Demons head into SWC with 3-0 mark
By Jim Horvath
On the third play of the game, Rocky River quarterback Robbie Plagens found fellow senior Micah Lewins for a 70-yard touchdown pass.
As electrifying as that play was for the Pirates, it was the play of the Westlake Demons – and junior tailback Johnathan Brick – that provided the big jolts the rest of the way.
Brick, along with a stout Demon defense, controlled the game the rest of the way as Westlake left River with a 22-7 win and a 3-0 record heading into the grueling Southwestern Conference season. The Pirates fell to 1-2 as they prepare to defend their share of the West Shore Conference.
The Demons are proof that confidence, along with a good dose of hard work and talent, can take a team a long way. Last week after the team’s road win at Bay, head coach Mark Campo said his team would improve as that confidence level grew.
His smile after Friday night’s conquest of River was nearly enough to describe his team’s newfound swagger.
“When a team starts getting wins, that confidence begins to grow,” Campo said as his team sprinted out to the awaiting caravan of buses.
“These kids have worked hard, and they know they can bring it,” Campo said. “Right now, they know they can play with anybody. Tonight, we knew we couldn’t give up the big plays that would allow them to do some damage. We didn’t get that done on the first drive, but we did the rest of the way.
“We had to control the ball to keep that offense off the field. And out defense…they’ve been getting the job done all year,” he added.
Down 7-0, Westlake just missed tying the score on it’s third play of the night when quarterback Mike Massaad and receiver Alex Schultz didn’t connect on a 70-yarded. But on their third possession, the Demons capped an eight-play drive with a 31-yard field goal by Jesse Buhrman to cut the River lead to 7-3.
River drove to the Westlake 9-yard line, but the drive died after a sack of Plagens and a missed 32-yard field goal. Westlake took advantage of the momentum shift, driving 80 yards in just five plays. Brick had a 44-yard carry, then took a pass from Massaad for a 28-yard touchdown with 9:09 left in the half.
If was a preview of coming attractions for Brick, who turned in some big numbers on the night. It also gave the Demons the led for good, as Buhrman’s conversion kick made it 10-7.
Westlake scored one more time before halftime as Massaad connected on a 30-yard scoring strike to senior Alec Wargo. The kick was wide, but the Demons still had a 16-7 advantage at the half.
The Demons took the second-half kickoff, with Brixk returning it 21 yards to the 44. Westlake went to the ground game almost exclusively, pounding out 16 plays behind Brick, Massaad, Adam Hamdan and Amir Odetallah. They went to the wildcat formation often, with Brick taking direct snaps and picking his holes to hit.
The drive ended with a 24-yard field goal by Buhrman to make it 19-7. Meanwhile, the River offense continued to sputter against the Westlake pass rush.
Early in the fourth quarter, Westlake went on it’s final big drive of the game. A reverse play that allowed Hamdan to gain 39 yards got the drive going, as did an 11-yard pass play from Massaad to Wargo. Buhrman capped off the night with another field goal, this one a 23-yarded.
River put together one last drive, taking the ball down inside the Westlake 25. The Pirates fell a yard short on fourth down, however, as the drive stalled on the Demon 18.
“As I’ve said before, football comes down to making four or five plays per game,” said River head coach Rick Adams. “Well, we made one of those plays early on, but then Westlake made four or five of their own.
“They scored on a play that caught us napping, and we weren’t able to adjust after that,” Adams said. “We knew they were going to be tough up front, so we tried to go with the quick passes. Westlake did a nice job of taking those passes away.
“At one point in the second half, I think we had only run seven plays,” he said. “We have to execute better than that, and that’s on me. With the players we have, scoring seven points isn’t acceptable.”
While Plagens was busy running from the Demons pass rush, Brick was racking up yardage for the Demons. Unofficially, he ran the ball 24 times for 149 yards, good for an average of 6.2 yards per carry. He had four receptions for another 111 yards and a touchdown, then had the 21-yard kickoff return for another 21 yards.
The total: 281 all-purpose yards.
“We started putting in the wildcat offense this week,” Campo said. “We wanted to find every way possible to put the ball into the hands of our athletes. That helped us control the ball and keep their offense off the field.”
Did it ever.