The Westside coaches and players looked to an unlikely source for inspiration following their loss to Thomas County Central on Oct. 30, a loss that cost them the GHSA Region 1-AAAA championship.
The Seminoles turned to the speech Florida quarterback Tim Tebow gave after a game against Mississippi last year. Tebow promised that no team would work harder than the Gators following the loss to the Rebels. Florida didn’t lose again and eventually won the national championship.
“Thomas County Central whipped our butts,” Westside head coach Sheddrick Risper said. “We talked about the Tebow speech after that, and we made a promise that no one would outwork us.”
Westside (10-1) certainly wasn’t outworked Friday night at the Ed DeFore Sports Complex. The Seminoles rolled over Mt. Zion-Jonesboro 33-7 in the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs. Westside will travel to Lakeside-Evans in the second round.
“It has been just two games, but you can tell that we used (the TCC loss) as motivation,” senior safety DeAnthony Green said. “We’re in the playoffs now, and we really want to prove that it’s our year.”
The Bulldogs (8-3) scored on their opening drive but provided little resistance the rest of the game. Mt. Zion drove 99 yards — after being pushed back to its own 1-yard line — to score a touchdown on its opening drive. But the Bulldogs didn’t get another first down until the fourth quarter and managed 19 yards of offense in the final three-and-a-half quarters of the game. Because the Seminoles’ defensive front stayed aggressive, Mt. Zion quarterback Jarrell King went 3-for-17 with an interception for 38 yards.
“We had a long way to go,” Green said. “It was the first drive. We know if our defensive line (pressured the quarterback), it would make our secondary look like All-Americans. They did a great job up front.”
The Seminoles’ offense still found a way to score 31 points — the defense got a safety — despite not playing crisp.
Mt. Zion held Westside to negative yardage on 16 plays. The Seminoles’ all-state candidate at running back, Robert Brown, rushed for a season-low 50 yards on 18 carries.
But the Seminoles made several big plays.
Struggling to move the ball in the first quarter, quarterback Daniel Duhart stepped up in the pocket and connected with receiver Ronnie Carswell over top of two defenders for a 44-yard touchdown on third-and-11 to tie the game at 7.
“Our skill players are our spark plug,” Carswell said. “It was the perfect pass. I caught it in stride and just had to get my feet down.”
Duhart had another nice throw to Richard Nash for 57 yards at the end of the first half that set up a 5-yard touchdown by Adrian Bentley that gave the Seminoles a 21-7 halftime lead.