A night of big plays, big hits and a big crowd at W.A. Lewis Field carried the Santo Wildcats to a 43-12 non-district Class A win over the Chico Dragons and a startling 4-0 record on the year.
The Dragons (0-4) were overmatched and outplayed in every phase. Santo racked up 402 rushing yards while limiting to Chico just 23 yards on the ground and 87 yards total.
Leading the Wildcats' ground attack was sophomore quarterback Zane Mauney, who zigged and zagged for 233 yards on 13 carries for a whopping 18-yard per run average. The Santo signal caller's night included a 92-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter that basically salted the game away by halftime.
The Wildcats allowed Chico's Dustin Davis to score on a 73-yard kickoff return in the second quarter, then let the Dragons to open the second half with a march down the field for their only other score. Other than that, it was all Santo.
The Wildcats opened the game with a touchdown drive and never looked back, putting up 36 points in the first half.
“We haven't been in this position before,” said Santo head coach Randy Thornton on his team's perfect start to the season. “We feel like it's been coming. The hard work is paying off.”
The Wildcats simply slobber knocked the Dragons into submission using an aggressive, punishing style exemplified by junior fullback Brandon Hailey. At 5-11 and 175 pounds, Hailey runs forward and lowers his head and pads to run over defenders. Hailey scored three TDs in the first half and added extra-point runs onto each to help stake the Wildcats to a 36-6 halftime lead, accounting for 24 of those points.
Hailey's third touchdown run was a 56-yard scamper on fourth-and-one. After blasting through the line and into the secondary, he planted into the ground the last remaining Chico defender with a textbook stiff arm. Hailey finished with 84 yards on five hauls.
“We get after it,” said Thornton. “We pride ourselves on trying to be the most physical team.”
The Wildcats defense came up big throughout the night, especially in the first quarter when senior defensive back Aaron McKennon picked off a Hunter York pass at Chico's 31 yard line, racing past everyone down the left sideline for Santo's second score of the night.
The big plays kept coming for the Wildcats. Ahead 30-6 with time winding down in the second quarter, Mauney called his own number and reeled off 92 yards to pay dirt to give Santo a commanding 36-6 lead at the intermission.
After Chico opened the third quarter with a score, Santo responded immediately, putting together a drive that ended with sophomore running back Colton A. Harris scoring from eight yards out to provide the final margin of victory.
The Wildcats will be tested this Friday when they travel to Perrin to meet the 2-2 Pirates and their outstanding running back, Bryce Cameron, in another non-district tilt. Perrin-Whitt lost to Gorman on Friday, 20-7.
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