The simple act of exchanging the ball on a snap between the center and quarterback mystified Kokomo throughout the 48 minutes of football Friday night.
The Wildkats fumbled an unheard of 12 times and lost six, yet those turnovers mattered nil for a significant portion of the game as they held a 13-0 lead late in the third quarter against a sputtering Central offense.
Then the Bearcats decided to attack the Wildkats with the Wildcat offense.
Central coach Brad Seiss moved playmaker Timmric Barrett behind center to ignite the offense and his team found the end zone three times in the fourth quarter to pull out a thrilling 19-13 North Central Conference victory and their first against Kokomo since 2006.
“It’s a great win for our program because things weren’t clicking on all cylinders by any stretch,” Seiss said.
Seiss switched to the Wildcat for the first time this season in the final minute of the third quarter.
Central successfully ran the Wildcat last year with Tim Barrett as the triggerman, and his younger brother, Timmric, followed admirably in his footsteps.
“I don’t know if we thought it would be that good, but it ended up being real good or us,” Timmric Barrett said. “Getting the ball in my hands is just something you can’t stop.”
The Bearcats drove down the field with the Wildcat and scored their first touchdown on a Jaylen White 7-yard run with 11:20 left in the game.
Central (2-1, 1-0 NCC) lined up in the Wildcat on its next drive, but on third-and-long Seiss moved Billy Walker back behind center. Walker completed only six of his first 20 passes, misfiring as his wide receivers consistently beat the Kokomo secondary. But this time he delivered a perfect ball over the left shoulder of Williams, who hauled in the 67-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at the 7:22 mark.
“It was a slant-and-go,” Williams said. “I ran it as hard as I could, made my plant and I just beat him, and it was a great ball and a good catch.”
The Bearcat defense held the Wildkats (0-3, 0-1) to another three-and-out, and their offense took possession with an opportunity to complete the comeback. Kokomo lost star quarterback Tayler Persons to a season-ending injury last week and managed just one second-half first-down without him.
Central ran the Wildcat offense into the red zone, but facing third-and-11 at the Kokomo 14, Seiss put the ball back in the hands of Walker. The Bearcats ran a fade route for Barrett, but Walker underthrew the ball and Kokomo cornerback Jordan Rawlins, who returned a Walker interception for a 73-yard touchdown in the opening minutes of the third, broke the pass up.
Seiss called the same play on fourth-and-11, and this time Walker threw the ball in the back left corner of the end zone and Barrett rose up, came down and somehow stuck his right foot for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown with 2:24 on the clock.
“I can turn my body pretty good in the air and I seen I was almost out, so I just tried to come down as fast as possible and slam my foot in the ground,” Barrett said. “I knew I was going to get it.
“This win is huge. We think we can win our conference this year.”