Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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September 14, 2013

Wait is over -- Wildkats garner first victory

Mental toughness pays off for Kats against Vikings.

Kokomo’s football team found itself in unfamiliar territory heading into its third game of the 2013 season Friday night at Walter Cross Field.

For the first time in Brett Colby’s seven-year tenure as coach, the Wildkats were 0-3 overall and 0-1 in the North Central Conference. Add to that a season-ending injury to senior quarterback Tayler Persons, a tough opponent in Huntington North, and a plethora of concerns after a fumble-plagued loss to Muncie Central a week ago, and even the most stalwart Kokomo supporters were having doubts.

But the Wildkats responded with a solid performance against the Vikings to grab a hard-fought, 14-7 victory that was in doubt until the end.

“We pushed our kids this week with toughness drills after practice,” said Colby. “It was the hottest it’s been all summer. ... And it paid off. I told the kids that mental toughness got you through this game, and to be a good team, you’ve got to win a big game.”

A pair of juniors helped Kokomo right the ship. Running back Bo Baker had a career night with 197 yards on 35 rushes, and Jordan Rawlins, in his first career start at quarterback, handled the offense with poise and scored the winning touchdown. Most importantly, the Kats had just one turnover on the night while collecting three North miscues.

“We won the turnover battle for the first time this year, and we won the game. Maybe there’s a correlation there,” Colby quipped.

The Vikings (1-3, 1-1), who were averaging 282 passing yards per game, were stymied for a half by a Kokomo rushing game that ate up clock and a defense that refused to let Viking QB Keenan Leichty get the air attack off the ground. Although the Kats led just 6-0 at intermission, they had more than doubled the Vikings in time of possession and limited Leichty to just four completions on 17 attempts for 37 yards.

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