PERRY -- The Westfield Hornets started their defense of their 2013 GISA AAA state championship with a 21-7 win over the Southland Raiders on Friday night.
Reagan Waller brought the home crowd to its feet immediately with an electric 92-yard return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff. Waller started up the middle and cut down the left sideline to daylight as he outran a host of Raiders to the end zone.
That proved to be the only score of the opening half as both defenses stiffened when necessary. Red zone opportunities for each team were negated by missed field goal attempts in the second quarter.
The game slowed down considerably after the break with both teams showing noticeable fatigue and cramping after almost every whistle.
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Westfield’s offense was finally able to break through late in the third quarter on a 7-yard keeper up the middle by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick with 4:43 to play. Fitzpatrick’s touchdown run capped a five-play, 50-yard drive that was set up by a 25-yard completion from Fitzpatrick to Giles Amos.
Southland missed its best opportunity to get back into the game with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Ryan Weaver found Carson Fort on a 67-yard pass play, but Fort had the ball jarred loose from behind at the 3-yard line for a fumble recovered by Westfield’s Tucker Moody.
Hornets fullback Josh Jenkins put the game away six minutes later as he bounced outside around the right end for a 65-yard score and a 21-0 lead.
Southland’s Brian Stone got Southland on the board with 1:06 to go on a 31-yard touchdown run.
The win pushes Westfield’s unbeaten streak to 13 in a row.
They will look to clean up some mistakes, including four fumbles, when they face Valwood next week.