AFC's Ethan Drew scrambles on Friday against EPC.
AFC's Ethan Drew scrambles on Friday against EPC. — Kyle Reidelbaugh/

PEARL CITY – It’s Week 8, but the playoffs began for the Eastland-Pearl City Wildcatz last week.

Coming into Friday’s NUIC South tilt with AFC, the Wildcatz looked to even their record at 4-4 against the winless Raiders. The Wildcatz got a scoring roll going after a slow start, and they’ll head to Forreston next week with one last chance to make it in the 2A field after a 44-0 win.

“It gives us a lot of confidence,” EPC senior wide receiver Braydin Preston said. “We built off Amboy and we’re going to build off of this one. We got a lot of confidence now on offense and defense. We think we got a real good defense, and hopefully we’ll carry it into next week.”

The Raiders (0-8, 0-5) got a good drive going to start the game, but was turned back after a personal foul penalty in Wildcatz territory ruined the momentum.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Wildcatz looked to get out of a sluggish situation by running a play they hadn’t run before: a reversal where senior running back Braeden Heeren handed off to Preston for a run around right end. What had taken a couple of months to practice turned into perfection, resulting in a 55-yard touchdown and an 8-0 lead.

“I knew that I had to get to the outside of that corner just to get in,” Preston said. “Gave a little jab set back to the inside, and then went back to the outside.”

Nearly 7 minutes later, Christians scampered around numerous Raiders tacklers and took off for a 64-yard score for a 14-0 game. After a successful onside kick, Logan Krell made it 22-0 with a 38-yard run.

“We had a good game plan and executed it,” Raiders coach Brad Winterland said, “but, another week, another time shooting ourselves in the foot. We get to the 30 on third-and-1, and then we get a 15-yard penalty. That onside kick, we’ve worked that situation every Thursday. We didn’t cover it up, they scored because of poor tackling. That’s 22 free points there in a 4-minute stretch.”

Krell, who led the rushing corps with 153 yards on 18 carries, added another rushing TD in the second half. Travis Kaney and Bishop Groezinger added scores for the Wildcatz, who amassed 518 total yards – 467 on the ground.

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Player of the game: Logan Krell, EPC, 18-for-153 rushing, 2 TDs

He said it: “We started the playoffs 2 weeks ago with our win against Amboy, and we got to keep going. This is a big week coming up for us, and we need to be ready for it and stay focused.” – EPC coach Jared McNutt

Up next: Amboy-LaMoille at AFC, EPC at Forreston; both 7 p.m. Friday