PERRY — Teams have had trouble with Westfield’s offense for years, and teams have struggled against FPD’s new option offense all season long.
So defense was going to be the key when the Hornets and Vikings locked up in a battle of undefeated teams at Marvin Arrington Stadium.
The game ball goes to Westfield.
The Hornets came up with a stellar effort against the Vikings’ option and held FPD in check to take a 28-14 win Friday night in the showdown between GISA’s top two teams.
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“I’ll tell you what happened,” FPD head coach Greg Moore said. “They beat us. They were better than us in every phase of the game.”
Westfield (7-0) outgained FPD 305-222, with 95 of FPD’s yards coming on three pass plays in a short span during the fourth quarter.
“I like what we did defensively,” Westfield head coach Ronnie Jones said. “They run this option stuff good. We slowed it down. We played good defense, for the most part. I was very proud with the way we defended the run.”
The Hornets had to hold off a furious fourth-quarter rally from the Vikings (6-1), who answered a Westfield touchdown with a big-play score of their own. But a sack by Nic Bekkers for a loss of 8 yards on third and John Lee’s pass deflection on fourth-and-18 sealed it with less than three minutes left.
“I like to dance after a sack,” said Bekkers, who helped hold FPD quarterback Ryan Smith to a 46-yard night rushing. “I get crunk after a sack.”
Westfield’s offense can either wear down a defense or break off big plays, and it went with the latter route Friday.
Lee had 86 yards, Cole Crouch 85 and quarterback Wesley Rust 68 for the Hornets.
Trailing by two touchdowns, Moore gambled early in the second half, going for it on fourth-and-4 from Westfield’s 40, but Smith missed on the pitchout to Taylor Jones and the Vikings turned over possession at the Hornets’ 46. The Vikings survived a red-zone visit by the Hornets when Lee was stripped inside the 5 and FPD’s Kyle McCallum came up with the ball.
Remarkably, they survived Andrew Peake’s interception three plays later, a pick that set up the Hornets at the 11. Wesley Gilbert tipped a pass intended for Wesley Murph to Taylor Bridges, and the Vikings kept the Hornets out of the end zone again, for the second time in only a few minutes late in the third quarter.
But the Vikings were still down 21-7 with an offense that hadn’t found any groove yet.
“We never really did let them break that long one like they’ve done against other people,” Jones said. “I thought we did an outstanding job defending the option.”
Westfield stuffed FPD on third-and-6 to start the fourth quarter, and the Hornets started on the FPD 49. This time, the Hornets delivered the final nail.
They used up nearly four minutes and got a 6-yard score from Lee — courtesy of a quality block from Kenneth Brown — and Landon Beamon’s kick gave Westfield a 28-7 lead with 7:12 left in the game.
The Vikings’ passing game kept folks in the stands when Smith hit Taylor Jones down the middle for a 60-yard touchdown on the first play, pulling within 28-14 just nine seconds later. Then FPD’s defense forced a punt in three plays.
“Defensively, particularly in the second half, I thought we answered the bell a little bit,” Moore said. “We got a couple stops. It was a two-possession game. Score and it’s a one possession game, then anything can happen in the final seven or eight minutes.”
But Westfield’s defense wouldn’t allow it, and FPD’s early hole made the night difficult.
Westfield recovered a fumble deep in FPD territory in the first quarter, but the Vikings got an interception in the end zone from Gilbert to end the threat. The Hornets soon got going, getting 15 from Rust on third-and-6, then another 15 from Crouch. Rust rolled right and connected with Lee for a 13-yard touchdown with 3:10 left in the first quarter.
FPD’s offense continued to struggle and Westfield made the Vikings pay.
Lee blasted through the right side for 48 yards, Gilbert chasing him down for a touchdown-saving tackle. Three plays later, Clay Bridges found a nice hole behind the right guard from two yards out on the final play of the quarter.
The Vikings liked the change in quarters and embarked on an 11-play, 68-yard drive, converting one fourth down and picking up 19 on a third-down pass from Smith to Taylor Jones. Smith kept to the right for the 4-yard touchdown.
Westfield’s offense was at it again, Rust starting the drive with 15 yards followed by a 47-yarder from Crouch, Gilbert again tracking him down. This time, the opening was to the left for Lee from four yards out.
And a 21-7 deficit against Westfield is tough.
“I don’t think we played well, but on the flip of that, they played very well,” Moore said. “That’s a bad combination.”