Photo: Westbrook Christian’s cade Phillips (12) catches the ball between a pair of Gaston defenders during the Warriors’ 42-0 victory last Friday (Oct. 11). (Gary Wells)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Westbrook Christian bolstered its postseason hopes with a 42-0 shutout over Etowah County neighbor and Class 2A, Region 6 rival Gaston last Friday (Oct. 11) at Shinbone Ridge.
The victory halted the a two-game losing streak while keeping the Warriors (5-2, 2-2) in a tie for third place in the region standings. Westbrook can clinch the No. 3 playoff spot if they defeat Woodland and Cleveland over the next two weeks.
The Warrior win was powered by a running game that produced 397 yards and a trio of 100-yard rushers. Karmichael Cattling gained 126 yards on 16 carries, John Reese Bellew ran six times for 114 yards and Asher Keck finished with 103 yards on 12 attempts.
Westbrook accumulated 462 total yards while holding the Bulldogs to 146.
Will Noles had a hand in five of the Warriors’ six touchdowns. The senior quarterback passed for three scores and ran for two more. He was 6 for 8 in passing for 65 yards and had four rushes for 50 yards.
Training 14-0 late in the first quarter, the Bulldogs (0-7, 0-4) had an opportunity to halt the visitors’ momentum when quarterback Josh Campbell passed to Ethan Stone at midfield. The junior tight end evaded the Warrior defenders for what would have been Gaston’s first points since against Sand Rock in Week 2.
But said points came off the scoreboard after the hosts were flagged for an illegal block, and the Bulldogs eventually had to punt the ball away. Westbrook scored a pair of touchdowns in the last two minutes of the first half for a 28-point cushion at intermission, and Gaston did not get past midfield again until the last minute of the game.
Cade Phillips had eight tackles for Westbrook, while Carson Wiggins had two interceptions.
“We were very simple in what we were trying to do tonight,” said Westbrook head coach Drew Noles said. “[Gaston head] coach [Swane] Morris had a good game plan, and they got after us defensively really well. We also got to play a lot of guys early, and we needed that.”
Following a Gaston three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, Bellew reeled off a 45-yard run on the Warriors’ second play from scrimmage. On first and goal from the Bulldog 12-yard line, Will Noles found Joe Tucker in the end zone for six points and Will Edwards pushed through the first of his five extra points on the night.
Another Gaston punt soon resulted in another Westbrook score.
A 33-yard run by Bellew, a 20-yard catch by Brandon Foster and a facemask penalty on the Bulldogs helped bring the Warriors to the Gaston 4. Lining up in the backfield, senior lineman Derrick Graham bulled his way across the goal line for a 14-point advantage at 4:06 of the first quarter.
Ethan Stone’s non-touchdown catch on the next offensive series was followed by Aaron Stone’s recovery of a Westbrook fumble early in the second period. But that Gaston drive ended after seven plays and 30 yards by Wiggins’ first pick of the night. Cattling ran for 43 of the series’ 73 yards and Will Noles took it in from a yard out to make it 21-0 with 2:22 remaining in the first half.
Campbell’s 21-yard pass to Malikah Warren on the ensuing Bulldog possession was not enough to prevent Gaston’s fourth punt of the game. It took the visitors two plays to cash in, this time with Will Noles’ 20-yard TD pass to Tucker for a 28-point lead at the break.
Any hopes by the Bulldogs for a second-half rally were doused when the Warriors scored two touchdowns within the first five minutes of the third quarter.
Westbrook drove 43 yards in five plays on the second half’s opening series to the Gaston 3, where Will Noles and Foster connected on a touchdown pass.
The Bulldogs’ initial possession of the half was cut short after four plays on Wiggins’ second pick. Three plays later, Will Noles wrapped the scoring for the night with a 32-yard touchdown run.
A 43-yard field goal attempt by Westbrook at the third quarter buzzer was no good
Both teams ran one series during a 10-minute fourth quarter with a running clock.
“Our effort is something I have not been disappointed in at any time all year,” said Morris. “We may not be the fastest or the strongest or the biggest [team], but we’re proud to put the uniform on and work hard each and every day. I’m very proud of what these kids do.”
Both teams continue region play this Friday (Oct. 18). Gaston hosts county neighbor West End, while Westbrook visits Woodland.
“We’re focusing on getting better at the simple things and not focusing on the scoreboard,” said Drew Noles. “But we definitely had some positives tonight.”