Class 2A state championship: Jacob Friddle, Wilmington defense lead Wildcats to 2A title

DeKALB — After scraping for every yard, Jacob Friddle finally broke free.

The Wilmington senior running back’s 34-yard touchdown run gave his team a two-score lead as the Wildcats claimed the Class 2A State Championship on Friday, beating Nashville, 24-7.

“To be able to bring another state title to our community is something we’re very proud of,” said Wilmington coach Jeff Reents, who led the team to the 2014 title. “It was a lot of hard work, a lot of effort. ... We’re really happy to be in this spot right now.”

Friddle finally got loose with 9:05 left in the fourth quarter to put the Wildcats (14-0) ahead 21-7.

Nashville (12-2) went four-and-out on the next possession and the Wildcats were able to claim their second title in school history.

Friddle handed most of the workload for the Wildcats, running 29 times for 157 yards. The defense took care of the rest. Nashville hadn’t scored less than 21 points in a game this year. The Wildcats held them to 107 total yards and minus-5 rushing.

After an interception by Ryan Banas on the third play of the game, the Wildcats started the scoring behind a 22-yard run by Friddle, capping an 11-play drive with 3:14 left in the first quarter. But the Hornets evened things up in the second quarter when quarterback Kolten Gajewski found Isaac Turner for a 40-yard score.

That play was most of Nashville’s offense in the first half, as it managed just 49 first-half yards.

“We just didn’t play well enough to get it,” Nashville coach Stephen Kozusek said. “Our defense held on as long as they could, but our offense just didn’t make enough plays.”

But as good as the Willmington defense was, it took a blocked punt late in the first half to spark the Wildcats’ second score to take the lead. Karsen Hansen blocked the punt deep in Nashville territory and Hunter Hayes jumped on it.

Hansen said special teams coach Bobby Bolser had the Wildcats prepared for the block.

“He told us we were going to be there. It just flowed,” Hansen said. “It was amazing and a big turning point in the game.”

Ryder Meents then capped the drive with a 1-yard run with 16 seconds left and the Wildcats took a 14-7 lead into the half.

Allen Richards added a field goal to push the Wilmington lead to 24-7 with 3:05 left.

The Wildcats won the game with just 234 yards of total offense. While they made just 3-of-12 third-down conversions, they were 4 for 5 on fourth down. They also held the ball for 36:32 of game time.

Gajewski threw for 112 yards on 6-of-21 passing for Nashville. Turner had three catches for 60 yards.