Picked Off: Westlake ends West's program-best playoff run
WACO -- Austin Westlake (10-4) hadn't given up more than 14 points in a game since Sept. 21.
Plano West (9-5) surpassed that mark by the second quarter.
The Wolves would eventually reach 35 points Saturday afternoon at Waco ISD Stadium, but it wasn't enough as the Westlake defense came up big when it needed to most, grabbing a fourth interception in the waining seconds to secure a 42-35 victory in the Region II Finals.
"Westlake is a great team, that's why they're in the playoffs, and we're a great team too," said Auston Anderson, West junior running back. "We just didn't do enough to win today."
That determination was made only after a frantic final two minutes.
After Westlake got its second touchdown of the day from Alex Chavez, who had 10 carries for 45 yards, to take a 42-28 lead with 2:05 remaining, West responded with a scoring drive that included two fourth-down conversions. The second saw senior quarterback Travis Korry break loose on a 4th-and-1 and score from 26 yards to cut the Wolves' deficit to 42-35 with 30 seconds remaining.
Sophomore Damon Foncham upped the drama with a good bounce on the onside kick and Wolves senior wideout Connor Doyle, who also had four catches for 95 yards, recovered the ball.
"I think that was our only onside kick of the season," said Mike Hughes, West head coach. "And obviously that gave us a chance."
"We had this burst of energy after that," Anderson said.
West took over at the Westlake 49 and moved to the 40 with 19 seconds remaining.
"Once we got that onside kick, it's kind of like you are on Cloud 9," Korry said.
That feeling wouldn't last through another play as Korry's next pass was picked off by Derek Cohen to essentially end the game.
"It was a terrible pass," said Korry, who completed 8-of-22 throws for 120 yards. "I threw it behind my receiver and you just can't do that."
It was the second interception of the game for Cohen and fourth pick by Westlake with John Dodd and Tate Shaw also snagging passes.
"It was a real up and down day," Korry said. "Westlake has great pass coverage and tackling; it's tough to find a defense that has both and when you see that level of balance it makes things difficult."
Cohen's initial interception, which came in the end zone toward the end of the first quarter, provided the first separation of the day.
Westlake held a 14-7 lead after the teams exchanged scores on the first three possessions and extended that advantage to 21-7 following the turnover with a 7-play drive that included a 40-yard pass from Chaparrals quarterback Jordan Severt to Chris Canter and a 16-yard touchdown connection from Severt to Patrick Elliot with 11:08 to go in the half. Severt completed 15-of-19 passes for 227 yards with Canter making three catches for 57 yards to go along with five rushes for 49 yards and Elliot registering five grabs for 49 yards. Brandon Box also had five receptions, with his going for 89 yards.
Three more touchdowns were scored before the close of the half with Westlake holding a 28-21 lead after the Wolves got touchdown runs of 8 and 6 yards from Korry.
While Korry struggled passing, he was a standout on the ground, running 19 times for 100 yards and four touchdowns. West passed the 300-yard rushing threshold for the fourth straight playoff game (343), a number made more impressive considering sophomore standout Soso Jamabo (who had 13 touchdowns in the playoffs prior to Saturday) had only 81 yards and was held without a touchdown for the first time in his varsity career after suffering a shoulder injury late in the first half.
"We like to have good balance with our running game," Hughes said. "And when you take out a piece of that puzzle, it makes a big difference."
"We are the dynamic duo and we like to make big things happen out there," Anderson added. "But without Soso, that makes it harder."
Anderson did his best, running for 157 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
"I thought Auston was outstanding when we needed him most," Hughes said, "just like he's done for us several times this season."
Anderson's touchdown came in the fourth off Westlake's lone turnover, a fumble that was forced by senior Jake Wodka and recovered by senior Nick Green.
West would come out on the losing end of the turnover battle though as their momentum was stymied on the opening drive of the second half when Dodd made an interception and Westlake drove 10 plays for a touchdown and 35-21 lead. The finish came on a 2-yard plunge by Keith Carter, who ran the ball 15 times for 45 yards and three touchdowns.
"Westlake has a big offensive line and they did a good job running the ball," Hughes said.
The Chaparrals scored 14 points off turnovers Saturday.
"You're not going to win many games when you have four picks," Hughes said. "It felt like we kept getting ourselves in a hole by giving them good field position."
West couldn't dig out of that hole despite almost overcoming a 14-point deficit in the final two minutes.
"We know how to battle through adversity, like most teams that get this far," Hughes said. "We battled again today and were in it right down to the end."
The 42-35 decision ended the deepest playoff run in West history and moved Westlake into the Class 5A Division II State Semifinals against Cedar Hill (10-4).
"It was a great season," Korry said, "but we were hungry for something more."
"We're all hurting right now," Hughes added. "But we'll take a little time off, regroup and then try to go ever further next year."