TAMPA — In a game where wet field conditions made it tough on both teams to move the ball, Wharton relied on sound defense and special teams to defeat New Tampa rival Freedom 19-6 Thursday night.
The Wharton defense struck first late in the first quarter when cornerback Jermey Jefferson intercepted a pass and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown. Wharton capitalized on Freedom's mistakes. It was the opposite story for the Patriots. The Wildcats turned the ball over six times, yet Freedom produced only six points.
A key sequence in the second quarter summed up the game for the Patriots. After forcing a Wharton fumble at the goal line (preventing a Wharton touchdown) Freedom shanked a punt that Wharton returned for a touchdown.
Running back Jeff Keil was the bright spot for the Wildcats. Although he was responsible for a few fumbles, Keil still ran for 142 yards and a touchdown.
Freedom got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard run by Andre Folkes.
Mike McCollum, Times correspondent