Nov 15, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
By going through the air, then doing so again and again until the result was secure, the Westhill football team secured its first-ever trip to the state Class B football semifinals.
Moving to 11-0 and extending its single-season school record for victories, the Warriors flattened Section IV champion Johnson City 41-14 Saturday night at Union-Endicott High School’s Ty Cobb Stadium near Binghamton.
This sends Westhill on a trip to Rochester’s Marina Auto Stadium to meet another 11-0 team, Hornell (Section V), this Saturday at 3 p.m. The winner goes to the Carrier Dome Nov. 29 to face Schalmont or Nanuet for the state title.
Once down 7-0 against Johnson City, Westhill took charge behind a passing game that, already potent, reached new levels to subdue the Wildcats.
Senior quarterback Jeff Law threw 31 times, completing 21 of those passes for a career-high 374 yards and four touchdowns.
And quite unlike the Section III Class B final against Marcellus, Dan Ross was not going to be contained. He caught 11 of Law’s passes for 193 yards and two scores, quickly helping the Warriors overcome some early trouble.
Stopped on its opening possession, the Warriors watched as Johnson City drove 67 yards in nine plays, culminating with Jacob Spalik throwing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Troy Robinson.
That only seemed to make Westhill mad, though, as it took just four plays to get even. Three of those plays were passes to Ross, a long one followed by a 10-yard jump ball in the end zone, and it was quickly 7-7.
And thanks to Ross, the tie didn’t last, either, as he stepped up and made a one-handed interception on a Spalik pass, setting up a short scoring drive and Tyler Nigolian’s one-yard plunge that put Westhill ahead for good.
When Johnson City’s defense finally gave Ross some more coverage in the second quarter, Law adjusted — and went to his other favorite receiver, Nathan Nigolian, on a 16-yard TD strike. Westhill got further momentum when, just before halftime, R.J. Chester belted a 42-yard field goal through the uprights.
Carrying a 24-7 lead into the second half, Westhill stalled a bit early on, as Spalik’s 39-yard TD pass to Degardo Whipple slashed the margin to 24-14 and gave the large Johnson City contingent some brief hope.
But that was the last mistake the Warriors would make. Chester converted a 27-yard field goal, and Westhill broke it open by turning a small play into something big.
From his own 27, Law threw a short pass to Nathan Nigolian. Turning upfield, Nigolian found a hole — and never got caught, a 73-yard sprint to the other end zone that made it 34-14. Just to be sure, Law added a 33-yard scoring strike to Ross in the fourth quarter.
The state semifinal offers a stark contrast in styles. While Westhill loves to go through the air, Hornell prefers a powerful ground game, with Austin Dwyer at the helm. Dwyer, a senior, had 224 yards on 28 carries in the Red Raiders’ 48-12 rout of Cheektowaga in its regional final. Hornell also forced five Cheektowaga turnovers to make it more lopsided.
It remains to be seen whether Hornell’s power, or Westhill’s precise passing game, will gain the upper hand.