HAZEL GREEN - When Beloit Turner’s Isaiah Peguero returned last Friday night’s opening kick 85 yards for a touchdown, the 2011 prep football season couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start for the host Southwestern Wildcats.
But things got better for coach David Wills’ squad as the game progressed, and it was the Wildcats who pulled out a season-opening win of 34-24.
Despite playing out of an early hole, Southwestern held a 22-16 halftime lead over the visiting Trojans.
The Wildcats then went on to outscore their opponent 12-8 in the second half and come away with the 10-point victory.
The Wildcats finished the game with 388 yards of total offense and committed two turnovers, while Beloit Turner managed 228 yards of offense and had one turnover.
It was Southwestern’s rushing attack that set up a number of passing scores, as three of the team’s five touchdowns came through the air.
Senior quarterback Keaton Kephart threw for 136 yards and three touchdowns while completing 6-of-11 passing attempts.
His favorite target in the first quarter was fellow senior Brady Wilkerson, who hauled in touchdown passes of 62 and 22 yards. Wilkerson finished the game with three catches for 111 yards and two TDs to lead all receivers.
Beloit Turner held a slim 16-14 lead going into the second quarter, until Southwestern junior Matt Woodward blocked a punt, which was picked up by senior Ross Doyle and returned seven yards for a touchdown. A two-point run by Kephart gave the Wildcats a 22-14 lead, and Southwestern never trailed again.
In the third quarter, Kephart connected with junior Aaron Kaiser on a 25-yard touchdown pass, but soon after, Kephart suffered a calf injury and was replaced at quarterback by Kaiser.
Knowing they couldn’t afford to get any further in the hole, Beloit Turner constructed a scoring drive of their own in the third quarter that was capped off with a 40-yard pass from Samuel Burns to Jacob Jensen. The two-point conversion run made the score 28-24 in favor of Southwestern.
Things got scary for the Wildcats midway into the fourth quarter, when the Trojans had driven the ball to Southwestern’s two-yard line and looked poised to take the lead.
Southwestern escaped the threat unharmed, as Ross Doyle recovered a Beloit-Turner fumble in the end zone and gave the Wildcats possession at the 20-yard line with nine minutes to play.
From there, coach Wills’ squad put together an 80-yard scoring drive that lasted nearly six minutes, and was capped off with a 20-yard TD run from Aaron Kaiser with 2:24 remaining in the game.
Stepping in as the back-up quarterback to Kephart, Kaiser led all Southwestern rushers with 55 yards on 12 attempts Friday night.
On the night, coach Wills’ squad managed 252 yards rushing on 35 attempts.
“We played very well both offensively and defensively, and the players played with a lot of heart,” said eight-year head coach David Wills.
“We only had 14 varsity players suit up, and they were able to stop an excellent Turner team on the goal line to help us get our first win of the year.”
This Friday night, the 1-0 Wildcats of Southwestern will hit the road to take on the 0-1 Vanguards of Wisconsin Heights, who suffered a 27-16 loss to Deerfield last week.