WENATCHEE — What a difference a year makes. Last year, the first game of the season on the road at Mount Si, Wenatchee got creamed 52-0. This year, at home, the Panthers gave the visiting Wildcats all they could handle as the game hung in the balance in the final minutes.

“The effort is always there. The guys always play hard. I’m proud of the effort. The penalties and mental mistakes were the difference in the game,” said Wenatchee Head Coach Scott Devereaux. “I think we had 15 or so (penalties) but a bunch was late in the game. There was some personal fouls.”

Wenatchee lost 26-16 in a game that included over 30 penalties and two safeties. Last season, it was Cade Millen at the helm of the Wildcat offense. The son of former Husky star Hugh Millen is now at the University of Oregon.

However, his younger brother Clay is now the quarterback and he also is a Division One prospect. On their first possession, the Wildcats drove 52 yards in 8 plays for the touchdown, Millen to Colby Botten from the 6 yard line.

Mount Si led 7-0.

Wenatchee, on their second possession, could not muster any offense but the punt return was fumble by the Wildcats, giving the Panthers the ball at Mount Si 25 yard line. Four plays later, Wenatchee junior QB Camden Sirmon found junior wideout JJ Jelsing for the 6-yard score.

The Wenatchee defense forced Mount Si three and out on their next possession, but on the punt return, the Panthers fumbled, giving the Wildcats the ball at midfield. Mount Si scored on an 8-play drive as Millen ran 1-yard for the TD.

The Wildcats led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.

Wenatchee would come back late second quarter on a fantastic 8-play, 90 yard drive. A 45-yar d run by senior Nathan Blauman set up the Panthers in Wildcat territory. On fourth and seven, Sirmon hit Jelsing on a 35-yard strike which saw him beat two defenders.

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Nathan Blauman pushes Mount Si defender Caleb Dalgleish away as he runs with the ball. Wenatchee vs. Mount Si football. Wenatchee lost 26-16.

Wenatchee tied the game at 14-14 with 2:27 before half. Next Wildcat possession, they drove down to the Panther 25-yard, but were forced to try a 42-yard field goal, which went wide.

The game remained tied at 14-14 at the half. Mount Si drove down the Wenatchee 18-yard line to start the second half, but fumbled.

Wenatchee was not able to muster much offense but a brilliant punt by Nate Blauman late in the third quarter pinned the Wildcats at the 1-yard line.

Next play, Millen fumbles the snap and goes down on one knee in the end zone. Safety Wenatchee. The Panthers took a 16-14 lead.

Mount Si drove 48-yards in 10 plays and settled for a 37-yard field goal to give them a 17-16 lead with 10:16 to go in the game.

Wenatchee started a drive at their own 20-yard line with 7:29 to go. Blauman made a spectacular run to run midfield, but was called back due to a holding call and personal foul. With the ball on their own 9-yard line, Sirmon went back to pass in the end zone, passed to Blauman who was nailed for a safety.

The Wildcats now led 19-16. After the safety, Mount Si went 61 yards in seven plays for a TD to put the game nearly out of reach. The runner appeared tackled, but he broke free for the score.

“They had that run and the guy was wrapped up but we didn’t finish the tackle and he spun out and scored. That was a punch in the face on that one. It was a knockout blow,” he said.

Mount Si led 26-16 with 3:09 remaining.

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Wenatchee player Jax Tucker tackles Mount Si quarterback Clay Millen. Wenatchee vs. Mount Si football. Wenatchee lost 26-16.

With Sirmon leading the way, Wenatchee drove to the Wildcat 4-yard line and appeared to get the touchdown pass to Jelsing, but he was called for offensive pass interference. The ball was pushed back to the 18. Wenatchee could not find the endzone as the game came to an end.

“We’re going to sit down and watch the film. We have a lot of things we can clean up. Too many mental mistakes and way too many penalties. You can’t win games with 15 penalties, 3-4 personal fouls,” Devereaux said.

Millen was 25-for-39 for 358 yards and one touchdown. Sirmon was 21-40 for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns.

“Their quarterback was spinning it well. I challenged the DBs to challenge their receivers a little bit tighter in the second half. At times, we did but we weren’t real consistent with it,” he said.

Blauman has 18 rushes for 108 yards. Wenatchee had 13 penalties for 117 yards. Mount Si had 19 penalties for 173.

“I was proud of the defense. We got to the guy, but didn’t tackle well all night. We made him earn it. Last year, they had twice as many points,” he said. “We’ll be fine. Guys will stick together.”

Next up for Wenatchee, a home game against Lewiston, Idaho. Last season, the Panthers lost 24-10 at Lewiston.

“They were a solid team last year. Don’t know about them this year. They are usually pretty solid. I expect them to come here and have a great football game,” Devereaux said.

Ian Dunn: 664-7157