MONTGOMERY — Willis rode a strong second half to a 37-23 win over host Lake Creek at Montgomery ISD Stadium on Thursday night.
The win marked the first for the Wildkats (1-1) this season, and the first under new head coach Michael Wall.
“It feels awesome,” Wall, who came from Lake Travis, said. “Nothing comes easy - that’s one of our slogans we’ve got and this one certainly didn’t come easy. Those kids fought hard and I’m very proud to have win number one for our season to balance out that record.”
The Lions (0-2) led for large parts of their home opener, but Willis outscored the hosts 22-6 in the second half to take control.
“I challenged them to finish and play all the way to the end,” Lake Creek coach Pat Kennedy said. “Last week, we had one guy I thought played all the way through the end. Tonight, I bet we had five or six that played all the way to the end, so that’s growth.”
Lake Creek lit up the scoreboard on its first drive of the night. The 12-play drive was capped with a 30-yard field goal from Brandon McGaha with 7:23 to go in the opening quarter.
Willis took the lead on its second drive of the night. The Wildkats needed just four plays and the fourth was a 47-yard run by quarterback JerMichael Dickerson on third down. A high extra-point snap was taken in for two by holder Ben Irvine.
Dickerson scored three touchdowns on the night - two rushing and one passing. Between rushing, passing and even receiving, the athlete unofficially totaled 188 yards on the night.
After Dickerson’s first score, the Lions took the lead back. Quarterback Ty Sexton found Zachery Hazlewood over the middle for a 21-yard score. Lake Creek led 10-8 with 10:47 to go in the half.
Sexton and Hazlewood connected six times in the first half for 107 yards. The over-the-middle route was working in the first half early and often.
“When we prepared for them, we thought we could do some things on play action,” Kennedy said. “We continued to do that, but they started dropping a defensive lineman under it and bringing some pressure. We had to make a couple adjustments. Some were successful, some weren’t.”
The lead grew to 17-8 on the Lions’ next drive. Sexton found Bryce Linscomb up the right sideline on a wheel route for a 46-yard touchdown.
Willis cut into the lead late in the half. DaVonte Nephew returned a punt into Lions territory, then a horse-collaring penalty gave the Wildkats the ball at the Lake Creek 18-yard line.
The ensuing drive lasted just one play. Dickerson floated a touchdown pass to Irvine with 1:05 to play.
The 17-15 Lake Creek lead held at halftime.
In the second half, Willis made some adjustments and slowed the Lions’ passing attack. After throwing for 210 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, the Lions were held to 31 yards and no scores through the air in the second.
“Our second half response was absolutely what I was looking for,” Wall said. “I was proud of our defense for tightening up. I was proud of our offensive line for the way we were able to run in the second half. I was very proud of our kids and our response.”
Willis used a seven-play scoring drive to take the lead to take the lead early in the third quarter. CJ Sprayberry’s 2-yard run capped the drive.
The ensuing kickoff was taken to the Willis 3-yard line by Lake Creek’s Ethan Harper. Two plays later, Sexton punched in a 1-yard sneak. The two-point pass failed, but the Lions led 23-22 with 9:10 to go in the third.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Dickerson gave the Wildkats a lead for good with a 4-yard touchdown run. The quarterback also ran in a 2-point conversion and Willis led 30-23.
Willis’ next drive ended with a fumble that was recovered by Lake Creek’s Dayeton Sweeting. The Wildkat defense stood tall, forcing a Lions 3-and-out.
On the next Willis drive, Dickerson had a 61-yard touchdown called back on a hold. It was one many Wildkat penalties that amounted to more than 100 yards in setbacks.
“We’ve just got to continue teaching the rules and understanding,” Wall said. “We’ve got to keep teaching that. Aggressive penalties, I can live with a little bit … it’s the lazy ones, it’s the personal fouls - those are the things I can’t live with. We’ll continue to clean it up.”
Willis recovered and drove the ball down for a game-icing touchdown with 2:52 to go. D’Mari Marks rushed in the score from the 2-yard line to give the Wildkats a 37-23 lead.
Marks unofficially led Willis with 94 yards on 11 carries.
Both teams are back in action on their respective home turf next Friday at 7:30 p.m. Willis hosts New Caney, while Lake Creek will go for win No. 1 against Fulshear.