Westfield WR/DB Taylor Morin makes a snag (Photo: Joe Barnes/recruit757)
The Westfield Bulldogs prevail in regulation, 28-21
by Jim McGrath, recruitNoVA
HAMPTON — – It didn’t take multiple overtimes, but in the end the result was the same. Westfield, behind three touchdown passes from Noah Kim, and 109 yards rushing and breakaway touchdown from Eugene Asante, won their third straight 6A championship, holding off a stingy Oscar Smith squad 27-20 on Sunday at Armstrong Stadium.
Like the other two games against Oscar Smith, this one did not appear to be decided until the game’s final minute when junior cornerback Taylor Morin intercepted Dominique Brooks in the end zone as the Tigers were attempting to tie the game.
However, Kim fumbled on third-and-three from midfield, and Oscar Smith’s Tyon Nicholes recovered to give the Tigers a last chance to tie or win the game.
The Tigers managed to gain 15 yards and move the ball to the Bulldog 36, but Saadiq Hinton picked off Brooks’ final pass with 27 seconds remaining and Westfield ran out the clock.
Taylor Morin almost got Westfield going with an early interception, but it was Oscar Smith who struck first. Cam’Ron Kelly, who started the game at quarterback, took the snap from his own 29 and zigzagged through the Bulldog defense for a 71-yard touchdown. Azeez Attar’s extra point gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 2:50 left in the opening stanza.
Keeping momentum was a problem for both teams.
“It was like a heavyweight fight with both teams taking big shots and throwing haymakers,” said Westfield coach Kyle Simmons. “It could have gone either way.”
Westfield struck back immediately, with a six-play, 67-yard drive capped by Kim’s 46-yard pass to a streaking Morin who took the pass down the left sideline for the final 15 yards and the game-tying touchdown. Russell Steinhilber’s extra point knotted the game at 7.
A costly fumble deep in Tiger territory by Kelly gave the Bulldogs the ball at Oscar Smith’s 22. Kim went to the air again, this time with a dump off pass to Joe Clancy, who rumbled in to the end zone for a 17-yard score, giving the visitors a 14-7 edge which held until intermission.
“It’s a simple play we run in practice,” said Clancy, a 220-pounder better known for his linebacker abilities. “The secondary keys on Bizzet (Woodley, 6-4 receiver) and I sneak in behind him.”
Kelly and Dominique Brooks alternated at QB during the first half, but both struggled to move the offense. The Tigers had 127 first-half rushing yards, but 71 came on Kelly’s touchdown run. Otherwise, the Bulldogs stymied the Smith passing attack as both signal callers combined on five of 13 passing for just 30 yards.
But the Bulldogs could do little when they had the ball. Kim’s 20-yard run was the only one of Westfield’s 16 first-half carries to net more than three yards. In all, the Dogs carried the ball 16 times in the first half for four yards. Kim, in spite of his two touchdown passes, completed only four of 11 for 81 yards.
The Tigers did a good job on Eugene Asante in the first half, holding the junior to 11 yards on seven carries. At halftime, Asante found inspiration from a group close to him.
“I was feeling down on myself, but my offensive linemen pulled me aside and said, we got your back, and we’re going to open up some holes.”
Their prophecy came true in the first minute. Asante finally broke free down the sideline and scored from the 44 yard line. Now with a 20-7 lead after the missed extra point, it looked like the Bulldogs had opened up a solid lead.
But the Tigers were not ready to fold. Brooks found Kelly, now playing receiver, in stride down the middle of the field for a 52-yard TD pass, and Attar’s extra point helped put the Tigers back in the thick of the game at 20-14.
On Westfield’s next drive, the Bulldogs failed to gain a first down and sent Russell Steinhilber out to punt. But Keshon Artis, the Ohio State commit, burst through the line to block the punt and send the ball bounding toward the sideline. Although Westfield’s Richie Aguilar fell on the loose ball, the Tigers took possession at the Bulldog 19. Five straight Wilson runs pushed the ball to the 1, and from there Brooks pushed into the end zone with a run similar to Cam Kelly’s winning touchdown plunge the previous week against Colonial Forge. This time, Azeer’s extra point gave Oscar Smith a razor-thin 21-20 lead with 4:37 left in the third quarter.
However, the Bulldogs had one more trick up their sleeve. With third-and-nine from the 12, Kim delivered a flare to Gavin Kiley on the right side. But Smith’s defense was caught off-guard and had no one in front of the speedy receiver who proceeded to outsprint the Tiger defense 88 yards to the end zone.
“It was an adjustment we made at halftime,” said Kiley. “We had (the play open) in the first half, but didn’t use it. On that down, we knew they would be keying on Eugene.”
Joe Clancy’s two-point conversion pass bumped the lead to 28-21, and opened the path for Westfield’s third consecutive state title.
Said Simmons, whose Bulldogs have gone 43-2 over the past three seasons, “You come into a game, and you want to find out if you can play with those guys. They’re (Oscar Smith) so athletic and so big. There were a few times when I had to talk myself off the ledge, and you feel like it’s slipping away. But that’s the way a game like this should be.”
Nolan Cockrill, a senior tight end and defensive end, who played in all three state championship games,
could only smile when asked how the Class of 2018 represented itself.
“We have great feelings. The coaches bring us up through the system from the time we are freshmen. It’s pretty amazing, and the younger guys now have a lot to do.”
FINAL: WESTFIELD 28, OSCAR SMITH 21
Westfield (15-0) 7, 7, 14, 7 — 28
Oscar Smith (12-3) 7, 0, 14, 0 – 21
OS – Cam’Ron Kelly 71 run (Tyler Smith kick)
W – Taylor Morin 46 pass from Noah Kim (Russell Steinhilber kick)
W – Joe Clancy 17 pass from Kim (Steinhilber kick)
W – Eugene Asante 44 run (kick failed)
OS – Kelly 52 pass from Dominique Brooks (Azeez Attar kick)
OS – Brooks 1 run (Azeer kick)
W – Gavin Kiley 88 pass from Kim (Clancy pass)
First downs; 12, 14
Rushes-yards; 35-102, 40-207
Passing yards; 205, 97
Comp-att-int; 8-22-1, 7-19-4
Penalties-yards; 6-40, 10-77
Punts-avg; 7-30.7, 5-31.8
Fumbles-lost; 3-1, 1-1
Rushing: Westfield: Asante 19-109, Cirillo 3-10. Oscar Smith: C. Kelly 9-106, K. Wilson 22-101. Passing: W: Kim 8-21, 205 yds. 3 TD, OS: D. Brooks 5-13, 89 yds. TD, 3 INT, C. Kelly 2-5, 8 yds. INT. Receiving: W: Morin 5-82, Kiley 1-88, Woodley 1-18, Clancy 1-17. OS: Wilson 2-7, Kelly 2-52, Watson 1-18, Harrell 1-15.