Wildcats throttle Patriots on Homecoming

Published | Oct 7, 2023

By Jacob Zimmerman

Valdese- The Draughn football team remained unbeaten in Western Highlands Conference play after Friday’s lopsided home win over Madison.

The Wildcats electric rushing attack and stout front seven overwhelmed the Patriots in the 57-7

“I don’t think the score shows [that] we didn’t play very good football tonight… we just didn’t
meet our expectations,” said Draughn head coach Chris Powell.

“Our standard of excellence is high and to compete every single play and I felt like we didn’t do that, but at the same time they did a lot of things that we hadn’t seen them do on film, and once our young guys up front were able to make some adjustments… we were able to get things rolling.”

Draughn immediately found themselves with 1st and Goal after an opening kick return from
senior RB Nigel Dula, in a play that would set a trend for the rest of the contest.

Shortly after, Dula cracked the scoreboard from two yards out to score his first of five rushing touchdowns on the night. The Wildcats missed the extra point making it 6-0 90 seconds into the game.

The Wildcats defense proceeded to handcuff the Patriots offense, not allowing the ball to reach
midfield until late in the first half.

On the third possession for the Wildcats, Dula followed a few pulling linemen for a nine-yard
score as the offense began to heat up, ending the first quarter 12-0 after a failed two-point

In the second quarter, Draughn quickly capitalized after a poor Patriots punt, as senior QB
Eli Tillery found the endzone for his first score. Tillery aided the drive with a screen pass to Dula
that went for 30 yards.

After a few scoreless exchanges, the Wildcats began taking the Patriots offense off the field via
turnover instead of a 3 & Out, as a loose fumble up the middle was recovered by junior OLB
Marshall Brinkley.

Madison QB Zane Buckner committed another late first-half turnover to senior Shaydon Pino, as the CB made a toe-tapping interception along the sideline.

Both takeaways led to points for Draughn. A fake handoff created a lane for Tillery to rush into
the endzone for the second time in the half. The Wildcats also put on the two-minute drill and
senior kicker Rudy Mendoza punched in a short field goal as time expired thanks to another 30
yard run from Dula, making it 29-0 at the break.

The second half didn’t exactly start in ideal fashion for the Wildcats as a Tillery throw to the
sideline was picked off and returned the distance by Josh Smith of Madison. It would prove to
be the lone score of the night for the Patriots.

The Wildcats responded with an interception of their own halfway through the third quarter with
senior Sterling Radabaugh setting up a short field for Draughn.

Dula started to kick into full gear with his third touchdown, scoring on a toss play to lead 36-7.

On the following possession for Madison, Pino made another stellar defensive play,
scooping up a fumble that had squirted out of a dogpile.

Pino would’ve returned it to the house if not for a horsecollar penalty inside the five.

The Wildcats then wasted no time calling Dula’s number again, as the senior RB made multiple defenders whiff on the way to his fourth touchdown and a 43-7 lead.

The play of the day came as time winded down at the end of the third quarter, when Dula
dusted the Patriots with a 69-yard breakaway rush.

The carry rewarded Dula with his fifth and final TD of the night and the Wildcats would go into the last quarter with a running clock up 50-7.

“Nigel’s special. When you get that ball in his hands he can do great things in space, and he
doesn’t need much. Those [linemen] gave him some lanes and we got him out in space to use his athleticism to where we knew it could help us.”

A Connor Houston interception and a 50-yard run by Justice Cunningham were the big
highlights of the fourth quarter.

Cunningham capped off his monster rush with a six-yard TD to put the cherry on top of the Wildcats Homecoming win.

Draughn will look to win their eighth game in a row next week as they welcome Rosman in
another conference bout.

“We just gotta sure up some blocking up front, some route running, things like that on the
offensive side and we’ll be okay.”

Scoring Summary

First Quarter

D- Nigel Dula 2 run (kick failed)

D- Dula 9 run (run failed)

Second Quarter

D- Eli Tillery run (Rudy Mendoza kick)

D- Tillery run (Mendoza kick)

D- Mendoza field goal

Third Quarter

M- Josh Smith interception return (kick)

D- Dula run (Mendoza kick)

D- Dula 5 run (Mendoza kick)

D- Dula 69 run (Mendoza kick)

Fourth Quarter

D- Justice Cunningham 6 run (Mendoza kick)

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