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Westwood Horizon

Varsity Football Excels to Playoffs

Presley Glotfelty, Reporter

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Photo by Kate Connors

Chad Dixon '18 runs after he catches the ball on the kickoff return.

A status that’s been on the line for the varsity football team the last five years has finally become more than just a dream. Since 2013, the Warriors haven’t excelled past their district season, but as the players ran off the field with their joy in tow on Friday, Nov. 3, they let the whole crowd know, “[we’re] going to playoffs, baby!” Their 53-35 victory over the Pflugerville Panthers landed them a spot in the first round of playoffs. Players like Mario Debs ‘19 and Will Jennings ‘18 lead with 68 and 47 rushing yards respectively, Cameron Thomas ‘18 with 141 receiving yards, and Luca Mazzola ‘19 and Reese Green ‘18 with 12 and 10 total tackles, all of which heavily contributed to the team’s victory last night.

The Warriors kickoff started with an onside kick that was quickly recovered on the 30-yard line, giving the ball right back to the team. The crowd stood in awe as the Warriors initiated such an aggressive first play. On their try for fourth down, Jennings’ pass was complete to Thomas for a 15-yard gain. Seconds after, Thomas ran into the end zone from another pass by Jennings for the first touchdown of the game, and put the Warriors in the lead 7-0. The Warrior defense pushed the Panther offense back behind the line of scrimmage on their second down. A slight fumble by the offense was immediately detected by the Warriors as the entire defense tackled the running back, Reed Harrington ‘18 leading the pack. This success delivered a turnover to the Warriors. Jennings effortlessly ran through two tackles by the Panther defense on fourth down, but came up just short. Shortly after, the Panthers scored a touchdown to tie the results 7-7. On defense again, Mazzola caught running back who outran the other players and stopped his 13-yard gain. Will Clitheroe ‘19 and adjoining defensive players tackled a Panther wide receiver just before the end zone on the one-yard line. Unfortunately, they passed through the defense and scored another touchdown (14-7). Upon the Panther’s kickoff, Brandon Kothlow ‘18 caught the ball on the 20-yard line and ran to the opposite five and put the offense at a tremendous position to score. Jennings ran past the goal line to tie the score again at 14-14. Ethan Brown ‘19 emerged from the defensive line and made the only sack of the game, pushing them back 15 yards to the 18-yard line. This forced them to punt on third down. Chad Dixon ‘18 received the punt and successfully gave the team a 10-yard advantage. Jennings ran the ball from the 33-yard line to the five, putting them in an excellent position for the second quarter.

Thomas scored a touchdown the first play of the second quarter and put the team ahead 21-14. Mazzola came in with the same destructive tackle and stopped offensive players from gaining anymore yards. Sam Zientek ‘18 took down offensive players running through the middle and stopped any advancement of yards. One receiver snuck around the side of the defense and scored a touchdown, tying the score yet again (21-21). Back on offense, the Warriors quickly gained first downs. Jennings threw a 31-yard pass to Ryan Lindley ‘20, followed by another throw to Lindley who caught the ball in the end zone while guarded by three defenders (28-21). Roshan Mara ‘18 and Clitheroe collectively tackled a running back, making him unable to gain any yards. Mara tackled the biggest player on the offensive, greatly helping the Warriors. A fake hand off by the Panthers passed back to their quarterback was thrown into the end zone, but with no success because Kothlow demonstrated clean and effective man coverage. They were able to hold the Panthers, but after several plays, they inevitably scored again and ended the first half 28-28.

“In order to be in the playoffs, the boys knew they had to win,” Coach Anthony Wood said. “So it was nice to see them with that pressure the last two weeks even to come out on top and be successful.”

The third quarter revealed the true action. Debs carried the ball for a 28-yard run the second play of the half. Immediately after, Dylan Frazier ‘18 received a 34-yard pass and fell just before the one-yard line. A fake hand-off to Debs distracted most of the defense and enabled Jennings to walk over the players into the end zone for a touchdown in the first two minutes of the second half (35-28). Jaikem Murphy ‘18, who usually plays running back, destroyed the Panther’s runners on defense. Green picked up the pace for players missing tackles, and demolished receivers in his zone. Mazzola stopped the Panthers on the five-yard line, but they scored again for a Panther touchdown (35-35). Brown and Harrington back on defense cooperatively tackle receiving players to prevents gain of yards. In a hail mary attempt by the Panthers on fourth down, Dixon blocked the open receiver on the goal line and stopped the touchdown. Back on offense, Lindley ran 10 yards down the middle, reaching halfway to the end zone. Two passes to Frazier make it with 24 yards left till goal, but ends the third quarter 35-35.

“The second half we finally woke up and stepped it up a notch because we knew we only had two quarters left to give everything we got in order to reach playoffs,” Mara said. “We made mistakes on both sides but I’m proud of us for coming together as a team and always giving effort on every play because that made up for the mistakes.”

A 23-yard run by Debs landed him just before the goal line, but as he stretched his arms while being tackled, the ball passed the goal line for a touchdown with 11:54 on the clock, but the extra point was no good (41-35). With the Panthers back on offense and already on fourth down, their quarterback threw a rainbow to a receiver but Dixon blocked it yet again and prevented a touchdown. Back on offense, Thomas ran completely around the defensive line towards the middle of the field losing his chaser, and received a 70-yard touchdown pass. Coach Wood decided to try for two extra points, but the team wasn’t successful (47-35). On the kickoff to the Panthers, the ball bounced out of their reach and Kothlow was able to grab in and run to the 35-yard till goal. With three minutes on the clock, Debs ran the ball to the nine-yard line, first and goal. A pass to Lindley in the corner of the end zone was complete for a touchdown with 2:29 left in the game, however the extra point was not good (53-35). Zientek and Harrington tackled a running back again, reaching to stop him from gaining any yards with only a minute left on the clock. The Warriors ran out the clock and finished the game 53-35.

“Playoffs is absolutely amazing and I’m so excited to finally be in it,” Jennings said. “We will prepare for Cedar Ridge like any other game, but at the same time stay safe and make sure no one is injured for the playoff game after.”

The Warriors take on the Cedar Ridge Raiders at home next week on Friday, Nov. 10 at the Kelly Reeve’s Athletic Complex.

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