Stop me if you have heard this before; Westfield scores a touchdown in the first 15 seconds of the game, and they get a game changing touchdown from Reagan Waller. No, I am not rehashing the events of the season opening win against Southland, I am talking about how Westfield showed their true power and resiliency in their 41-24 victory over the Valwood Valiants Friday night.
Coach Ashley Henderson of Valwood knew he had his work cut out for him against the defending AAA State Champion Hornets, so he opened his bag of tricks early with an opening onside kick. The gamble did not pay off for Valwood however, as the Hornets recovered the attempt at their own 41 yard line. Then to compound the problem for Coach Henderson, Westfield hit a 59 yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Robert Myatt on a beautiful wheel route to put the Hornets up 7-0 on the very first play from scrimmage. It was the second straight week Westfield was up 7 points before the opposing defense could even put a hand on a Hornet offensive player.
Although they were down, the Valiants hung in there and gave the Hornets a game. With Westfield building a 17-3 lead midway through the 2nd quarter, things were looking good for the home team. Unfortunately things quickly shifted in the opposite direction after Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked and fumbled the ball over to the Valiants. That was all the momentum they needed as Valwood kicked their offense in gear with the combination of Parker Bonner and Merik Merine scoring on a pair of touchdowns to tie the game at 17 with just a little over a minute to go before halftime.
Just when it looked like Westfield was content with taking the tie into the locker room, they caught a break. Ryan Fitzpatrick found Reagan Waller on a pass play down to the Valwood 24 yard line as time expired. The half was not over however as a flag was thrown for a facemask penalty, which moved the ball up to the 12 yard line and set up a 29 yard field goal attempt for Griffin Elmore with an untimed down. Elmore connected on the attempt, and Westfield was gifted a lead at the half of 20-17.
Coming out in the second half, Westfield looked rejuvenated after getting a rest from dealing with the quick paced Valwood offense. The Hornets quickly forced a three and out by Valwood, and then punched in a score to build their lead to 27-17. It was beginning to look like Westfield was about put away their visitors from Hahira before their old nemesis re-emerged: turnovers. Jarius Hart fumbled an exchange from Ryan Fitpatrick, setting up Valwood with great field position in Westfield territory. Parker Bonner went to work and quickly had the Valiants in the end zone, cutting the lead to 27-24. Suddenly momentum was on the other sideline.
After the Valwood touchdown, Westfield needed a response. They quickly moved down the field and in the blink of an eye they were nearing the Valiant redzone. Hornet fullback Josh Jenkins took the ball around the right end and as he lunged forward, lost control of the ball and fumbled it back to Valwood. Westfield had turned it over for the third time on the night, and it was looking as this one might lead to the Hornets trailing for the first time all season.
The Valiants took the ball and began their quick paced attack with a couple of read option runs, and quick passes as they moved towards midfield. It was at this point where Mr. Playmaker emerged to change the game. As Parker Bonner looked to his right to pass, he unloaded not seeing Reagan Waller coming over to undercut the route. Waller made the interception in stride and had nothing but green grass ahead of him. The Hornets moved their lead back to a 10 point advantage of 34-24 with just over five minutes remaining. The interception all but killed any chances of a Valwood comeback, as the Hornets were able to add another touchdown late from Ryan Fitzpatrick to finish it off at 41-24.
Overall it was a great win by a gritty Westfield bunch. They obviously need to work on the turnover issue, but this team has a knack for stepping up at the right time. I was very impressed with the improved effort on field goals from Griffin Elmore as he converted on two FGs and five extra points. It cannot be overlooked how valuable those kicks were in giving the Hornets confidence at the half.
Westfield will move on next week to take on Trinity Christian- Sharpsburg for their first road game of the year. The Hornets hope to duplicate their effort from the playoffs last year against the Lions, and get out of the Senoia-area with a road win. This shouldn’t be a problem as long as Westfield doesn’t beat themselves, because in my opinion, I don’t think there is anyone out there that can beat them.
Here are some extra tidbits on some things we noticed:
Guys that impressed:
Moody Law Firm Big Hit of the Game: Giles Amos
Walker Insurance Play of the Game: Reagan Waller’s 55 yard INT TD return
Sonic Drive-In Offensive Player of the Game: Ryan Fitzpatrick
CW Williams Defensive Player of the Game: Reagan Waller
Special Teams Player of the Game: Griffin Elmore