.”
Saks made the game close in the third quarter, answering a Wellborn touchdown with a 9-play, 48-yard drive. Tremon Smith accounted for 44 yards of the drive (which had four incompletions), including the final 18 on a pass from Timothy Johnson.
Wellborn, however, returned with a 2-play, 62-yard drive, all on the legs of Goodman.
The drive started with a long run by Mixon that was called back on a penalty. Goodman’s runs covered 21 and 43 yards.
“That’s just the kind of team we are,” Judd Smith said. “If we get a penalty, we don’t fuss or complain. We just get up and do it over again.”