5-0 and Lookin’ for Mo’

Westwood’s Andrew Plante (32), muscling his way through the Lexington defense last week, has been the Redhawk workhorse on the ground. This week, the ‘Hawks will need all that and more against West Florence. (Photo/Ross Burton)

BLYTHEWOOD – Not just any team can make the transition from one classification up to the next without suffering at least a few scrapes and bruises along the way. The competition is often bigger, faster, stronger and has more bodies to hurl against you. Struggles are to be expected.

The Westwood Redhawk football team, however, has taken their first step into 4A with authority, leaving a huge footprint on the backs of their opponents. With a spotless 5-0 record to show for their efforts, the ‘Hawks are now poised to take their second step, right into the meat of their schedule, beginning with West Florence Friday night.

The Knights are 4-2 thus far, and field a defense that will pose the greatest challenge yet to the Redhawk ground game. Westwood head coach Rodney Summers is all too aware of the damage a team like West Florence can do, and he’s not so overconfident to believe his team can let up now.

“Their defense is big, big up front,” Summers said. “Our offensive line will be tested this week. If we can run the ball against this crowd, we’ll be doing something.”

The Westwood running game has been formidable through five games, led by junior Andrew Plante who made the transition this season from tight end to running back. Plante has been good for 564 yards on the ground midway through the season, averaging nearly 113 yards per game.

“That’s been a real surprise for us this season,” Summers said. “We didn’t know what we had until we got into the scrimmages, and he wasn’t 100 percent then. He’s been great. He’s not that fast, but he’s fast enough and he’s powerful. And we’ve got a lot of depth at the running back position.”

Indeed, while Plante has been the workhorse, senior John Trapp and junior Winslow Powell have both proven to be more than effective carrying the ball. But against the Knights’ defense, the Redhawks may have to put the ball in the air more than they’re used to, if for no other reason than to open up the ground attack.

“They’re going to pack the box against us,” Summers said, “so we’ll have to connect with Adonus (Lee) and Diamond (Williams) a little more.”

Westwood quarterback Nick Leveretter threw for 125 yards against Lexington two weeks ago, while Jalen Smith chucked in another 26 yards – the highest passing totals for the Redhawks since Leveretter threw for 164 against RNE on Aug. 29. The two of them may have to air things out quite a bit more Friday.

“I feel comfortable with either one of them,” Summers said of his quarterback tandem. “Nick earned the starting spot, but Jalen can come in and not miss a beat. He knows the offense inside and out.”

While the Westwood offense has averaged 33.6 points per game during their 5-0 run, the defense has been the bread winner. The Redhawk D has held opponents to just under 7 points per game, on average, but will be challenged by a West Florence team averaging nearly 28 points per game.

“I felt like we had a good defense coming out of summer workouts,” Summers said, “but they have definitely been a pleasant surprise.”

After five games, the Redhawks are as healthy going into October as they were at the end of August, and Summers knows staying injury free is a big part of future success. The other major hurdle lies between the ears.

“If we can stay focused and not let rankings get into our heads and not look too far down the road, we will be OK,” Summers said. “We just have to keep working hard and getting better every week.”

Kickoff for Friday’s 4A contest is at 7:30 p.m.

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