Mineral Wells Area News

CATS & DOGS: Santo drops ‘home’ game to Hamilton

CATS & DOGS: Santo drops ‘home’ game to Hamilton
September 10
13:15 2023


Special to Mineral Wells Area News

Wildcats hoping late-game injury to starting QB not serious

BROCK – The Santo Wildcats woke up Saturday morning hoping they didn’t lose twice on Friday night.

The Wildcats (1-2) lost their second straight game, 20-14, to Hamilton in their second “home” game played away from their home field, this one on the Brock Eagles field. Besides the non-district loss, Santo is hoping it hasn’t lost its starting quarterback, senior Hut Thornton, for a game or longer.

The Santo Wildcats enter the field ahead of Friday’s kickoff against the Hamilton Bulldogs. A scheduled Santo home game, the game was moved to Brock High School because of inadequate field conditions on Santo’s home turf.

A two-way player, Thornton suffered a left knee injury on an attempted sideline tackle late in the fourth quarter as he and his defensive mates were unable to prevent a 22-yard touchdown run that put the Bulldogs up, 20-7. Thornton lowered his pads and crashed into the runner, then went immediately to the ground, grabbing his knee and grimacing in pain.

After a couple of minutes he was helped to his feet. He was able to make his way to the bench, where his knee and leg were tightly wrapped. Thornton remained able to stand as he watched the final few minutes from the sideline.

Santo’s team mantra this season is “Anyone. Anytime. Anywhere. Bar None.” Having to play their first two home games at neutral sites, the Wildcats are putting that mantra to the test.

Santo junior running back-turned-quarterback Kalder Halbrook led a 58-yard touchdown drive, aided by a facemask penalty. Halbrook produced the score by taking a first down snap and rolling to his left. Seeing that side of the field closed off, he changed directions and swept around and down the right side of the field for a 23-yard score with less than 2 minutes remaining.

Santo attempted – and Hamilton anticipated – an onside kick, which the Bulldogs recovered and then ticked off the remaining time for the win.

Wildcats Head Coach Devon Mann said his team, a Class 2A-Division II squad, played well against the upper division Bulldogs. Hamilton (2-1) returned 17 players from a team that last season made it to the regional semifinals, its best season since 2005. He reminded that non-district games are about getting better and getting ready for district contests. Santo has one more non-district game at Rio Vista before opening district in three weeks at Muenster.

“It’s a process,” Mann said afterward. “We keep growing week after week, and the opponents keep growing week after week, and that’s by design. Do we want to win every game that we step on the field? Absolutely. But the end goal for anybody is to be the best versions of ourself by the end of that. We are on track to do that.”

Santo Head Coach Devon Mann circles his players during a first-quarter timeout in Friday’s game against the Hamilton Bulldogs. The game was played in Brock.

Mann was pleased his team played a cleaner game this week than last week with fewer penalties and what he called better execution. He also lamented a couple of lost scoring opportunities that possibly cost Santo points.

Hamilton scored touchdowns on its first two possessions while Santo’s first possession ended with a fumble in Hamilton territory. Its second possession saw the offense, thanks to some big runs by Halbrook and Thornton, move the ball to Hamilton’s 17 before the drive ended on an incomplete pass.

The players’ expressions tell the story during the playing of the Santo High School alma mater following their 20-14 loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Hamilton took a 14-0 lead to halftime.

Just like the flashes of lightning to the north, Santo came out charged in the third quarter. Taking the kickoff, the Wildcats engineered a 66-yard drive capped by an 11-yard run by Thornton, who handled a low snap, then slipped through several Bulldogs defenders into the end zone to make it a one-score game.

Santo wasn’t able to do much else offensively after that, and greatly aided Hamilton’s last score on a snap that sailed over the head and outstretched arms of punter Kevin Valenzuela. The Bulldogs took over at Santo’s 30 yard line and marched to the final score that saw Thornton injured.

Santo junior running back Kalder Halbrook peels off a run on the Wildcats’ first possession Friday against the Hamilton Bulldogs.

“Hut is a really, really tough kid. I am really proud of our kids,” said Mann. “Hut is our leader, and for him to go out and for us to step up and be able to move the ball and go put it in the end zone without missing a beat, and without us ducking our heads and our shoulders. It was a next-man-up mentality and that’s a good growth step for these guys.”

Mann said the team can’t focus on the scoreboard, but rather keep the bigger picture in their sight as the district slate approaches.

“We have to keep pinning our ears back and we’ve got to keep playing,” he said.

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