By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Westbrook Christian pushed Class 2A, No. 4 Ohatchee to the brink, but the Warriors’ upset bid fell just short in a 37-30 Region 6 loss last Friday (Sept. 21) at Jack Osborn Stadium in Rainbow City.
Trailing 30-14 in the fourth quarter, the Warriors (3-2, 1-1) mounted a 17-play, 80-yard scoring drive to close the gap to 30-20. Running back Hunter Grimes scored from six yards out to trim the deficit to 10, and quarterback Jackson Cox (pictured above) ran in the two-point conversion to bring the Warriors within eight points.
Two plays later, however, Ohatchee’s Grayson Alward found a seam and burst down the sideline for a 51-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 37-22. Westbrook marched back down the field but turned the ball over on downs on the Ohatchee 5-yard line.
When the Indians went to punt, the Warriors applied pressure and forced the Ohatchee punter to kick the ball into the back of one of his teammates. Westbrook took over on the Ohatchee 13, from where Cox connected with fullback John Ross Morgan for a touchdown. Grimes ran in the two-point try to cut the lead to 37-30 with 3:29 remaining in the game.
With no timeouts, Westbrook attempted an onside kick. Garrett Hall recovered the ball for the Warriors inside Ohatchee territory. Cox led the offense down the field with several clutch throws to P.J. Wells and Ryan Scott, and the Warriors eventually worked the ball into the red zone.
Ohatchee’s Cade Williamson came up with an interception on the five-yard line, however, allowing the Indians to escape with the narrow victory and remain undefeated.
Despite the loss, Westbrook coach Brian Mintz said he was proud of the way his team played against one of the best teams in the state.
“I was very, very proud of the way the kids fought,” Mintz said. “We did a lot of good things. We shot ourselves in the foot a lot of times to get ourselves behind the eight ball to begin with. But I was very proud of our guys. We felt like we would have an opportunity if we played tough, but at the same time, I knew (Ohatchee) had some good athletes and was going to make a play or two, and they made about five.”
Westbrook put together several long drives throughout the game that did not result in points. Meanwhile, the majority of Ohatchee’s points came on explosive plays on offense or special teams.
The Warriors had an opportunity to score at the end of the first quarter, but their 15-play drive stalled after failing to convert a fourth-and-two. On Ohatchee’s first drive of the second quarter, head coach Scott Martin rolled the dice and went for it on fourth-and-one on his own 45-yard line. Running back Domonique Thomas bounced it outside and outraced the Westbrook defense for a 55-yard touchdown to give the Indians a 7-0 lead.
Westbrook responded with another long drive, and Grimes scored from a yard out to cut the lead to 7-6. The extra point was blocked. A 34-yard pass from Cox to Wells set up the touchdown.
However, the Indians (4-0, 3-0) scored on the first play of the ensuing drive on an 82-yard touchdown run from Alward. Ohatchee added a field goal as time expired in the second quarter and carried a 17-6 lead into the locker room.
The game nearly slipped away from Westbrook early in the second half after the Warriors fell behind 24-6 early in the third quarter. On the Warriors’ next possession, they faced a fourth-and-nine on the Ohatchee 20-yard line. Cox dropped back and delivered a strike to Wells for a touchdown, and Cox found Morgan for the successful two-point conversion to cut the lead to 24-14.
On the ensuing kickoff, Thomas caught the ball on the Ohatchee 12 and returned it 88 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 30-14.
Cox completed 20 of 32 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns. Grimes led the Warriors on the ground with 122 yards on 23 carries and a score, while Morgan added 47 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Morgan also caught three passes for 22 yards and a touchdown. Wells snagged seven passes for 115 yards and a touchdown and Scott hauled in five passes for 47 yards.
Alward led the way for Ohatchee with 183 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Thomas rushed 14 times for 130 yards and a score on the ground. Despite losing, Westbrook outgained Ohatchee 438 to 387 in total yards.
The Warriors have a bye this week before traveling to Ranburne on Oct. 5 for a Class 2A, Region 6 game. That matchup could have major playoff implications down the road, and Mintz said that it is a game his team needs to win.
“We have a week off, and I know Ranburne has a good football team. We’ll get to see them right off the bat coming back. I told the kids that at some point we have to beat someone that no one thinks we can. We’re going to have to bounce back and make that opportunity here in a couple of weeks.”