By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Following a few first-half hiccups, Westbrook Christian put together a strong performance over final two quarters to post a 34-7 victory over Class 2A, Area 7 rival West End on Friday in Rainbow City.
After turning the ball over twice during the game’s first 24 minutes, the Warriors (2-2, 1-0) scored touchdowns off their first three possessions in the second half to pull away from the winless Patriots (0-4, 0-3).
Except for a drive that yielded a touchdown in the game’s final minute, West End had difficulty sustaining drives all night. Of the Patriots’ first 10 possessions, the visitors punted six times. Two other series were cut short by interceptions.
Westbrook head coach Tony Osborne noted that several mistakes from his squad’s greenhorns was a main reason the hosts led only 14-0 at halftime.
“When you’re inexperienced, sometimes you don’t prepare yourself mentally, and we talked about that [at halftime]. Any win is good, but there are a lot of things we have to work on. Hopefully we have a lot of things to build on the rest of the way.”
Westbrook out-gained West End by a 329 to 151 margin. The Warrior defense held the visitors to only 31 rushing yard.
“[The defense] hadn’t played too well over the last two weeks, but we got a few kids back this week from injuries, and the kids prepared really well,” said Osborne. “We’re a little undersized on defense, so all 11 [players] have to play hard on every down and run to the football, and they did a little more of that tonight.”
West End head coach Randy Hallmark acknowledged that his defenders had trouble getting off the field, as the Warriors converted 14 first downs to the Patriots’ eight.
“We just didn’t tackle very well. Their running back ran right through us, and we missed a bunch of them. They stacked it up inside [on defense] and we tried to throw it, but we couldn’t complete them. Right now we’re not blocking and tackling, and that what football’s all about.”
Fresh off a five-touchdown effort last week against Ider, Westbrook quarterback Jonathan Ford tossed two more on Friday, including a 63-yard scoring strike to DeVernon Marshall. Ford completed 10-of-17 passes for 172 yards, while Marshall had four receptions for 104 yards.
Marshall also led the Warriors on the ground with 55 yards on three carries.
Westbrook went ahead for good off the game’s opening possession, a 12-play, 73-yard drive that ended with Jake Kilgo’s two-yard halfback option pass to Marshall at 7:57 of the first quarter. Chris Underwood’s PAT made it 7-0.
The visitors punted on their initial series, but the Walnut Grove squad soon got ball back on an interception by Rhett Lister with a little over two minutes left in the period.
The ensuing possession went for naught, but the Warriors then missed a 43-yard field goal attempt.
The hosts added to their lead later in the frame. With Westbrook on its own 37-yard line, Ford hit Marshall at midfield, and the senior receiver took off down the right sideline for the score. With Underwood’s extra point, the Warriors took a 14-0 advantage into the break.
The Patriots had the ball to start the second half, but Underwood ended that possession with an interception at the West End 43.
Five plays later, Ford lofted a touchdown pass to Noah Hunt for a 20-point lead with 7:30 remaining.
It took Westbrook even less time to hit paydirt on its next drive, when on the third play of the series Kilgo found the end zone from 25 yards out. Underwood’s kick was true, giving the hosts a 27-0 lead at 3:14 of the third.
The Warriors tacked on seven more points in the final period when Marshall’s 23-yard touchdown run and Underwood’s PAT to go made it 34-0 with just under six minutes.
The Patriots finally got on the board on Levi Weems’ 14-yard touchdown pass to Lister and Tyler Browning’s extra point.
Osborne was happy to get his team’s first region win in the books after consecutive losses to Fyffe and Ider the past two weeks.
“When you play those first two [teams] that we play and you don’t win, you’ve got to play every [region game] like a championship. If we learn to do that, we’ll be okay.”
Weems completed 6-of-15 passes for 85 yards. Chase Blanton led the Patriots in rushing with 61 yards on 20 attempts.
Both teams take a break from region play next week. West End visits Cleveland, while Westbrook travels to Ohatchee.