Photo: Westbrook’s Addison Ponder was a major factor in the Warriors’ 28-21 victory over Section on Sept. 22.
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Trailing Class 2A, Region 6 rival Section by 14 points at halftime last Friday (Sept. 22), Westbrook Christian was in danger of dropping its fourth straight game of the season.
The Warriors rose to the challenge, outscoring the Lions 21-0 over the final 24 minutes for a 28-21 victory in Rainbow City.
Addison Ponder’s 5-yard touchdown run capped off the opening drive of the second half and drew the Warriors within 21-14 at 7:16 of the third quarter.
On the ensuing Lions series, Westbrook’s David Barnett recovered a fumble at the Section 12. Four plays later, Court Coley found the end zone from a yard out, and Will Dickson’s PAT tied game with four minutes left in the third.
The Warrior defense shut down the following Lion drive when Jackson Lutrell sacked Section quarterback Ryan Gray, setting up the hosts at the Lion 25.
The ensuing nine-play drive ended on a missed 45-yard field goal attempt with 5:16 remaining in the game, but the Westbrook defenders provided their offensive mates with another opportunity by forcing a punt with 1:42 on the clock.
A 12-yard pass completion from Jackson Cox to P.J. Wells provided the Warriors with a first down at the Section 44, and on the next play Cox hit Caeden Godfrey in stride down the left sideline for the touchdown with 21 seconds left. Dickson’s extra point capped the Westbrook rally and moved the Warriors to 1-3 overall and 1-0 in the region.
Westbrook head coach Brian Mintz said that he didn’t go the way of a rah-rah motivational halftime speech in order to fire up his troops.
“We just told the kids to go out there and play hard, and they did. We got a score right off the bat and then got the turnover and got it in quick. On that last drive, we got the ball to P.J., and then they left Caeden open and he made a great play and Jackson made a nice throw.”
Cox was 12 for 15 in passing for 159 yards. Wells had for receptions for 41 yards, while Godfrey and Court Coley each caught three passes.
Coley and John Ross Morgan each had eight tackles, followed by Carson Wiggins with seven and Godfrey with six. Lutrell had two sacks.
Shaking off a knee injury, Ponder provided a big spark in rushing for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries after entering the game midway through the second quarter.
“Addison told me before the game that if I put him in at running back, he’d win the game for us, and he did. He brings so much to our football team just in leadership. It was just a phenomenal effort on his part, and I’m very proud for him. He’s playing at a high level; I just wish he was completely healthy.”
Section (3-2, 2-1) outgained the Warriors by a 337 to 280 margin, including a 202 to 121 advantage on the ground. Gray completed 8 of 11 passes for 135 yards, while Caden Hicks had four catches for 46 yards.
Tanner Baker paced the Lion ground game with 73 yards on 14 carries, while Lance Carter rushed 17 times for 64 yards.
Section started off with a bang when Baker ran for 21 yards on the first play of the game. Gray hit Logan Matthews for 37 yards, and Gray polished off the eight-play, 78-yard series with a 10-yard TD run. James Fenimore’s PAT put the visitors ahead 7-0 at 7:41 of the first quarter.
The Warriors were forced to punt on their first three two possessions, and the hosts soon found themselves in a 14-0 hole when Hicks took it to the house from 39 yards out nine seconds into the second period.
Westbrook finally got untracked late in the first half. First, the Warrior defense held on a fourth and 2. Then, the Westbrook offense went 75 yards in 10 plays to score on a 5-yard run by Ponder. With Dickson’s kick, the hosts narrowed the gap to seven points with 2:04 left before the half.
But that was plenty of time for the Lions to strike again. Baker returned the ensuing kickoff 40 yards to the Lion 48, and four plays later Gray and River Strawn connected for a 28-yard touchdown pass and a 21-7 Section lead at intermission.
Westbrook travels to White Plains next week for a non-region game, while Section has an open date.
“Section was more physical than us, and we knew that they’d make some plays,” said Mintz. “Coach [Lucas] Powell’s done a great job with his guys. I told our kids that the biggest thing for us tonight was not turning the ball over. You’ve always got a chance when that happens.”