Waite built an eight-point lead through three quarters and then hung on in the closing minutes to escape with a 20-12 nonleague football victory over host Northview on Thursday night at Cats Stadium.
The win made a successful debut for first-year Indians head coach Brian Lee, who was either unconventional or a bit of a gambler in his first game, opting not to punt more than once from deep in Waite territory.
Waite's Javon Pratt delivers a pass during Thursday's 20-12 win over Northview.
“My defense plays better on the short side of the field,” Lee said of his risk-taking.
“You can call me crazy, but we’re trying to score. Touchdowns win games, and defense wins championships.”
It all turned out fine because of the effort of Waite junior quarterback Javon Pratt, who ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns, and passed for 77 yards and the Indians’ other score.
“It’s a blessing,” Lee said. “I told my kids, ‘Why not us?’ They believe. Now it’s on to week two and Maumee. Again, it’s ‘Why not us? Why can’t we be 2-0?’
“Why do we have to be the same old Waite? Come out strong and finish flat.
“We’re done with that. This is a new era on the East Side, and we’re coming to play every week.”
VIDEO: Waite 20, Northview 12
A Waite miscue and the kicking of Luke Pawlak led to Northview grabbing an early 3-0 lead.
After Pawlak had pinned the Indians back on their 10 yard line with a 52-yard punt, a bad snap three plays later enabled the Wildcats to tackle Waite punter Mathew Broyles on his 1.
The Wildcats’ own bad shotgun snap on the next play resulted in an 11-yard loss, and Northview eventually settled for Pawlak’s 23-yard field goal 6:17 into the game.
Pawlak converted again in the second quarter, giving the Cats a 6-0 lead by booting a 46-yard field goal 9:11 before halftime.
But Pratt passed and guided the Indians to an 8-6 lead just before halftime, guiding an 11-play, 72-yard drive.
“They tell me, ‘This is your team. Lead them,’ “ Pratt said. “You always have to be positive, never negative. When we went up before halftime we said, ‘We have to keep fighting.’ That was it.”
After Neko Brown opened that march with runs of 12 and one yard, Pratt mixed three runs totaling 16 yards with 3-of-6 passing for 43 more, including a 23-yard touchdown strike over the middle to Alex Boose with 18.3 seconds left in the half.
A two-point conversion run by Keith Garrett put Waite ahead.
“Pratt was amazing,” Lee said. “I told him to call his own play right before half. He called his favorite play and threw it to his first cousin. That’s a blood-love situation.
“That’s the difference between Pratt and other kids. He has that It-factor. With that kid, the sky’s the limit.”
The Indians continued their momentum after halftime, needing just four plays (all runs) to cap another 72-yard scoring drive.
Brown started this march with a 40-yard run around right end, and Pratt finished with 1 24-yard scramble around right end for the touchdown just 2:03 into the third quarter for 14-6 lead.
Northview answered immediately, moving 65 yards on seven rushes, with Tyler Hudik scoring on a 12-yard burst through the middle.
The Wildcats lined up initially for a two-point conversion try, but were penalized five yards for illegal procedure, and Pawlak then missed on an extra-point kick as Waite held a 14-12 lead.
Pratt responded by bolting free down the right sideline on a 59-yard TD run to extend the Indians’ lead to 20-12 with 1:11 left in the third quarter.
“Defense was a huge part of this victory tonight.” Pratt said. “They held their own. I just want to thank my coach for giving me a chance to be a part of this W, and giving me a chance to make plays. I’m a play-maker.”
After Waite punted the ball away, Northview had one last chance to tie the game with 58 seconds left, getting the ball at the Indians’ 43 with no timeouts remaining. But the Wildcats failed to advance and time ran out.
“Northview is a great team and coached up very well,” Lee said. “We made mistakes, but we capitalized on every opportunity they gave us.”
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