By Shannon J. Allen/Sand Mountain Reporter
Quarterback Hunter Grant launched his senior year with a memorable performance, propelling West End High to its first season-opening win since 2010.
Grant rushed for three touchdowns and passed for three touchdowns, leading the Patriots to a 41-28 triumph over Susan Moore on Thursday night at Larry “Pod” Patterson Field.
It was West End’s first triumph in the rivalry since 2007.
The Patriots outscored Susan Moore 21-6 in the second half, including 14-0 in the fourth quarter.
Grant rushed for all of his TDs in the final half. He finished with 103 yards on 12 attempts, and he was 13-of-18 passing for 234 yards.
Andre Little caught eight passes for 126 yards and a score.
“Last year we got the lead with 1:14 to go in the game, 27-21, and they go down and score with four seconds left, and it just broke our backs,” West End head coach Kyle Davis said of the Pats’ 28-27 loss to Susan Moore in their 2014 opener. “The rest of the year we never really recovered. I’m proud of our boys. We actually played as a team tonight. We’re coming together as a team, and that means a lot.”
Caegan Epperson returned the second-half kickoff 33 yards to West End’s 49-yard line.
Six plays later, Grant ran a keeper up the middle for 11 yards and a touchdown. He passed to Hunter Tarvin for two points, giving the Patriots a 28-22 lead with 9:47 left in the third period.
West End’s defense made a fourth-down stop at its 41 on Susan Moore’s ensuing possession. But the Patriots lost a fumble two plays later, setting up Susan Moore’s offense at the West End 34.
Hunter Duncan sprinted 33 yards for a touchdown, tying it 28-28 with 4:20 remaining. The Pats stuffed Duncan on a two-point conversion run.
West End turned it over on downs at the Bulldogs’ 10 with 10:10 left in the fourth period.
The Patriots’ defense forced a punt, and West End’s offense took possession at its 45.
Little’s 30-yard catch-and-run gave the Pats a first down at Susan Moore’s 23. A scrambling Grant converted a third-and-seven with a 17-yard completion to Gage Lankford, who made a leaping catch at the 3.
Grant scored on a 3-yard run with 4:32 on the clock. Payne Stancil’s extra point gave West End a 35-28 advantage.
The Bulldogs went for it on fourth-and-seven from their 21, and the Pats held Duncan to a 6-yard gain.
West End took over the Susan Moore 27 and scored the clinching touchdown in four plays.
Grant ran up the middle and then cut back outside for a 12-yard score with 1:02 remaining.
West End’s Carlos Martin intercepted Duncan on the first play after the kickoff.
Susan Moore opened the scoring with an 11-play, 48-yard drive following a 27-yard kickoff return by Biviano Tinajero.
Kobe Justice scored on a 5-yard run at the 5:55 mark of the first period. Little blocked the extra point.
Hunter Demedicis returned the kickoff 33 yards to his 49.
Paul Robertson picked off a Grant pass, but the turnover was erased by a roughing-the-passer penalty.
The Pats took advantage of their second chance, as Grant fired a 21-yard TD pass to Tarvin on the next play after the penalty. Stancil’s point-after gave West End a 7-6 lead with 2:53 remaining.
Susan Moore’s Angel Duarte returned the kickoff 57 yards to West End’s 28.
Six plays later, Justice scored on a 3-yard run on the first snap of the second period. Duncan ran for two points, putting the Bulldogs in front 14-7.
Demedicis returned the kickoff 25 yards to his 41. The Pats marched 59 yards in six plays, with Grant throwing a 23-yard scoring pass to Epperson. Epperson outfought a Bulldog defender to make the grab with 10:07 left. The PAT was wide left, leaving Susan Moore in front 14-13.
Susan Moore extended its margin with a 12-play, 64-yard drive. Duncan ran 3 yards for a TD, and his two-point conversion run made it 22-13 with 4:30 to play in the second quarter.
The Patriots responded with a 68-yard scoring drive, capped by Grant’s 18-yard pass to the elusive Little, who spun out of a couple of tackles before driving his way into the end zone at the 1:11 mark. Stancil’s PAT trimmed it to 22-20.
Tarvin intercepted a Duncan pass with 14 seconds to go in the opening half.
Duncan and Justice combined for more than 200 yards rushing on the night. Duncan carried 27 times for 116 yards, and Justice gained 99 yards on 20 attempts.
Bruce Evans’ 13 tackles paced West End’s defense. Dustin Goodwin made eight stops, both DeWayne Miller and Jordan Malin seven and Tarvin and Epperson six each.
“There are some really good things we can take from it,” Davis said. “Obviously, there’s a lot we’ve got to get better at.
“We didn’t stop them at all in the first half, but the coaches got in there and made some great adjustments the second half.
“We had some really good skill play from our guys. Hunter Grant got the ball to the guys, and the guys made plays. Our offensive line did outstanding. Our defense bowed their back in the second half and came back. We’re a better team than we were, and I hope we can keep getting better week in and week out.”
West End opens Class 2A, Region play next Friday (Sept. 4) at home against Collinsville.