For some teams, losing a workhorse tailback like D’Anthony Andrews would alter an entire offensive game plan.
Not for West.
Weston Schartz didn’t change a thing when his team lost its leading rusher early in the third quarter, as the Pioneers ran the ball 69 times with eight carriers for just under 300 yards to defeat South 41-14 on Friday in the first game of Class 6A-District 7 play.
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“Yeah, we have a lot of running backs, but they work hard,” West quarterback Chaz Capps said. “When we get banged up, it’s next man up. That’s the way we play here at West.”
West’s offense didn’t have a single player gain more than 70 yards on their own, but racked up 19 first downs and ran 30 more offensive plays than South to secure a pivotal victory.
Derby (6-1, 1-0), which defeated Campus on Friday, is the established favorite in the district with West (4-3, 1-0), South (4-3, 0-1), and Campus (2-5, 0-1) believing there’s one spot left for them. The victory Friday moved West one step closer to returning to the playoffs.
“If we lost this one and then played Derby and not beat them, then we’re out,” Schartz said. “This was it. This was major.”
For the third week in a row, and South’s third loss in a row after an undefeated start, turnovers led to the demise of the Titans. After three more on Friday, South has 13 turnovers its last three games.
West took a 21-7 lead in the first quarter after scoring two touchdowns after South turnovers that gave West’s offense ideal starting field position.
“Turnovers is maybe a part of a bigger picture of the problem for me,” South coach Kevin Steiner said. “I think our focus hasn’t been good the last three weeks. I think the end result has been turnovers, but I’ve been more upset with our focus.”
West bottled up the field-stretching runs to the outside South is fond of and forced quarterback Allen Bishop into predictable passing situations, which led to South failing to convert third downs on 7 of 10 occasions.
Outside of Bishop’s 59-yard touchdown run, South averaged 3.4 yards per play.
“I feel like we flew to the ball very well,” West linebacker Chris Montoya said. “Put the hammer down, keep it down, can’t let them breathe.”
But this performance wasn’t assured, as West had a 3-game losing streak entering the game.
Although it came against three quality opponents, Schartz was curious to see if the losing had taken a toll on his team.
Their answer was a resounding one, as the Pioneers proved they were up for another playoff push.
“We weren’t sure which team was going to come out tonight,” Schartz said. “I think this turned the corner for us. We’re going to be okay.”
S – Bishop 59 run (Garcia kick)
W – Capps 1 run (Robinson kick)
W – Capps 1 run (Robinson kick)
W – Washington 16 run (Robinson kick)
W – Mitchell 4 pass from Capps (Robinson kick)
W – Capps 36 run (Robinson kick)
S – Hudspeth 16 pass from Bishop (Garcia kick)
W – Reed 2 run (kick failed)
Rushing – West, Bell 13-66, Capps 17-58, Swinney 10-51, Reed 7-47, Andrews 10-45, Washington 6-32, Sellers 5-4, Salas 1-(-11); South, Bishop 8-80, Hudspeth 13-62, Parker 4-16, T. Wells 7-9, Hunt 1-5.
Passing – West, Capps 3-6-41-0; South, Bishop 5-11-36-1.
Receiving – West, Washington 2-37, Mitchell 1-4; South, Hudspeth 1-16, Harper 2-13, Taylor 1-4, J. Bell 1-3.