Sep 09, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Already, the Westhill football team knew it was in for a rough transition, with record-setting running back Dale Ross took his vast skills to Morrisville State College.
What the Warriors did not expect, prior to Sunday’s season opener with Bishop Kearney in the Kickoff Classic at the Carrier Dome, was seeing its senior quarterback go to the sidelines in the last week of pre-season practice.
Thus, the Warriors were far from full strength when Kearney, a Section V power from the Rochester area, took charge in the game’s late stages with a surge of points that led to 35-17 defeat.
Due to injury, DeCarr had his left (non-throwing) shoulder in a sling and could only watch from the sidelines as junior Dan Ross, normally a wide receiver, took a majority of the snaps on this night.
For a while, that seemed to work. Except for the occasional pass, the Warriors stayed conservative, running both Ross and Sam Penizotto to control the clock and keep it out of the reach of a potent Kearney offense.
When the Kings did have the ball, it drove twice deep into Westhill territory in the first quarter, only to see the Warriors’ defense make some key stops, including a Ross interception at the five-yard line.
A Kearney fumble early in the second quarter gave the Warriors its first serious scoring chance. It stalled, but Carter Cywilko came in and drilled a 39-yard field goal through the uprights, putting Westhill in front 3-0.
So it remained as Kearney took possession at its own 40-yard line in the last minute of the half. The Kings drove inside the 20, then struck a huge blow.
From the Westhill 17, Jake Meek threw a swing pass to Quentin Gause, who broke two tackles and dove into the end zone with just one second left before halftime. Just like that, Kearney had a 7-3 lead, and would not get caught.
Still, Westhill had a great chance to answer early in the third quarter. From his own 17, Ross drove the Warriors to Kearney’s 29, the big blow a 25-yard pass to Nate Nigolian.
Facing fourth-down-and-nine, Ross went deep, and threw it just right to hit Nigolian as he sprinted into the end zone. But Nigolian dropped the pass.
Instead of a 10-7 lead, Wetshill still found itself behind, and it would start to get worse when, in the last minute of the third quarter, Kearney’s Blair Roberts returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown, sprung by a huge block near midfield.
That made it 15-3, and the Kings were just getting started. Three times in the fourth quarter, Kearney would convert drives into touchdowns, negating the Warriors’ own scoring when Ross threw a pair of TD passes in the last minutes.
Playing close to every down (though he missed some time late in the third quarter), Ross went nine-for-20 for 159 yards in the air and ran for 50 yards, too.
For the time being, Ross will have to keep his heavy workload as the Warriors go east to face Oneida Friday night at 7 p.m.
The Indians, brand-new to the Class B ranks after some years in Class A, played in that same Kickoff Classic on Sunday and slammed Oneida 47-13. With 17 seniors on its roster, including quarterback Ryan Kramer, Oneida has championship ambitions, giving Westhill another supreme challenge as it waits for DeCarr to heal.