Story by Donny Victory/ Times Record News
After handling the Titans roughly in Cedar Rapids on March 11, the Wichita Falls Nighthawks welcomed its division rival to Kay Yeager Coliseum Friday night.
The Nighthawks may have started the game being a bit gentle with the Titans before running off 28 consecutive points in the second quarter en route to a 81-52 victory.
"The team had a lot of fun tonight," Wichita Falls coach Billy Back said. "We started to gel a little bit, and then everyone started having fun."
It wasn't that fun at the beginning of the game. Cedar Rapids looked like they may have figured out the riddle of how to beat the Nighthawks in the month since the teams' last meeting. The Titans took a 6-point lead into the second quarter.
"We knew that we had not been playing our best," Wichita Falls running back Tyler Williams said. "After our last several games we wanted to come out and show everyone what we could do. They really fought us to start, but we started gelling and pulled away."
It was all Nighthawks after the second quarter started. The defense forced a turnover when Michael Carter got a pick in the end zone before the special teams forced a second turnover on a muffed kickoff return by Cedar Rapids.
"Those turnovers are huge for us," Back said. "They make such a big impact on the game. It allowed us to get a lead and start applying pressure. The more pressure, the more mistakes they are going to make, and when the offense plays like it did tonight we will take advantage of those mistakes."
The defense also came up with two stops keeping the Titans stymied for the majority of the quarter.
The only drama at the end would be if the Nighthawks could score more than 80 points, giving fans in attendance free admission into the next home game. Jordan Jolly's 12-yard TD catch with 3:30 left put the team over the 80-point threshold.
While the defense and special teams shone brightest in the second quarter, the Wichita Falls offense was at a high-octane level for the entire game.
"That is what our offense is supposed to look like," Nighthawks offensive lineman Clint Marsh said. "On the line, we did our job. Our receivers did their job getting open and making plays, and having a quarterback like ours makes all of our jobs easier."
Charles McCullum made his job look easy. He was unstoppable on the night, accounting for 10 touchdowns. He went 23 of 32 for 219 yards with nine TDs against one interception through the air and was the leading Wichita Falls rusher with five carries for 41 yards and a score.
"Charles really showed why he is the league's Offensive MVP tonight," Back said.
His primary targets were Jordan Jolly and Phillip Barnett. Jolly had eight catches for 96 yards and three touchdowns while Barnett had 3 catches for 50 yards and a score.
Tyler Williams left his usual mark on the game scoring on a rush, reception and kickoff return.
FIRST QUARTER: Cedar Rapids got the first hit in quickly taking the opening kickoff the distance to take an early 7-0 lead. The lead was short lived. The Nighthawks only used three plays to tie the game.
The entire opening quarter was fastbreak football seeing a touchdown on every drive. Cedar Rapids 20, Wichita Falls 14.
SECOND QUARTER: Wichita Falls took control of the game by running off 28 consecutive points. The Nighthawks' defense drew first blood, getting the first stop of the game when Michael Carter picked off a pass in the end zone and brought the ball back out to midfield, and the offense took advantage with a 4-yard TD pass from McCullum to Troy Evans.
Wichita Falls' special teams was not going to be outdone coming up with a loose ball on the ensuing kickoff to make the Nighthawks plus-2 in the turnover battle. Wichita Falls 49, Cedar Rapids 28.
THIRD QUARTER: Both halves got off to quick starts as Tyler Williams opened the third quarter with a kickoff return for a TD. The third was almost a mirror of the first with both teams moving easily up and down the field for the first 12 minutes of the quarter. Both teams got stops to wrap up the quarter. Wichita Falls 68, Cedar Rapids 40.
FOURTH QUARTER: With the game's outcome pretty much decided, the only real drama was if the Nighthawks could break 80 points because an 80-point performance would net everyone in attendance a free ticket to the next home game.
And that was decided with about three minutes left in the game when McCullum threw TD pass No. 9 of the night with a 12-yarder to Jordan Jolly.
Michael Carter pulled in his second interception of the night in the waning moments of the game. Wichita Falls 81, Cedar Rapids 52.