Oct 03, 2006 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
As it tore to a 4-0 start and feasted on lesser opposition, the Westhill football team knew that total respect would only come with a high-profile win against a high-profile opponent.
And the Warriors took care of that problem last Friday night, taking out defending Section III Class B champion Homer 24-14 in a battle of undefeated teams atop the Class B West division.
Twice, Westhill fell behind the Trojans. Twice, it rallied, ultimately using its lethal passing game and ability to make big plays to put Homer away.
“We know how to stick together,” said quarterback Dan Fetter. “The fact that we can come back on this kind of team speaks a lot about us.”
Not only that, but the Warriors showed a lot of patience and grit. Twice in the first half, Homer turned it over, but Westhill could not turn either gift into points, resulting in a 7-7 deadlock at the break.
Already, though, the Warriors showed that it could respond when threatened. Homer had grabbed a 7-0 edge late in the first quarter with an 82-yard drive that consumed more than five minutes of clock before Mark Brenchley scored from 12 yards out.
After a good kick return, Fetter immediately went to the air from the shotgun formation, finding his biggest target, Jim Ross, for completions of 19 and 32 yards. Dale Ross then used a 15-yard run to set up his own one-yard TD plunge that tied it, 7-7, barely two minutes after Homer had gone ahead.
So it remained until the third quarter. Taking the second-half kickoff, the Trojans went on a patented 80-yard march, all of it on the ground. Brenchley, who finished with 23 carries for 128 yards, accounted for most of those yards, but it was teammate Kevin Reese that scored on a one-yard run that put Homer back in front, 14-7.
Whatever momentum the Trojans picked up was gone just 17 seconds later. After his own good kick return, Dale Ross took a handoff, bounced off a tackle and was gone, 52 yards to the end zone. One big run had tied it again, 14-14.
Fired up by that score, Westhill’s defense began to clamp down, latching on to Brenchley to prevent any more big runs and forcing quarterback Tristan Hartnett into bad throws.
Late in the third quarter, the Warriors drove to Homer’s 16-yard line. On third down, the Trojans’ secondary anticipated a lob throw from Fetter to Jim Ross, his biggest target. Instead, Ross cut to the middle and caught a perfect pass in mid-stride to find the end zone and put Westhill up for the first time all night, 21-14.
“They expected the lob, but we changed up and it worked out for us,” said Ross.
Fetter wasn’t done. Twice in the fourth quarter, he found Jake Burgess deep on sideline patterns, and the second of those passes set up Carter Cywilko’s clinching 23-yard field goal with three minutes left.
For the game, Fetter was nine-for-15 for 217 yards, the distribution evenly balanced between Burgess (106 yards) and Jim Ross (121 yards). Head coach Gary Griffo said his team’s ability to throw with consistency to both Burgess and Ross was the primary difference between his team and Homer.
Not that Dale Ross was quiet. In addition to his 22 carries for 136 yards, Dale was superb on kick returns, constantly putting the Warriors in good field position.
All through the late stages, Westhill’s defense excelled, too. From Dave Grace and Tom Trendowski on the line, to Steve White at linebacker, to defensive backs like Dan Ross, Joe Epstein and Sean Noonan, the total effort assured that the Warriors’ lead would stay safe.
After such a big win, the 5-0 Warriors have plenty of reason not to let down, since its biggest rival, the Solvay Bearcats, pay a visit this Friday night at 7:30.
Winners of the last nine Class B West division titles, the Bearcats will see that streak end this year, having started 2-3. Still, Solvay has a tough defense, and has the extra motivation of knowing that a win over the undefeated Warriors would almost make its season.