On Saturday, the Western Pennsylvania Wildcatz won their 80th game in their eight-year history – this one a 26-13 win over the then-No. 3 team in the Premier Amateur Football League, the Erie Express. The win improved WPA’s 2017 record to 8-0 and extended their current winning streak to 22.
“Definitely, by far, they’re the best competition we’ve played all year,” Wildcatz owner John Reay told Developmental Football USA. “It was a good game. A few plays could have went differently for us and it might have been a steeper victory for us. They’re a good team, well-coached and they were able to hang in there with us for most of the game. We got a little conservative in the second half, but it definitely lived up to its hype and we’ll probably see them again in the conference championship.”
Looking at the Wildcatz’ star-studded roster, it’s easy to see how they’ve been so dominant.
“It starts with our quarterback, No. 6, Paul Jones Jr.,” Reay said. “He went to Penn State, played there for a year. He was the No. 3 quarterback in the country coming out of high school.”
So far this year, Jones has thrown 20 touchdowns to just two interceptions for WPA.
“He’s been the leader, taking over,” Reay said. “Our quarterback from last year switched and went to the Columbus Fire on us. Another guy on offense, wide receiver No. 11, Bruce Thornton Jr, I think he tops the league with eight or nine touchdowns. He was actually out last week versus Erie, injured. On the offensive line, I’ve got to give love to our center, of course, No. 55 Saquan Thomas. This is his fourth year, starting at center for us. He’s the definitely the anchor of the line and the leader.”
Defensively, WPA’s roster is even more impressive, with two former National Football League players leading the way.
“We’ve got our captain, Mortty Ivy, an ex-Pittsburgh Steeler, No. 8,” Reay said. “We got No. 3, who actually just came back this week, James Bryant – a one-time Detroit Lion, who played at the University of Miami. We’ve got Dana Brown, No. 6 from Kent State University. Our defense is stacked. The league leader in sacks last year, No. 52, Darnell Harding, he made the All-Country All-Star team last year, with, I think, 25 sacks.”
So far the Wildcatz have successfully held off all teams trying to contend for their throne. If they can keep it up, WPA will become back-to-back PAFL Champions later this summer.
“It would mean a lot,” Reay said. “I think it would mean more than last year. Last year was our first outdoor championship. With the departure of our quarterback, who was league MVP, a lot of teams are saying we can’t do it without him. Hopefully we see him in the championship game with the Fire, that way we can prove to everybody we did it as a team, not an individual.
“We just have to stay together and keep doing what we’ve been doing the last few years. We’re built like a family. We’ve got 65 guys on the team and they do a lot of rotating, to keep them healthy and keep them from getting tired. A lot of teams can’t do that, so that’s where we beat them, and we’re in better shape than them, so we beat them and keep having fun and do what we do.”
As always, the playoffs will reveal which team has worked the hardest and which team wants it the most. Right now, there are a handful of teams of which the Wildcatz believe the championship race will come down to.
“On our side, probably just Erie in the conference championship game,” Reay said. “The Rangers from around here, they’re a scrappy team, but I think we’re 12-0 all-time against them. We’re 4-0 all-time versus Erie, but most of the games have been pretty close. I think the toughest games, the toughest tests will be either the Southern Michigan Timberwolves or the Columbus Fire.”