Big plays give Demons 2-0 start to season
By Jim Horvath
Big plays are fun to watch from the stands, and they’re even more fun down on the field.
That is, if they’re going your team’s way.
They certainly went Westlake’s way Friday night as the Demons used a pair of big-yardage plays to get past neighborhood rival Bay, 14-6, before a huge crowd at Memorial Stadium.
With the win, Westlake found itself at 2-0 for the first time in, well, a long time. Bay dropped to 0-2 with its second straight frustrating loss to begin the season.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Demons were painting themselves in a corner with a lost fumble and a mounting penalty total. On their third possession of the game, four penalties in five snaps had Westlke pinned back at it’s own 5-yard line, and the Bay defense was poised for a big play.
Well, the big play happened on third down and 23 yards to go, but it wasn’t what the Rockets were expecting. Demon quarterback Mike Massaad dropped back and found fellow senior Adam Hamdan over the middle on a quick hitter, and Hamdan outraced the Bay defense to the north end zone for an electrifying 95-yard scoring play.
Jesse Buhrman added the conversion kick, and it was 7-0, Westlake, with 7:52 left in the first half.
“We saw they only had one safety out there, so we sent out two receivers and made the guy pick a side,” explained Westlake head coach Mark Campo. “We want to do what it takes to win the gem, and that play worked out for us.”
Westlake seemingly scored another touchdown before halftime, but it was called back because of – you guessed it – a penalty. Still, the Demons went into the halftime break with a 7-0 lead despite 10 penalties in the first half alone.
The Rocket defense held Westlake to stet the second quarter, and the Demon defense returned the favor. Bay looked to have the chance to at least win a huge field position battle as senior kicker Alec Petro nailed a punt that hit the Demon 1-yard line and was downed at the 3.
The Demons again turned adversity into opportunity as junior running back Johnathan Brick took the handoff from Massaad and raced 62 yards up the Westlake sideline to the Rocket 35. Brick, who carried the load for the offense all night, ran for nine yards on the net play, then picked up 11 more off the left side for the touchdown with 5:30 left in the third quarter.
With Buhrman’s kick, it was 14-0 Westlake. But there was a lot of football left to be played, and the Rockets were not about to go down quietly.
Bay finally found the end zone with 5:09 left in the game on a 1-yard blast from senior running back Nathan Baumgard. Westlake, however, blocked the conversion kick to keep the score at 14-6. It was the Demons’ second block of the night, having blocked Petro’s 36-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter.
The Bay defense held, giving it’s offense one last chance. But the final Rocket drive stalled at the Demon 11 with a pair of incomplete passes. Massaad ran keepers to run out the clock and preserve with win for Westlake.
“it was big plays that hurt us again tonight,” said first-year Bay head coach Ryan Gorius. “The same thing happened at Orange where we would hold, then give up a 40-plus yard play. We have to do a better job of getting off the field on third down. That 95-yarder was a third down play.
“Offensively, we didn’t connect on the plays that win the game,” Gorius said. “There were plays out there tonight that, if we execute them, it’s a totally different ball game. You only get so many chances throughout the course of the game to hit those plays.
“But these are mistakes we can correct. The kids played hard again until the final gun. We have good players, we just have to work on our execution,” he added.
Campo felt pretty much the same way, even though his team came out on the winning side of things.
“We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot as many times as we did tonight,” Campo said. “We can’t give a team that many chances to beat you. We’re 2-0, but we’re not as good of a team as we can be.
“We’re still too anxious out there,” he said. “Our kids want to play well, and they have big goals for the season. When we become more confident in ourselves, I think things will settle down for us.
“That needs to happen, because we’re a ball control team. Second and long, third and long situations because of penalties will kill drives for us,” he said.