By Thomas Duggins
Marietta Daily Journal
MARIETTA – It was a tale of two halves for Wheeler. A fast start was neutralized by an equally cool second half, and Lambert outlasted the Wildcats by a score of 36-27 on Friday.
"They made an adjustment, and we just started sputtering," Wildcats head coach Mike Collins said. "They went man on us, we thought we had an answer. It came down to a couple of guys needing to get away in the throw game, and we just could not get away from them."
Lambert went ahead in the third quarter when senior Marcus Chatelain scampered in from 6 yards out, giving them a 30-27 advantage. It was the third touchdown run of the night for Chatelain, who had touchdown runs of 43 and 26 yards on the first half to help the Longhorns keep pace with Wheeler's hot start.
That was the last touchdown either team scored. Kicker Bryce Christensen's two fourth quarter field goals pushed the Longhorns to their final 9-point advantage. Nathan Smith picked Bradley off in the last minute to put the game away for Lambert.
Wheeler's offense went as Bradley went. The junior finished with 337 yards passing and rushed for 32 yards. However, 291 of those passing yards came in the first half, and he completed 4 of 15 passes in the second half.
After a 10-yard touchdown pass from Landon Bradley to Ricky White tied the game at 7, Wheeler seized momentum late in the first quarter by recovering their onside kick. Bradley and White connected on the next play for a 49-yard touchdown strike, the second of three touchdown connections between the two Wildcat players.
Of the onside kick, Collins said: "We thought we needed to push the issue a little bit and try to get going. It felt like we were really flat last week."
Kicker Jacob Pereira played a complimentary role, knocking in field goals of 40 and 36 yards to give Wheeler a 27-21 halftime advantage.
Lambert struck first when senior running back Justin Bruno took a screen pass from Bobby Gabriel 67 yards to the end zone. It looked like Bruno would pick up where he left off last year against the Wildcats, when he rushed for 206 yards in Lambert's 38-35 win. However, the Wildcats managed to do a better job of corralling Bruno, limiting him to 97 yards on 17 carries.