Tigers ruin homecoming, beat Wildcats 54-6

            Missed opportunities and miscues led to a 54-6 homecoming loss for the Cuba High School varsity football game Friday night. The St. James Tigers took advantage of just about every opportunity.

            “This game was frustrating because a lot of our players did not look like themselves,” said Wildcats Head Coach Tim Duarte. “They played tight and it made them a lot less aggressive and you could see they were thinking too much.”
            Cuba won the toss to open the game but deferred and St. James set up at their own 36 after the opening kickoff. The Tigers moved the ball down the field quickly and were looking to score when Cuba’s Isaac Duarte intercepted a pass in the end zone. Rather than downing it and setting up the Wildcats at their own 20, however, he opted to run it out and was tackled at the one-yard line.
            The Wildcats managed to get the ball away from their own goal line and set up to punt the ball away on fourth down at the 21. The kick, however, hit a Cuba lineman and gave the ball to St. James on the CHS 31. Three plays later the Tigers scored on an eight-yard run by Cody Wilfong to go up 6-0 with 6:33 to play.
            The Wildcats opened their next drive on their own 35 but it stalled out at midfield on a failed pass play on fourth down. The Tigers took over on Cuba’s 46 and, after a five-yard penalty, Wilfong scored again on a 51-yard run. Wilfong also ran in the two-point conversion and it was 14-0 with 3:43 left in the first.
            Cuba set up on its own 23 to open the next drive and the Tigers quickly got a pick-six, running the interception with Carter Wilfong running it back 25 yards fort the score to make it 20-0 at the 3:20 mark.
            The Wildcats looked to score on their next possession. After starting the drive on their own 40, Cuba pushed the ball down the field and a long catch by Levi Gipson set up the Wildcats at the St. James one-yard line. Three bad plays later, however, Cuba had the ball fourth-and-goal at the 11 as the first quarter came to an end.
            The Wildcats opened the second quarter with a chance to score but quarterback Cooper Mehl was sacked, turning the ball over on downs to St. James at the 19. Then on the first play from scrimmage, Cody Wilfong broke loose on an 81-yard touchdown run to make it 26-0 with 11:42 left in the first half.
            The Wildcats moved the ball well but turned it over on downs on their next drive and St. James took over at its own 18. After a time out at the 4:37 mark before a fourth-and-five play, the Tigers converted and closed out the drive on a 39-yard pass from quarterback Cooper Harlan to Carter Wilfong to make it 32-0 with 3:10 to play in the second.
            Cuba wasn’t to be shut out in the first half, however. The Wildcats set up at their own 29 in their final drive of the half and moved the ball down to the St. James 29 with just seconds on the clock. Mehl connected on a 29-yard throw to a Gipson, who was well-covered, for the score with Gipson stretching out the ball to make sure it got into the end zone. Cuba’s two-point try failed and it was 32-6 at half.
            Cuba got the ball first to open the third quarter, starting at their own 39, but turned the ball over on down at their own 47 with 10:15 on the clock. St. James then scored on a 29-yard run by Grant Rodriguez and converted a two-point try to make it 40-6.
            The Tigers used a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff and Cuba couldn’t cover it. St. James recovered the ball on the Cuba 28 and Cody Wilfong scored quickly on a 25-yard run with 7:33 to play to make it 46-6.
            Cuba got the ball on its 45 to start its next possession but the Wildcats fumbled on their first play. St. James couldn’t capitalize, however, eventually turned the ball back over on downs after a touchdown was called back for a holding penalty as the third quarter ended.
            Cuba opened the fourth quarter on its own 17 and again turned the ball over. This time Rodriguez picked up the loose ball and ran it back 23 yards for a touchdown with 11:07 left in the game. A two-point conversion failed and it was 54-6.
            The Wildcats started their final drive of the game at their own 40 and moved the ball into St. James territory before an interception on a fourth-and-19 ended the scoring chance. St. James then took a knee to close out the game.
            “We are going to work to get back to playing fast and loose and having more fun,” Coach Duarte said. “This season has not started the way we wanted and it is not a reflection of the work that the coaches or players are putting in. The team is going to continue to work hard and fight through the growing pains.”
            On offense, Mehl completed 10 of 23 passes for 135 yards. He threw one touchdown and had two interceptions.
            Evan Highley had 16 carries for 39 yards, while Gipson had 16 carries for 39 yards. Gipson also had four catches for 77 yards and one touchdown.
            Paco Leos had four carries for 26 yards, Parker Stewart one catch for seven yards, Jesse Elrod three catches for 15 yards, and Isaac Duarte two catches for 24 yards.
            On defense, Gipson had six tackles, Elrod five tackles, Sam Leonard seven tackles, one hurry, and one sack, Leos eight tackles, Dylan Ferguson five tackles and one sack, and Duarte two tackles and one interception.
            The Wildcats are now 3-10 all time versus the Tigers. Cuba, now 0-5, will host 4-1 St. Pius X, of Festus, on Friday with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. St. James, now 2-3, will be hosting 2-3 St. Clair.