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From left: Whitney's Devin Wilson, Dantay Owens, Samuel Shorts and Hunter Watson.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson

WHITNEY – Wildcat Stadium was rocking Friday night.

A homecoming crowd watched as the Wildcats build a 23-point lead late in the third quarter, and everything was going the hometown team’s way.

The Eagles regained control on an interception for touchdown, then added another score to get within one possession. But Hillsboro’s final drive ended on the doorstep, and Whitney smothered a fourth-down run to complete a goal-line stand as time expired to hold on for a 34-26 victory.

Devin Wilson threw for two touchdowns and ran for one for the Wildcats (3-0), who got off to a slow start before scoring 28 unanswered points spanning the second and third quarters to take control.

One of Wilson’s scoring strikes went to Gage Hightower, ad highlight-reel leaping catch along the right sideline on a fourth-and-7 heave from 33 yards out. The officials converged to discuss whether Hightower had landed in bounds before determining he had.

Hightower, who was named homecoming king at halftime, was playing with a heavy heart one day after the funeral for his father and former Whitney assistant, Brandon, who was killed in a motorcycle wreck Sunday.

That catch gave the Wildcats their first lead of the evening at 12-11, and they added to that after Juan Saucedo broke loose for a 38-yard run on a reverse and Dez Garner plowed into the end zone from 5 yards out to make it 19-11 with 10:27 to go in the first half.

Hillsboro had another shot to score right before the half, but three straight Hewitt passes fell to the turf before Richters picked off the final shot into the end zone.

Whitney scored twice without Hillsboro (1-2) touching the ball in the third quarter. Wilson scampered 22 yards to paydirt, before Stephen Mathison recovered an onside kick to set up the Wildcats’ most punishing drive of the night.

It went 11 plays, nine of which were on the ground, before Dantay Owens plowed into the end zone from a yard out to make it a 34-11 game.

Hillsboro backed Whitney up with a punt, then made the play that got it back in the game. Wilson fired up a jump ball along the right sideline that was taken in by the Eagles’ Jamal Long, who returned it 19 yards for the defensive score that turned the tide of the action.

After a Whitney punt, Hewitt capped a 10-play, 83-march with a 19-yard keeper to draw Hillsboro within one possession.

Hillsboro got the ball back with one more chance at its own 28 and plenty of time at 3:59. A facemask and pass interference moved the Eagles to the Whitney 14, and they got to the 4 with first-and-goal. On first down, Hewitt reached the 1, but a second-down pass fell incomplete. Then it was two straight Thomas McCoy runs, and Whitney was up to the task both times to set off a wild victory celebration.

It took Hillsboro one play to score on its opening possession. Hewitt dropped back and fired deep to Long in man-to-man coverage for a 54-yard touchdown pass and an early 7-0 lead.

It didn’t last long, although a break in the kicking game allowed the Eagles to stay in front. Whitney drove down the field, aided by a pair of pass-interference penalties, and scored on a 23-yard strike from Devin Wilson to Clay Richters.

On the extra point, however, the snap was botched and Hillsboro’s Nieman Turner picked the ball up and raced the length of the field for two Eagle points and a 9-6 lead with 7:16 to go in the first quarter.

Hillsboro added another two-points later in the quarter, when a high snap went over the head of Wilson. The quarterback tried to grab the ball, but it rolled all the way into the end zone before he finally fell on it for a safety and an 11-6 Eagle advantage.

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