By TRIBUNE SPORTS STAFF
---- — FORT WAYNE — Kokomo’s football team endured a rash of mistakes and injuries in a 39-13 loss to Fort Wayne Wayne on Friday night.
The Wildkats (0-2) built a 13-6 advantage in the second quarter, but the lead slipped away under the weight of special teams breakdowns. The Generals (2-0) scored on a 77-yard kickoff return to knot the score at 13-all and then scored on a 52-yard punt return to surge into the lead.
The Generals took a 27-13 lead into halftime. Kokomo threatened in the third quarter, but a pair of turnovers deep in the red zone halted the Kats’ comeback bid, and Wayne pulled away for the 39-13 final.
Kokomo coach Brett Colby said the Kats lost nine starters to injuries over the course of the game. Two-way standout Tayler Persons left with an apparent knee injury and the Kats lost at least a pair of players to possible concussions.
“You try to tell [backups], ‘Get out there, it’s your shot to shine, make a play.’ But it was rough,” Colby said on the 1350-AM postgame show. “... We probably have two or three kids who are going to be out for at least two or three weeks, I imagine. That is tough to overcome.
“I told the kids before the game, ‘When adversity comes, you see what kind of character we have.’ It’s adversity time right now, there’s no doubt about that.”
Kokomo endured a shaky start against Wayne on the hot night. The Kats’ first two possessions ended in turnovers and the Generals took advantage of good field position following the first one to score a quick touchdown for a 6-0 lead.
Kokomo steadied the ship and, taking advantage of a Wayne turnover, put together a nice scoring drive to knot the score at 6-all in the final minute of the opening quarter. Persons capped the drive with a TD run.
The Kats followed with another scoring drive, with Persons finding paydirt on a 6-yard run for a 13-6 lead at 9:07 of the second quarter.
The Generals’ Keion Powers followed with his game-changing 77-yard kickoff return. A little more than two minutes later, Deion Powers had a 52-yard punt return to the house and the Generals were in control.
The Kats trailed 27-13 at halftime with the Generals’ final score of the half coming off a turnover.
“Two fumbles offensively down in deep and they score off both of them and special teams returns — there’s their four touchdowns in the first half,” Colby said on the 1350 show. “We could have been ahead 13-0 as easily as we were down 27-13, but ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all be having a merry Christmas right now and that ain’t happening.”
Kokomo had a pair of chances to cut into Wayne’s lead in the third quarter, but the Kats had a drive to the Wayne 1 end in a fumble into the endzone, and another drive end deep in the red zone when a fourth-down play came up short.
Wayne followed with a 95-yard scoring drive to put the game away. Keion Powers’ TD reception capped the drive.
Kokomo finished with six fumbles, losing three, and also had an interception.
Persons finished with 87 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 23 carries. Bo Baker had 78 yards on 20 carries. Persons also passed for 26 yards.