WISE — Defense and special teams ruled the day when Virginia-Wise kicked off its football season Saturday night.
The Highland Cavaliers trailed just once, for a mere 17 seconds, in their 37-29 victory over No. 20 Webber International.
Ricky Carlson returned a Virginia-Wise punt 51 yards for a touchdown to put Webber ahead 23-17 with 29 seconds left in the third quarter. But after the Cavs blocked the extra-point attempt, Marcus Bratton returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards to paydirt to put Virginia-Wise ahead for good.
Webber scored with 28 seconds remaining in the game to pull within two points, but the Cavs stopped the 2-point conversion attempt to preserve the lead.
James Long put an end to any Webber comeback hopes by returning the final kickoff 41 yards for a touchdown.
New quarterback Tye Marshall got off to a quick start, hitting Tyrone Jefferson in stride for a 72-yard scoring connection on the Cavs’ first offensive play of the game. Marshall finished with 242 yards on 13-of-22 passing and three interceptions.
Jefferson had four receptions for 117 yards. Perrish Kelley added a touchdown on a 40-yard interception return.
Virginia-Wise’s running game struggled, carrying the ball 27 times for minus-5 yards, but Amondre Johnson punched it in from a yard out late in the game to give the Cavs an eight-point lead.
Virginia-Wise goes to the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky., this Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.