‘Hawks Escape Clover Challenge

 

Westwood’ John Trapp (23) cuts through the Clover line in Friday’s narrow Redhawk victory. (Photo/Ross Burton)

CLOVER – After two relatively easy victories over River Bluff and Richland Northeast high schools, Westwood passed their first real athletic test Friday night by beating the Blue Eagles of Clover by a razor thin margin of 17-15.

Westwood took the field undefeated so far this season. Clover was winless, but hungry for their first victory. Both teams wanted the win very badly, and would be sure to pull out all of the stops. The Blue Eagles were a running team, no doubt about it. They attempted only three passes all night, connecting on only one. The Clover offense is a tightly packed formation with emphasis on a choice of several running backs. While Westwood’s rushers were Andrew Plante, Winslow Powell or John Trapp, more than twice as many players received Clover’s handoffs.

Despite the fact that Clover was winless, Westwood head coach Rodney Summers had concerns about Clover’s unique offensive style.

“The one thing that worries me is their offense controlling the ball so we can’t get it,” Summers said before the kickoff. “They do a controlling offense with a lot of runs, and they do it well. If we can’t stop their offense with turnovers and three and outs, that kind of thing, you know, we can’t let them go on long drives.”

Last week’s game began with a Redhawk fumble, which resulted in an easy score for RNE. Virtually the same thing happened Friday. Westwood received the opening kickoff, and on the very first play from scrimmage, the ‘Hawks lost the handle. It was picked up by Cody Hamblin of Clover and two plays later R.J. Moore ran it in from 8 yards out for the touchdown.

The Westwood triple threat of Plante, Powell and Trapp made blasted their way through the center of their spread formation. Westwood occasionally went to the air, but the team’s receivers had little impact on the game.

Clover, true to Summers’ prediction, employed a very unusual, tightly packed offense. They never once put their receivers out, but ran the few passing plays from the tight formation. Clover took to the air only three times during the entire game, connecting only once for a 4-yard gain. Conversely, Westwood threw 10 times, completing once each to Bruce Temple, Adonus Lee and Diamond Williams for 49 yards total.

In contrast to the Redhawk trio of ball carriers, the Blue Eagles employed a plethora of rushers. No fewer than seven players were given the ball, not counting the seven times the quarterback kept the ball. With that many rushers, it was difficult to predict which player would have the ball, and the Westwood coaches could be heard many times admonishing the defense to “watch the ball!” Rather than shooting through holes in the offensive line like the Westwood ball carriers, Clover tended to work the edges. Clover’s running game, however, devoured valuable seconds from the clock. And it would prove costly down the stretch.

Westwood’s offense, meanwhile, was plagued by penalties, which annoyed Summers very much.

“Every time we have a big play, they (officials) throw a flag on us,” Summers said.

One such penalty came late in the second quarter with Westwood down by 7. A pass from Nick Leveretter to Temple for a big gain was hit with a 15-yard personal foul, which those very close to the scene had difficulty perceiving.

Despite the penalty, Plante charged down the field 32 yards for the first down and then 3 more yards for the touchdown on the following play. Kicker Brandon Howard was again perfect for the night, splitting the goal posts for the extra point, tying the game at 7 as the first half ended.

Early in the second half, Westwood benefitted from a slow start by the Clover offense. A short punt gave the Redhawks possession in Blue Eagle territory. Faced with a fourth down and 4 on the Clover 13-yard line, Westwood went to their special teams and put the field goal unit out there. Howard kicked the ball right through the uprights from 31 yards out, putting Westwood in the lead for good, 10-7.

“That offense tests a lot of people; stuff you don’t see,” Summers said. “We could have been up 21 early but our offense didn’t execute like it should.”

Westwood kept to the ground game in the fourth quarter. Early on, they scored again when Powell broke loose and carried the ball from the Clover 27-yard line to put the Redhawks up 17-7 following Howard’s PAT kick.

But for the Redhawk scoring drive, virtually the entire fourth quarter consisted of one massive 21-play drive by Clover. While Clover ultimately scored a touchdown, the downside to an almost strictly running offense was clearly illustrated.

“When you play a team like that and you can get up on them, they don’t have time left on the clock to recover,” Summers said later.

Clover’s Colton Barnes punched it in from 7 yards out, but the long, grueling drive only left only 1:48 on the clock. The Blue Eagles, instead of the PAT kick, went for 2 on the ground so that a field goal would produce the win and not just the tie.

Clover’s Tenchi Her hammered the conversion in, cutting the lead to 17-15, but the onside kick attempt by Clover failed, and it was an easy matter for the Redhawks to run out the clock for the win by the narrow 2-point margin.

“This was a dogfight battle by two teams going at it,” Summers told his Redhawks after the game. “These are the type games that make you better. You started feeling good about yourselves after River Bluff and RNE. It’s hard not to. These like tonight are the ones that make you think.”

The Redhawks (3-0) host Keenan High School (3-0) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

The Raiders knocked off C.A. Johnson last week, 32-8.

“Keenan is next and they think this is their year,” Summers told his team after the win. “Come out ready to prepare for them.”

 

WHS: 0-7-3-7 – 17

CHS: 7-0-0-8 – 15

 

Scoring

First Quarter

C: RJ Moore 8 run. Robert Schreiner kick. (11:10)

Second Quarter

W: Andrew Plante 3 run. Brandon Howard kick. (1:24)

Third Quarter

W: B. Howard 31 FG. (6:33)

Fourth Quarter

W: Winslow Powell 27 run. B. Howard kick. (10:51)

C: Colton Barnes 7 run. Tenchi Her 3 run. (1:48)

 

Team Stats

                                                                                                WHS                                      CHS

First Downs                                                                        13                                           15

Rushes/Yards                                                                    39-246                                   58-210

Passing Yards                                                                     49                                           4

C-A-Int                                                                                 3-10-0                                   1-3-0

Fumbles/Lost                                                                    2-1                                          1-0

Penalties/Yards                                                                5-58                                       4-28

 

Individual Stats

RUSHING: W—Andrew Plante 22-168, John Trapp 6-27, Nick Leveretter 8-18, Team 1-(-2). C—Willy Clark 15-62, Tanner Whitley 8-39, Colton Barnes 7-34, Tenchi Her 10-30, Noah Lindsay 7-15, Zach Conrad 7-15, RJ Moore 2-14, Coby Hamblem 2-1.

RECEIVING: W—Bruce Temple 1-24, Adonus Lee 1-13, Diamond Williams 1-12. C—Tenchi Her 1-4.

PASSING: W—Nick Leveretter 3-10, 49 yards. C—Noah Lindsay 1-3, 4 yards.