There have been times when Nitro coach Derek Midkiff hasn't been proud of his team's effort.
Friday night, though, wasn't one of those.
The host Wildcats jumped out to a 12-0 lead before succumbing to Greenbrier East's ground game in dropping a 35-18 decision in a Class AAA matchup. A homecoming crowd of about 800 attended at Underwood Field.
Nitro seized the momentum with field goals of 25 and 27 yards from Alex White in the opening half and a 45-yard touchdown pass from Chris Moody to Nick Humphrey to start the third quarter for the 12-0 advantage.
After that it was all down hill for the Wildcats as East answered quickly and often, scoring on its last five possessions.
Isaiah Kinder needed just two plays to break off a 54-yard scoring run up the middle as he was looking to sneak for the first down on the Spartans' first possession of the second half, and Tanner Richmond scampered 29 yards on a second-and-18 on the second possession to give East the lead for good at 14-12. Kamen Reynolds hauled in a 16-yard pass from Kinder to put East up 21-12 with 8:29 left in the game.
The Wildcats didn't lie down, however, and closed to three points (21-18) as Moody found Zane Erlewine for a 6-yard score. The snap was bad on the extra-point attempt and White's 2-point conversion run failed at the 1-yard line. Moody hit Dalton Voiles with a 72-yard pass to set up the score.
Nitro was just overwhelmed and couldn't stop East, which turned in 416 yards on the ground. The Spartans ate up more clock and yardage as Cole McClain scored from 17 yards out on the third play of the ensuing possession. McClain then laid out in the end zone to intercept Moody's pass and, four plays later, Kinder put the finishing touches on the come-from-behind win with a 21-yard TD run.
"I couldn't be more proud of our guys,'' said Midkiff, Nitro's first-year coach. "I just think we got physically overwhelmed in the second half.
"We didn't have enough 17- and 18-year-olds. We had too many 14- and 15-year-olds. We haven't had those few years in the weight room that you need.''
Nitro (2-4) was seeking to extend its winning streak to three games and get to .500 for the first time in quite a while. The Wildcats snapped an 18-game losing streak earlier this year.