Times Sports Editor
The West Central Wildcats Semi-pro football team remained unbeaten on Saturday night, forcing five turnovers from the visiting Ohio Force and claiming a 19-0 home victory.
The Wildcats' defense played nearly lights out in front of a sizable crowd at the Clay Youth Football fields.
The defense proved opportunistic in picking off four passes in the game and helped set up a temperamental offense that did just enough to keep Ohio at bay.
"Our offense definitely wasn't as good as I would like it to be. But the defense was fantastic," coach Mike Rindone said. "I think we stayed together tonight and our defense made good on some opportunities for turnovers."
The Wildcats' offense went four plays and punted to start the game, however, the defense didn't allow Ohio to get far as defensive back Chris Skelton pressured the quarterback into a fluttering pass that was intercepted by Brandon Miller at midfield.
West Central's Rob Hoole got the drive started with an eight-yard run and followed with a six-yard run to the Force 37-yard line. William Simmons followed with a 30-yard scamper to the sideline and nearly crossed the goal line before being dragged down at the half-yard line. Hoole finished off the 45-yard touchdown drive and Chad Schopmeyer capped a 7-0 lead with the extra point.
The Force quarterback rolled out to pass and his throw was intercepted by Jason Huck who returned the ball back to midfield.
West Central moved the ball down to the Ohio 29-yard line before turning the ball over on downs on an incomplete pass.
The remainder of the first half was scoreless though Ohio used a personal foul call and an 11-yard pass on its final drive to get down to the Wildcats' 41-yard line. Ohio attempted a deep pass down the sideline, but the throw was intercepted by Erik Winings.
The Wildcats' defense remained tough in the second half and West Central's fourth interception of the game, this one by Matt McCluskey, went all the way to the house for a score to boost the lead to 13-0 after the extra point was blocked.
Late in the third quarter, Ohio drove the ball into West Central territory once again, this time setting up a third-down-and-3 at the Wildcats' 24-yard line. West Central came up big on the play however, tackling the ball carrier for a six-yard loss to set up a fourth-and-long that resulted in an incomplete pass.
Ohio's next drive was short lived as Daniel Schopmeyer recovered a fumble for the Wildcats. Twelve plays later, West Central was able to put the game away as Mark Pate hauled in a 21-yard pass from Mike Landry for a touchdown.
The drive nearly self destructed due to penalties, however, Pate caught a first down pass on third-and-20 to set up the touchdown score and the 19-0 lead.
"This is a big boost for us," Ringone said of starting 3-0 this season. "The crowd support has been very good and I think these guys are proving that this is a team worthy of coming out to see play on the weekend. But it's great the way the people have backed us."
While the defense was perhaps the star of the game, Simmons picked up 77 yards on 10 carries and Joran Ferris picked up some tough yards and had a long touchdown run called back. Corey Grigsby picked up 17 yards on four carries and was in on plenty of tackles at linebacker.
The team is back in action on Saturday when they head to Evansville for its next contest.
WC -- Hoole one-yard TD run (Schopmeyer kick), 1:13
WC -- Matt McCluskey 33-yard interception return (kick blocked), 3:23
WC -- Mark Pate 21-yard catch from Mike Landry (kick failed), 2:18
West Central Individual statistics
Passing: Mike Landry 6-11 65 yards, 1 TD
Rushing: Cory Grigsby 4-17, William Simmons 10-77, Joran Ferris 4-26, Mike Landry 1-5, Rob Hoole 8-48, Mark Pate 1-2.
Receiving: Mark Pate 3-40 TD, Andy Spugnardi 3-25.