Nashville falls to Wilmington in State Title game

Darren Kinnard

For the second time in the last three seasons, the Nashville Hornets finished their season on the turf at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb in the 2A State Championship game. The Hornets are bringing back the State Runner-Up trophy for the second straight time and third time in school history after falling to Wilmington 24-7.

Much of the pregame discussion focused on the Wildcats’ throwback to the double-wing offense that nobody this season had been able to shut down. As advertised, Wilmington chewed up yards and the clock, holding a 36:32 to 11:28 advantage in time of possession.

But it was the Wildcats’ defense that was the difference.

Wilmington defensive back Ryan Banas ended Nashville’s opening drive with an interception on the Hornets’ third offensive play. The Wildcats then methodically marched down the field on an 11-play, 58 yard drive that ate up 7:40. Jacob Friddle’s 23-yard touchdown run gave Wilmington a 7-0 lead.

Nashville got on the board in the second quarter. Facing 4th-and-6 from the Wilmington 40, Kolten Gajewski connected with Isaac Turner for not only the first down, but a touchdown tying the game 7-7.

The Hornets finished with -5 yards rushing on 17 attempts and 107 total yards for the game–40 of those yards coming on the Gajewski to Turner TD pass. Another large chunk (58 yards) came on their final offensive series in the closing minutes of the game.

Late in the half, Wilmington’s special teams came up with a huge play, blocking a punt to give the Wildcats the ball on Nashville’s 18. Ryder Meents scored a 1-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left in the half to give Wilmington a 14-7 lead at intermission.

Despite the struggles, the Hornets still found themselves down by a single score in the third quarter with the ball in Wilmington territory. They say it’s a game of inches–Nashville can attest. The Hornets came up inches shy on a 4th-and-7 from the Wildcats’ 36. Wilmington then extended the lead to 14 on Friddle’s second touchdown run of the day. He finished with 157 yards rushing.

Unlike last week when the Hornets trailed Decatur St. Teresa by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, there would be no magical comeback. The Wildcats eliminated any of those thoughts stopping a 4th-and-1 Nashville’s 29 with 7:34. Allan Richards then added a 32 yard field goal to finish up the scoring.

Nashville finishes the season 12-2.