HS Football: Perfection! The Wildkats Finish Unbeaten Season with Win Against Oak Ridge

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 11/03/2023


WILLIS, TX -- The Willis Wildkats (10-0) finished a perfect regular season with a 49-35 win over the Oak Ridge War Eagles to claim sole possession of the District 13-6A championship.

The home environment at Yates Stadium was there to push the Wildkats forward as they hoped to make a historic achievement. No team in the history of Willis High School had ever finished a season unbeaten, but the cards looked stacked in their favor against a tough Oak Ridge opponent.

The War Eagles touted the second-best defensive unit in the district, led by two future University of Georgia Bulldogs. Linebacker Justin Williams and defensive lineman Joseph Jonah-Ajonye aimed to make the game difficult for Willis’ division one prospect, D.J. Lagway.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Willis Head Coach Trent Miller spoke on the game-planning process that went in before the game had started.

“The game plan from the jump was to put the ball in space,” said Miller. “It forced us to have to put some drives together and overcome some adversity.”

The adversity came in the first quarter, where quick scores from both teams started off the game before the defenses began to lock up their opponents.

Oak Ridges’ unit held their ground against the district’s statistically best unit in Willis, while the Wildkats benefited from an early turnover and plays from their defensive backs.

Luckily for the fans in the stands, the offenses began to find their strides in the second quarter.

The War Eagles struck on a rushing score from Frankie Arthur to take a 14-7 lead as the quarter reached its mid-point.

Willis responded by sticking to their game plan and getting the ball into their playmakers’ hands. First was Jermaine Bishop Jr., who notched a receiving touchdown after making plays on the defensive end. Second was Jalen Mickens, who made an acrobatic catch over the head of the safety in coverage for a 21-14 score as the teams headed to the locker rooms.

After a heartfelt performance dedicated to the senior class for Willis, their football team turned their play up a notch.

The third quarter saw the Wildkats play near perfect throughout the stretch by making plays on both ends. Bishop Jr. continued his output for the night with a pick-six that crushed what would have been a productive drive for the War Eagles.

“He is a special talent,” said Miller on Bishop Jr. “Trying to game plan against him defensively or offensively is any coordinator's nightmare.”

Oak Ridge’s woes continued when a pitch play to Daylion Robinson punched its way into the endzone for another series of quick scores to keep the Wildkats ahead.

The War Eagles continued to fight despite the deficit. The insertion of Jack Emerson at quarterback gave the offense a chance to utilize quarterback scrambles and read options against a defense that was antsy to get stops.

This desire to get quick stops led to overcommitments on option plays, which caused Oak Ridge’s explosive backs to find themselves in open space. Emerson cashed in one such opportunity with a touchdown run on a fourth down, forcing Willis to keep up its pace if they did not want to surrender the lead.

Lagway and the rest of the Wildkat offense kept up their pace and production with scores that kept the lead out of reach for the rest of the game. Touchdown tosses to DeBraun Hampton and A’mauree Holmes were enough to keep the War Eagles at bay throughout the rest of the fourth quarter, ending in a 49-35 victory for Willis.

The win solidifies the best season in Willis High School Football history and secures the Wildkats a district championship after going 5-5 last season.

“It's an unbelievable feeling,” said Miller. “We knew what we had coming in, and we knew if we stayed healthy, and we stayed the course, we could do some special things.”

The district champions now turn their attention to the Bi-District round of the playoffs, where an equally talented team could await them.

“Keeping [the team] locked in and keeping them focused,” said Miller on his team’s goal before their playoff matchup. “Every team from here on out is capable of beating [us] because every team from here on out is deserving to be in the playoffs.”

In another exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online, Wildkat quarterback D.J. Lagway elaborated on his coach’s belief and the team’s preparation before playoff football.

“We need to continue to do our jobs,” said Lagway. “When everyone does their job, we have been successful.”

Willis now awaits their playoff matchup as the one seed, while Oak Ridge takes the third seed in another shot at postseason play.

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