Saturday, March 8, 2014
FAIRFIELD — Even though Lawrence entered Friday night with a 2-3 record, it was a great chance for Westbrook to get some state-wide recognition. Opposing teams tend to take that approach when your home winning streak is measured not in games, but in years.
Westbrook made its case by gutting out an 8-3 victory over the Bulldogs. It’s the first loss at Keyes Field for Lawrence since being upset by Brunswick in the 2010 quarterfinals, and the first regular-season home loss for the Bulldogs since falling to Oxford Hills on Sept. 16, 2005.
“We wanted to make history,” Westbrook senior lineman Alex Gauvin said. “We wanted to put Westbrook on the map. Nobody really knows about Westbrook up here. Football is life to them up here, and we came up here and showed them what Westbrook is.”
Both teams scored on their opening possessions, and then never again. Westbrook (4-2) got a 49-yard kickoff return from Kyle Heath on the first play of the game, then drove to Heath’s 1-yard touchdown run. On the conversion, Collin Joyce chased down a bad snap and heaved a pass to a wide-open Maurice Johnson in the end zone.
That made it 8-0, but Lawrence came right back. Alternating runs among Ethan Powers (27 carries, 128 yards), Phil Gadway, and Walker Thomas, the Bulldogs had a third-and-goal at the Westbrook 2-yard line. But a fumble led to a loss of a yard, and Lawrence salvaged three points on Chad Martin’s 20-yard field goal.
Although Heath (25 carries for 95 yards) and Joyce (nine for 50) ended up with good numbers, the Blue Blazes struggled to move the ball the rest of the night. Westbrook had five first downs after that first drive, and only one in the second half. All told, Lawrence’s defense held Westbrook to 141 total yards.
“We did have plenty of opportunities, as a result of our defense really hanging in there tough,” Lawrence coach John Hersom said.
After their opening drive, the Bulldogs didn’t get another first down until the third quarter. Lawrence had the ball four times in the second half, and threatened on each possession.
Lawrence began the third quarter by driving to a first down on the Westbrook 18. But two penalties — blocking below the waist and holding — pushed the Bulldogs back to the Westbrook 37, and that drive ended on an interception. The Bulldogs then drove to the Westbrook 28, but another penalty for blocking below the waist stalled that drive, and Lawrence punted on fourth-and-24.
In the fourth quarter, Powers carried Lawrence downfield, with Heath saving a touchdown with a diving tackle at the Westbrook 22. On second-and-goal from the Westbrook 4, Gauvin got a clear shot at Powers and stopped him for a loss of 1. The Bulldogs threw incomplete on fourth-and-goal from the 5.
“They stunted that kid on the second-down play,” Hersom said. “It was a good play on their part, a good play by their player. We just didn’t get Ethan through when we needed to there.”
Lawrence took over with 2:11 to go on its own 35. Westbrook got a sack, but the Blazes were called for a late hit. A pass interference penalty and a 12-yard pass from Jimmy Leathers to Dustin Simpson-Bragg then moved the ball to the Westbrook 33 with 1:11 left. Lawrence got as far as the Westbrook 28 before losing seven yards on fourth down.
“Yeah, it got the blood pressure going a little bit,” Westbrook coach Jeff Guerette said. “But our kids kept their cool, and executed our plan, and didn’t give up a huge play.”
The loss certainly dealt a blow to Lawrence’s playoff chances, although Hersom said that’s not the focus right now.
“Even when we were 8-0, we didn’t focus on playoffs,” Hersom said. “Playoffs don’t begin until the regular season’s over. We hope that we can bounce back, get a couple of wins, and then see what happens with the playoffs.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243